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Flying fans can cop copters for a take-off price.

Byline: By DARREN BOYLE

AVIATION addicts have a once in a lifetime chance to buy SIX military helicopters at a knock-down price of EUR1 million.

The Irish Air Corps is selling off its remaining Alouet te choppers which first entered service more than 40 YEARS ago.

The veteran machines have been involved in the rescue of more than 500 people since they were first flown.

The Defence Forces have completely modernised its helicopter fleet after buying new state of the art Eurocopter EC- 135s and Bell Augusta AB 139s worth EUR60 million. The first Alouettes went into service with the Air Corps in 1963. But despite their age, the aircraft are in excellent condition.

Mechanics have rebuilt each of the aircraft at least THREE times - ensuring the helicopters will stay in the air for years to come.

Each of the choppers can carry six passengers as well as a pilot. They can also bear up to 900kg in cargo. The Aloutte has a top speed of 130mph and a range of about 316 miles - which can get you from Dublin to Galway and back.

Unfortunately, with fuel consumption of about 2.5mpg the aircraft's 125 gallon fuel tanks will be dry and will require refilling at a cost of EUR550.

But before rushing out to Baldonnell to buy one of the ageing war birds, buyers are warned that running costs are also very steep.

One aviation expert said: "Maintenance is a massive cost when running a helicopter. You can look at paying out 10 per cent of the purchase price a year in maintenance. Then you have insurance, which is also rather expensive. Most companies won't allow you to fly alone until you've completed at least 200 hours in that type of aircraft."

Each of the aircraft comes with a host of navigation and communications gadgetry - but despite being military aircraft none of the Alouettes are armed.

As well as the aircraft, bidders can also buy a host of spare parts including engines, gearboxes and other equipment to keep the helicopters in the air for another 20 years.

CAPTION(S):

Up for grabs.. the six veteran Air Corps Alouette helicopters on sale for a bargain EUR1m PICTURES: irishairpics.com
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2008
Words:369
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