Erickson Air-Crane will hand over a “new” S-64 Helitanker to Italy’s Corpo Forestale dello Stato (state forestry corps, or CFS) this morning at Booth No. 2829. The aircraft is the second of four for the CFS to be upgraded by the Central Point, Ore. company, which has owned the helicopter’s type certificate since 1992.
Such has become its popularity over the past few years as an aerial firefighter–in Oceania as well as Europe and the U.S.–that Erickson is fast running out of aircraft to modify and is currently reconfiguring its premises so that it can start building new ones.
The aircraft in the spotlight today has received an avionics upgrade that includes four multifunction displays and an LED warning panel in the cockpit, a three-axis automatic flight control system (AFCS) and a new environmental control system to replace the antiquated bleed-air device. In addition to performance information, the “firefighting” screen on the MFD offers mission-specific data such as water level in the integrated tank, the direction in which the water cannon is pointing and foam-on and -off indications.
Erickson’s European affiliate, which finalized the CFS lease package, is directed by industry doyen Gian Franco Blower. He said that the S-64 has led to “a tremendous evolution in Italy’s fire-suppression capability. Its integration into the country’s aerial firefighting fleet represents one of the most effective fire-suppression strategies in the world.” Italy’s director general of the department of civil protection, Dr. Guido Bertolaso, has referred to the fleet of as many as six S-64s as the “diamond head of our aerial firefighting fleet.”
In addition to firefighting, Bertolaso’s department has used the S-64 to support a variety of emergency response missions. In 2002, one of them lifted a portable pumping station to drain a glacial lake that threatened to flood a resort in the Alpine region of Piemonte. After an eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily in 2003, one aircraft dropped water on fires started by the lava, while a second lifted large concrete blocks to divert the molten rock from nearby villages.