Three new Sikorsky S-70i Firehawk helicopters delivered to separate California fire departments are on display this week at Heli-Expo 2020. The new version of this multi-mission helicopter provides improved engine power (T700-GE-701D powerplants), greater maneuverability, more lift at higher altitudes, reduced pilot workload, and a newly designed 1,000-gal external water tank. Other improvements include wide-chord rotor blades; four-axis, fully coupled flight controls; terrain awareness warning; and an integrated digital cockpit.
The helicopters were delivered in 2019 by Sikorsky and systems integrator United Rotorcraft, one each to the State of California's Department of Forestry (Cal Fire), the city of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFR), and the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD). Cal Fire plans to acquire a fleet of 12 aircraft to be positioned across the state.
Dennis Brown, senior chief of aviation at Cal Fire, explained, “With the S-70i Firehawk, we have the capability to carry 1,000 gallons of water, so we’ll be able to carry approximately three times the amount of water compared to our single-engine UH-1H helicopters with water buckets. Because the S-70i is twin-engine, we have increased capability at those higher altitudes, a fly-away safety margin and over time, the ability to fly at night under night vision goggles.” CAL Fire, which operates the largest fleet of aerial firefighting assets.
LACoFD is adding two S-70is to its existing fleet of three 20-year-old S-70A Firehawks, which are also used for search and rescue, EMS, and medical transport. All three of the services intend to operate their new Firehawks single pilot. The S-70i can carry 12 to 14 firefighters in the cabin.
The new Firehawks will be immediately available to siphon and drop water, perform hoist rescues, and provide medical transport. The Kawak Aviation Technologies water tank is rated for 4g turns with a full load of water. Other improvements in the water tank include an auto water snorkel reel system, a refill pump that siphons 1,000 gallons in 45 seconds (versus 60 seconds) while hovering. The cockpit displays show the fill status and diagnostic feedback.