Monday, February 21, 2011

Maybe there are Libyan aircraft in Malta to freak out about, but this ain't the one

If you're tracking the Libya story, there have been a lot of reports of defectors heading to Malta (specifically defectors from the air force). NPR put an AP story up on their site about two hours ago that's headlined "Libya Air Force Jets in Malta, Pilots Seek Asylum"; two pictures are attached, one of which does in fact show a Mirage jet with Libyan air force tail insignia.

The other photograph, though, shows a Eurocopter AS332L1 civil-variant Super Puma with commercial markings. The caption reads like this:
Two Libyan helicopters sit on the ground after arriving at Malta's international airport, Monday Feb. 21, 2001. The helicopters reportedly arrived carrying seven people, with who [sic] claimed to be French.
Here's the thing: they probably are French.

The two helos pictured, Super Pumas with tail numbers F-GHOY and F-GYSH, are registered to the French company Heli-Union (as you can see from the paint job), which provides support to drilling interests. They've been photographed in the past in both Malta and France. Here's a photo of F-GYSH to which the photographer has appended the comment "Final destination TIP/HLLT Libya."

That's Tripoli International Airport. Which makes sense, because Heli-Union has a subsidiary in Libya (pdf).

So yeah, these helos were probably evacuating oil and gas folks -- almost definitely Westerners, one would expect -- and had the ill fortune to land around the same time as a couple of Libyan military aircraft.

2 comments:

  1. I read somewhere that those passengers from the helos were employees of French state company DCI that is envolved in training Libya's Mirage F1. Maybe there's some connection.

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  2. F-GHOY was seen at brussel airport

    near NATo headqtr a while ago !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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