The Bell 429, a new light twin helicopter derived from the Bell 427i, will be dramatically unveiled at an 11:30 a.m. press event today at Bell Helicopter’s booth, No. 1087 in Hall D. Bell announced the 427i, an IFR-capable version of the 427, less than one year ago at Heli-Expo 2004.
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.
Clovis, Calif.-based Heavy Lift Helicopters is currently converting the first commercially owned Sikorsky CH-53D Sea Stallions for firefighting operations. Readying the first “Fire Stallions” for this year’s fire season, Heavy Lift is installing its own 2,400-gallon water tank and snorkel system in one of six 42,000-pound-mtow CH-53Ds the company purchased from the U.S. Navy in spring last year.
Helitanker operators may have thought they would profit after the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) terminated contracts for 33 fixed-wing large airtankers due to airworthiness concerns last May, but a quiet fire season and a decrease in profitable call-when-needed deployments mitigated the potential windfall.
A DC-10-10 airliner modified for aerial firefighting is making a spectacular debut at this year’s show. The DC-10 Super Tanker dumps 7,000 U.S. gallons of water in only eight seconds along the airshow flightline, from a series of external tanks mounted along the centerline (see picture page 1).
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certification of the Bell 210, a single-turbine medium helicopter derived from military UH-1H Huey, is imminent and could happen this month, Bell CEO Mike Redenbaugh said yesterday at the Paris Air Show. “Our flight testing is completed, the FAA pilots have flown and now we’re just waiting for approval of the paperwork,” he said.
Fighting fires from the air used to be an ad hoc business, as unpredictable as the odds of getting a return on your equipment investment. Even during a hot summer, aircraft operators in southern Europe might have their Bambi buckets gathering dust in the corner of a hangar on the off-chance a camping stove should topple over somewhere.
The Philippines Air Force, hampered by a long-term funding shortage and faced with the growing obsolescence of its combat fleet, has turned to its own workshops to perform low-cost upgrades and overhauls to return some of its stored fleet to service. The reworked aircraft are desperately needed as the Philippines has shifted its emphasis from national defense to internal security operations against various insurgent political factions.
PZL-Swidnik’s W-3A Sokol helicopter received its type certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) last month. The company initiated the procedure, it said, because several European operators are using the 14,000-pound mtow, twin-engine helicopter for firefighting. Sokols are currently flying firefighting missions in Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Fires are a huge and growing problem in Spain and its islands, as they are throughout southern Europe. As many as 250 aircraft–the vast majority of them helicopters–are currently involved in fighting bush and forest fires around Spain. One of the country’s biggest contributors to this annual effort is Helisureste (HS), based in Alicante on the country’s Mediterranean coast.