On 12 February 2021, Tatra Volunteer Rescue Service received two new PZL-10W engines from PZL-Świdnik under the first signed agreement under the Exchange Programme. According to the provisions of this agreement, in exchange for two new engines, TOPR transferred to PZL-Świdnik two identical units with exhausted service life. As a result, the helicopter was able to return to operation with new engines after just four days to support the rescuers in the Tatra Mountains.
In autumn 2021, during the scheduled periodic overhaul of the Sokół helicopter owned by TOPR, PZL-Świdnik will deliver the remaining key components requiring periodic replacement, including seats of three transmissions. After their installation, the TOPR helicopter will be able to continue operating for at least another eight years.
As TOPR rescuers emphasize the W-3 Sokół is a helicopter that performs very well in the demanding conditions of the Tatra Mountains and has no equal.
The Sokół belonging to TOPR is equipped with medical and rescue equipment, including a winch and other necessary equipment for such tasks in the Tatra Mountains. The onboard equipment makes it possible to undertake rescue operations directly from the helicopter, which remains in hovering position near difficult-to-access ridge walls. The Sokół usually takes on board three to five crew members, while the rescued persons can accommodate several more people or two on a stretcher.
The W-3 Sokół helicopter, due to its ideal size for Tatra tasks, including the size of its rotor blades, can land in many hard-to-reach places, while in other cases a hoist is used to lower a rescuer with a stretcher. The hoist has a lifting capacity of over 270 kg and a range of 90 meters, while the Sokół usually hovers around 20-30 meters above the ground. Operating a hovering helicopters is extremely demanding; the pilot operates the helicopter with precision, often in difficult weather conditions, enabling a safe, direct rescue from the helicopter or, in other cases, the installation of additional belay points on the rock face for the safety of the rescuers and the success of the rescue mission.
The rope sling that equips the Tatra Sokół was developed by PZL-Świdnik according to TOPR requirements and EASA regulations for the version that enables emergency rope drop.
The W-3A Sokół is a medium twin-engine helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 6,400 kg, designed to transport up to 14 people and cargo. Its propulsion system is based on two PZL-10W turbine engines, each with a take-off power of 662 kW. Sokół is a multi-purpose platform capable of performing various tasks, including those related to maintaining public order, passenger and military transport, medical recue, as well as search and rescue and firefighting missions. PZL-Świdnik has produced more than 180 Sokół helicopters, which are used in such countries as the Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, the Philippines and South Korea.