Russian Firm Fights Fires in S. Africa

 - February 2, 2007, 8:46 AM

Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia-based UTair is supporting South Africa’s summer aerial firefighting campaign, under a new contract awarded by the national forest fire association.

The Russian support started in December and runs through next year, with possible extensions. It involves the use of two Mi-8s fitted with high-capacity Bambi Buckets, each capable of carrying up to 529 gallons of water. The crews– four pilots, two flight engineers and four ground engineers–have extensive firefighting experience from previous contracts in South Africa, as well as in Spain and New Zealand. For the first five months the UTair detachment will be based near the towns of George and Stellenbosch, on the southern tip of South Africa.

With nearly 200 helicopters in its fleet, UTair claims to be the largest operator of Russian rotorcraft in the world. It also provides transport services to UN peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Congo and Liberia.