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.
Heavy Lift Helicopters is close to finalizing the design of the tank system for its ex-U.S. Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallion conversion. However, the U.S. Navy has withdrawn from an agreement to supply up to six airframes that would have provided components to keep the two “Fire Stallions” operational.
At press time, FAA certification of the Bell 210, a single-turbine medium helicopter derived from the military UH-1H Huey, was imminent. Bell Helicopter begins with a refurbished UH-1H fuselage and adds Bell 212 dynamic components and an FAA-certified Honeywell T53-517B turboshaft engine. The result is a zero-time, commercial off-the-shelf helicopter with a useful load of 5,000 pounds.
Kaman Aerospace has launched the Firemax, a K-Max medium-lifter equipped with a 700-gallon fixed-tank aerial firefighting rig. Program director Roger Wassmuth said that a U-shaped tank system, designed for quick installation, comes with a hydraulic refill pump that can deliver a 25-second refill time and a dense water column for effective drop patterns.