Yk could become cold weather testing hub

The Bell 525 Relentless helicopter undergoing cold weather testing at Yellowknife airport. Emelie Peacock photo
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Yellowknife is an ideal location to test out how new technology, such as helicopters, can withstand the cold.

This is the message the City of Yellowknife, tourism promoters and the airport sent Thursday, as they thanked Bell helicopters for spending three months testing out the Bell 525 Relentless. CEO of NWT Tourism Cathie Bolstad says the three month stay brought around $2.3-million to the NWT economy.

Rotary wing chief test pilot Pat Lindauer says it is difficult to find the combination of minus 35 temperatures and a relatively quiet airport anywhere in the U.S. The Bell team tested both how it can start and fly in cold weather conditions and how helicopter parts react and last in the cold.

Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty tests out the Bell 525 Relentless helicopter undergoing cold weather testing at Yellowknife airport. Emelie Peacock photo

“I haven’t really operated this cold in my helicopter experience. I’ve done a lot of hot weather in different places,” he says. “The aircraft reacts pretty much the same as it does in cold as it does in warm, which is a good thing, that’s what we’re verifying. There are some characteristics – it takes longer to start, we have to make sure the battery is warm, the heater actually works quite well in these aircraft.”

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Senior technical fellow Ed Lambert says luck was on their side, allowing the team to test in down to minus 37 temperatures. “Weather you can never count on, as everybody knows, but we were very lucky to get the conditions that we needed while we were here.”

Bolstad says Bell’s team of 30 engineers and pilots spent money on hotels, restaurants, shopping, in addition to the expenses of conducting the actual testing. Lambert adds fuel is one of the biggest expenses for the testing team.

Bell is the first of many companies a working group on cold weather testing, formed in 2018, wants to attract to Yellowknife. The group is composed of Yellowknife Airport, GNWT Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Northwest Territories Tourism and the City of Yellowknife.

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