This helicopter's Swedish history began on 25 January 2002 when the genuine helicopter operator Norrlandsflyg AB won an exclusive SAR contract with the Swedish Maritime Administration
. In fact this was the first civil SAR contract in Swedish history. The military forces had earlier been responsible for the operational use of all aerial search and rescue units in the country, using Vertol 107s and Super Pumas. But due to economical reasons the armed forces let go of the activities in Visby and Sundsvall. As mentioned Norrlandsflyg, an experienced EMS operator, won the brand new contract. However helicopters were needed. Norrlandsflyg had a current fleet of four S-76s and saw no reason to purchase another helicopter type.
Two helicopters were acquired. This helicopter was found in Australia and it was purchased by Norrlandsflyg and brought to Keystone Helicopter Corporation in Pennsylvania, USA, for SAR modifications. It came to Sweden in July 2002, registered SE-JUJ
, and was soon flown to Norway to get its new red-white SAR livery. It was named "Rescue 997" and entered SAR readiness at the new base in Sundsvall, making it the first civilian Swedish helicopter in contracted SAR services.
In fact the Sundsvall base had been active from 1 June 2002, but the company had used a leased German S-76A++ (D-HOSB
) while waiting for the new machines to arrive. After a short period in Sundsvall the helicopter was transferred to Visby to initiate the new activity there, which was opened on 1 September 2002. The callsign of SE-JUJ
was changed from Rescue 996 to Rescue 997 due to the change of location. D-HOSB
was put in service in Sundsvall again, but was soon replaced by Norrlandsflyg's second SAR-modified S-76C, SE-JUY
(in October 2002).
The SAR activity was successful and the helicopter soon received a great deal of emergency calls. It was in fact responsible for a large part of the baltic sea, and its location at Visby airport on the island of Gotland was a very strategic position. It was equipped with all the latest equipment and was capable of operating in the most demanding conditions. The crew consisted of two pilots, a technician/winch operator and a rescue swimmer. Rescue 997 came to respond to both SAR and EMS missions. An EMS helicopter, a BK 117 registered SE-JUL
("Medicopter One"), was based on the island, but the SAR machine came to be used as a back-up helicopter for the primary EMS helicopter.Accident
On the night between 17 and 18 September 2004 the helicopter was out on a routine EMS mission along the eastern Swedish coastline. It was about to pick up a heart sick patient at Häradsskär Island in Gryt's archipelago, close to Valdemarsvik in Östergötland county. The weather was quite poor but everything went on as normal. On approach to Häradsskär Island the helicopter suddenly ditched in the water. All five occupants, the standard crew and a flight nurse, survived without any injuries, but the helicopter sank. It was recovered by a Coast Guard vessel on 20 September and was brought to Patria Helicopter's maintenance facility at Arlanda airport for analysis. The aircraft was replaced by its sister, SE-JUY
, within a couple of days after the accident.D-HOSB
returned to Sweden in order to cover for SE-JUY
in Sundsvall. A new S-76C (SE-HAV
) was soon acquired for Visby duties, and SE-JUY
could return to Sundsvall.