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.
When Minden Air contacted BAE Systems’ regional aircraft division to ask about leasing a 146 jetliner to use as a water-bomber, it came as something of a surprise to director Mark Taylor. “When they explained the characteristics they were looking for, we began to see its potential,” he told Aviation International News.
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.
Australia has started a three-year research program to investigate the effectiveness of aerial “bush-fire” suppression. The Bush-fire Cooperative Research Centre (BCRC) will look at factors such as the level of aerial and ground suppression required for a fire suppression job and the upper intensity limit for effective suppression from different resources.
Right now more than 250 aircraft–the majority of them helicopters–are positioned around Spain, to address what everyone expects to be another busy summer of brush and forest fires. One of the country’s biggest contributors to this annual effort is Helisureste, based in Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. The company has built a lot of experience in the field since its formation in 1984.
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