Shipping A Bell 212 Around The World

  • Aircraft Sales
  • 30-08-2017
  • Tony Steer

It was back in January of 2016 when we first bought the Japanese 1981 Bell 212 that would later arrive at our New Zealand shores and be registered as HBQ. A key aspect of our business is buying and selling aircraft, and we knew with the purchase of HBQ that we would find this aircraft the perfect home, a place that would allow this ex-Coastguard machine to become a “true” utility aircraft.

As of the 10th of this month [August 2017], we can happily say that we achieved our goal. HBQ is now part of the fleet of aircraft operated by Helicopter Applicators Inc in Pennsylvania, USA and will be performing utility, lift and fire-fighting roles.

Prior to our purchase, and then sale, of HBQ, this aircraft had a single owner ex-factory and spent over thirty years flying for the Japanese Coast Guard primarily in SAR and surveillance work.


Not long after we purchased the aircraft we now call HBQ, I accompanied an engineer from our Queenstown facility to Japan where we dismantled and oversaw the loading of the blue and white 212 onto the vessel that would bring HBQ to New Zealand via a ten-day voyage. This involved removing and packing the main and tail rotor blades and skids, attaching stabilizing supports then crane-lifting the aircraft onto a truck that would take the aircraft to the Port of Yokohama where it was moved onto a Roll On Roll Off vessel. 

Before arriving at our shores, the 212 was registered as HBQ, making the aircraft ready for the assembly, maintenance, and inspection process needed to get HBQ airworthy.


After being trucked to our facility at Ardmore Airport in Auckland, our engineers assembled HBQ, achieved the Import Certificate of Airworthiness followed by the 3000 hr/ 5-year inspection and 24 month/1200 hour inspection on both Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3B engines.

Our Helicopter Components team completed inspections on both main rotor hubs and overhauled the mast. This included replacing with new pole and bearings, swashplate support and collective sleeve. Our components team finished with the replacement of trunnion in the tail rotor hub.


Ground runs and test flights were completed by our Sales Manager and resident test pilot, Stephen Boyce, and once airworthy the sales and marketing team did what they do best and marketed HBQ to the international rotor industry.

As expected, we received a lot of inquiry on HBQ but before we knew it Joe Stambough, Director of Safety and CFI for Helicopter Applicators in Pennsylvania, was booking flights for himself, his wife and colleague, Jim Holmes, to fly in from the US to inspect the aircraft.

During the week that Stambough and Holmes were in New Zealand, the aircraft was thoroughly looked over, log books sifted through and test flights completed. Including the flight that was accompanied by our friend from Kiwiflyer, Michael Norton, who wrote a wonderful article about HBQ and our sales team. 

As with all international guests that visit our facilities, we created and recommended a weekend itinerary for Joe and his wife to enjoy all that the central North Island has to offer. It's fair to say that they thoroughly enjoyed their time exploring our beautiful country.


At Stambaugh's recommendation, Helicopter Applicators bought our 1981 Bell 212 and with the purchase agreement and payment finalised our team got to work. HBQ was dismantled, wrapped and packed into an open container that was picked up and trucked to the Port of Auckland where it began its 25-day journey to its new home in the USA.

Arriving first in Philadelphia and then trucked to Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, HBQ was unloaded and is currently undergoing inspections and assembly to become airworthy.

“The long and anticipated arrival of HBQ has finally arrived at our facility as of late yesterday (Aug 10th). We removed the components from the shipping container and did the great "unveil" this morning. Glenn Martin is very impressed with the condition of the aircraft. We look forward to the FAA certification, various modifications and upgrades we will be performing over the next several months to make this aircraft a true utility/lift/fire aircraft."

Joseph H. Stambaugh, Jr.
Director of Safety & CFI for Helicopter Applicators, Inc.

Thrilled to have HBQ in their hangar, the team at Helicopter Applicators are looking forward to their future with the 1981 Bell 212 from Japan (via New Zealand) as a part of their fleet. And we are thrilled to have made this homecoming happen.

Our team at Oceania Aviation have been buying and selling aircraft for over 20 years, moving them to and from all corners of the globe, flying and adding value to various types and models, making us "true" experts in the aircraft sales. Why would you want to deal with anyone else?