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CH-149 Cormorant
A Canadian Coast Guard cutter exercising with a Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant.
Role Medium SAR helicopter
Manufacturer AgustaWestland
First flight 9 October 1987
Introduced 2000
Status Active service
Primary user Canadian Forces
Produced 1990s-present
Number built 15
Developed from AgustaWestland AW101

The CH-149 Cormorant is the Canadian Forces designation for the AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101), a helicopter used for air-sea rescue in Canada. Developed as a joint venture between Westland Aircraft in the UK and Agusta in Italy (now merged as AgustaWestland), the EH101 is a medium-lift helicopter for military applications but also marketed for civil use.


Design and development

In 1977, the UK Ministry of Defence issued a requirement for an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter to replace the Royal Navy's Westland Sea Kings. Westland responded with design WG.34 that was approved for development. Meanwhile, the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) was also seeking a replacement for its (Agusta-built) Sea Kings, leading Agusta to discussions with Westland about the possibility of a joint development. This culminated in the joint venture being finalised in November 1979 and a new company (EH Industries) being formed to manage the project the following year. EH is an abbreviation for Elicottero Helicopter, incorporating the English and Italian words for "helicopter." As the design studies progressed, EH became aware of a broader market for an aircraft with the same capabilities required by the British and Italian navies, leading to a more generalised design that could be customised. After a lengthy development, the first prototype flew on October 9, 1987. EH Industries no longer exists, having been incorporated into the parent when the two companies merged.

Following the lead of the UK and Italy, the Canadian government placed a $4.4 billion (CAD) order in 1987 for 48 (later 42) EH101s to replace the Canadian Forces's CH-124 Sea Kings and CH-113 Labradors. These were to be assembled in Canada under the designations CH-148 Petrel (33 originally, reduced to 28) and CH-149 Chimo (15) in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and air/sea search and rescue (SAR) roles respectively. The whole programme was cancelled, however, after a change of government in 1993, leading to the payment of $500 Million in cancellation penalties.

In 1998, the Canadian government announced that the CH-113s would now be replaced by a new search-and-rescue variant of the EH101, carrying the designation CH-149 Cormorant. Unlike the Petrel/Chimo contract, these 15 aircraft were to be built entirely in Europe. The first two aircraft arrived in Canada in September 2001 and entered service the following year.

When it became obvious that the Sea Kings were in need of immediate replacement, the EH101 was again part of a Canadian competition (the Maritime Helicopter Project), versus the Sikorsky H-92, for a total price tag of $5 billion. The Sikorsky entry won the competition on July 23, 2004, and was designated the CH-148 Cyclone.

Operational history

CH-149 Cormorant Helicopter Lands in Vancouver.

The first operational CH-149 flight occurred in 2002 when a Cormorant of 442 Squadron performed a medevac from a merchant ship 200 km offshore in Hecate Strait. An even more dramatic demonstration of Cormorant capabilities occurred in late 2002 when a 103 Squadron CH-149 successfully flew a 1,200 km round-trip rescue mission to a container ship off Newfoundland. Two refuelling stops at the Hibernia oil platform were required.



Note: CH-149 from 424 Squadron were replaced by CH-146 Griffons

Notable incidents

  • Throughout its service, the EH101 and its variants have been plagued by tail rotor hub cracking issues. A British Merlin crashed on March 30, 2004 due to tail rotor hub cracking.[1] The CH-149 Cormorant has been grounded/limited flight status multiple times with these cracks being one of the causes; all 15 aircraft in Canadian inventory showed cracks of varying degrees shortly after entry into service in 2004.[2] Subsequent re-engineering by AgustaWestland resulted in newer hubs in 2005. Out of the 6 aircraft which had the new hubs installed, 3 showed cracking one month later.[3]
  • On 13 July 2006, a CH-149 of 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia killing three personnel and injuring four during a joint search and rescue exercise. Mechanical failure was formally ruled out as the cause of the crash.[4] On 11 March 2008 the Directorate of Flight Safety for the Canadian Forces has announced that it was pilot error that caused the 2006 crash, and that Air Force officials were aware of the lack of training that pilots were receiving. Preliminary reports indicate that pilots were unaware of how to use the autopilot feature and thus a controlled flight into terrain situation occurred causing the deaths of three airmen.[5]

Specifications (CH-149)

AW EH101.png

General characteristics

  • Crew: 5
    • 1-Aircraft Commander, 1-First Officer, 1-Flight Engineer, 2-SAR Techs
  • Capacity:
    • 30 seated troops or
    • 45 standing troops or
    • 16 stretchers with medics
  • Length: 74 ft 10 in (22.81 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 61 ft 0 in (18.59 m)
  • Height: 21 ft 10 in (6.65 m)
  • Disc area: 2992 ft² (271 m²)
  • Empty weight: 23,150 lb (10,500 kg)
  • Useful load: 5,443 kg (12,000 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 32,188 lb (14,600 kg)
  • Powerplant:General Electric T700-T6A1 turboshafts, 1,723 shp (1286 kW) each


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


External links



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