Volga-Dnepr delivers UN helicopters to Sierra Leone

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To assist with the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak emergency in West Africa, Volga-Dnepr Airlines used one of its heavy-lift An-124 Ruslan freighters to transport three United Nations helicopters from Moscow to Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The multi-purpose helicopters – Russian-built Mi-8’s, each weighing 7.3 tonnes empty – will be used to support the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), which was established in late September to fight the outbreak of the virus.

For the Oct. 14 trip, Volga-Dnepr ground handlers made some tricky maneuvers to squeeze all three Russian-built Mi-8 helicopters into the 33m x 6.4m x 4.4m cargo hold of the An-124. First, they demounted the main lifting and tail rotors, vibration absorbers and fuel tanks. They also removed fluids from the shock struts and wheels, thus reducing the height of the helicopters so they would clear the 4.4-meter-high compartment ceiling.  Finally, they aligned the demounted equipment alongside the three aircraft inside the vast main deck.

Many international humanitarian organizations, including the UN, are providing financial help, safety equipment, supplies and relief workers to help stop the spread of the deadly virus, which currently has a mortality rate of about 50 percent. UNMEER’s priority mission is to stop the epidemic, cure infected people, supply disease areas with all necessary medical services, stabilize the situation and prevent future outbreaks.

Since spring, the virus outbreak has grown to about 9,000 reported cases and caused more than 4,500 deaths across  Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea,  as well as isolated cases in Senegal, Nigeria, Spain and the United States, according to the World Health Organization’s Oct. 15 report.

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