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The Malta Air Wing

The Air Wing of the Armed Forces of Malta was erected in May of 1972. At this time stationed at St. Patrick’s Barracks it was named the Helicopter Flight and operated three Agusta-Bell 47-G2s and one Bell 47-G2 which were donated by the German government.

The number of aircraft grew in June 1973 with the donation of an Agusta-Bell 206A Jet Ranger by the Libyan Government. In order to provide a suitable aircraft type for search and rescue missions, an Aerospatiale Super Frelon helicopter was deployed to Malta by the Libyan Armed Forces to improve the SAR capabilities.
In September 1978 the Helicopter Flight moved from St. Patrick’s Barracks to Hal Far aerodrome previously used by a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm unit. Soon after, three Aerospatiale SA.316B Alouette III joined the Libyan detachment. Like the Super Frelon, the Alouettes retained their original Libyan colour schemes, registration marks, and military identification.  In May 1979, soon after the departure of the last British forces from Malta, the AFM Helicopter Flight, together with thy Libyan detachment moved to Luqa Airport that was formerly used by the Royal Air Force’s No.13 Squadron.
In 1980 the Libyan detachment left Malta leaving behind the three Alouette III. Until 11th of June 1991 when the Libyan Government officially transferred the three Alouette III to the AFM, these helicopters had been grounded and partly dismantled in a hanger.
In 1982, the Malta-Italy Memorandum of Understanding, providing for the presence of an Italian Military Mission in Malta, was extended to include the stationing on a permanent basis of two Agusta-Bell 204B helicopters at Luqa, and this ensured the continuation of SAR missions which were previously performed by the Libyans. In 1987, the AB 204B’s were replaced by two Agusta-Bell 212 helicopters which are twin-engine and equipped for IFR flights. Actually, this detachment is still in operation, utilising joint crews of Maltese and Italian pilots and Maltese rescuers onboard the AB 212’s.
In early 1992, United States Government sold five Cessna O-1E Birddog fixed-wing aircraft to the AFM. These aircraft had previously been operated by the Italian Army Light Aviation. Also in June 1992, the Italian Government donated two Hughes 369HM helicopters which were formerly used by the Italian Guardia di Finanza. These events lead to the change in name from Helicopter Flight to Air Squadron to reflect the unit’s new establishment, now comprising of both helicopter and fixed wing aircraft types.  
In 1995, the AFM purchased the first of two Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islanders. The second was purchased in 1998 and was delivered direct from the manufacturer at Bembridge in the Isle of Wight. Before the Islander was delivered, a new Hanger was built at Luqa.
On 8th October 1996, two former Dutch Royal Air Force SA.316O Alouette III were added to the fleet, to ease the work load from the other Alouettes. In 1999 the Bell 206A Jet Ranger and two of the Agusta Bell 47-G2s were sold. Shortly after in February 2000, four ex-Royal Air Force Scottish Aviation S.A. Bulldog T1 fixed-wing aircraft were purchased to replace the Cessna O-1E Birddog, four of which were sold off privately in the United States. The fifth Birddog is on permanent loan to the Malta Aviation Museum at Ta’Qali. During 2001, the squadron purchased another Bulldog aircraft through the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence. The aircraft arrived in Malta during the month of August 2001. With this acquisition the squadron increased its fleet to 16 aircraft. October 31st 2006 saw yet another change take place to the unit when it gained regimental level within the AFM and was renamed as the Air Wing.
The remaining Bell.47 was transferred to the Ta’Qali museum in May 2008. Currently the squadron operates three Alouette III, four Bulldogs, 2 Islanders and 1 369HM with the remaining aircraft kept in a preserved state.

Today the Air Squadron continues to carry out SAR, maritime patrols, photographic sorties, VIP conveyances, medical evacuations, and training flights on a regular basis.

I would like to thank SSgt Spiteri, Air Wing PRO for supporting me during my visit
by Jens Schymura / www.hat-home.de

Read the full story at   : Helico Revue Nr.79

16 After a mission
Islander taxies back
15 Malta Air Wing Islander
Malta Air Wing Islander
Bulldog AS0023
inside the hangar
4 Alouette III
Alouette III with special marks
5 Alouette III Detail
Alouette III Detail
3 Alouette III
Alouette in flight
2 Alouette III
Alouette take-off
1 Alouette III
Alouette III AS9211
7 Nardi-Hughes 369HM
Nardi-Hughes 369HM
8 Nardi-Hughes 369HM
Nardi-Hughes 369HM in storage
6 Bell47
The last Bell 47
9 Ab 212
Italian AB.212
14 Bell 212 im Flug
AB.212 in flight

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