After nearly two months of record forest fires from Michigan to California, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) added four more leased heavy helicopters to its firefighting fleet in late June. The additions include two Sikorsky S-61s from Siller Helicopters, an Erickson S-64 Air-Crane and an S-70 from Firehawk Helicopters. A spokesman for Erickson said that last year the company had six helicopters flying USFS contracts; this year that number is eight. The USFS said the helicopters will be used for large-fire support and in the initial assault both to drop retardant and support ground crews.
An unusually warm winter and mild spring have given rise to some of the worst forest fires in the nation’s history, from Florida to California. Not even northern climes have been immune. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Duck Lake fire destroyed 23,000 acres and 140 structures and denuded six miles of Lake Superior shoreline in late May. The most active fire to date has been the Whitewater-Baldy fire in New Mexico, which had consumed nearly 300,000 acres by mid-June after raging for more than a month.
After nearly two months of record forest fires from Michigan to California, the U.S. Forest Service added four more leased heavy helicopters to its firefighting fleet this week. The additions include two Sikorsky S-61s from Siller Helicopters, an Erickson S-64 Air-Crane and an S-70 from Firehawk Helicopters.
In a preliminary NTSB report on the June 3 Lockheed P2V Neptune tanker accident 20 miles north of Modena, Utah, the board said, “While conducting its second retardant drop of the day, Tanker 11 followed behind the lead airplane into the drop zone.
The fatal crash of a Neptune Aviation Services Lockheed P2V (callsign “Tanker 11”), while doing fire suppression work on the White Rock Fire near the Nevada-Utah state line on June 3, has caused the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to reexamine its firefighting capabilities in the region. The NTSB is investigating the accident.
Simplex received FAA STC approval for an enhanced belly-mounted Fire Attack system for the AgustaWestland AW139. The new system, which increases capacity by 20 percent to nearly 500 gallons and is certified for higher speeds, is the result of a partnership with AgustaWestland to take advantage of the AW139’s speed and increased payload capacity. The aerial firefighting system also uses the helicopter’s multifunction displays and cameras on the tank to allow the pilot to see the hover pump and door operation without the use of mirrors.
An Oregon jury has awarded William Coultas, his wife and the widow of pilot Roark Schwanenberg $69.7 million in a damages suit brought in the 2008 “Iron 44” crash of a Carson Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N. The verdict puts General Electric alone on the hook; other parties settled out of court before the trial. The helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from a helispot while conducting firefighting operations in Northern California. Schwanenberg and eight others aboard the helicopter died.
Simplex Aerospace recently received FAA STC approval for its third-generation, high-pressure Aerial Cleaning System (ACS), used in the cleaning of power-line insulators and windmill blades. ACS, which consists of a belly water tank and a side-mounted nozzle boom, is certified for use on Eurocopter AS350 and AS355 helicopters. (A 120-gallon, second-generation power-wash system is also certified for the Bell 407.)
Simplex Aerospace is adapting its third-generation Aerial Cleaning System (ACS) into an aerial firefighting system for high-rise buildings. Ground-based firefighting equipment can reach only the first 11 floors of a high-rise, leaving an obvious gap in the ability to contain fires in higher up floors, Simplex vice president of sales and marketing Larry Lichtenberger told AIN today at Heli-Expo.
One of the largest and longest-lasting wildfires in the Midwest significantly taxed available helicopter assets, destroyed nearly 100,000 acres and sent smoke plumes into the sky that could be detected by satellites and smelled as far as 450 miles away in Chicago. Across Lake Superior, parts of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were enveloped in dense smoke for days.