Northwest Territories to buy 8 single engine air tankers

Air Tractor 802-F. Air Tractor photo.

The Northwest Territorial government has ordered $26 million worth of single engine air tankers, an acquisition that will add new eight Air Tractor 802 Firebosses to their fleet.

Below is an excerpt from an article at CBC News:

…This is the first time the territorial government has bought new water bombers, which are used to fight fires. It inherited the current fleet of Canadair C-215s, which were introduced in 1969, from the federal government for $1.
The minister of environment and natural resources, Wally Schumann, says it makes more sense to buy the new Air Tractor 802 Fireboss aircraft than to upgrade the old fleet.

“I think the cost of doing that, from everything I’ve seen, would have been four times or five times the cost of purchasing these new Firebosses,” he said.

The government plans to issue a request for proposals this spring for the operation and maintenance of the fleet.

It could have asked contractors to provide a fleet of aircraft as well as operate and maintain them, but Schumann says many northern companies would not have been able to bid on it.

“The biggest benefit of us, the GNWT, owning a fleet of aircraft is the larger chance of Northern aviation companies to participate in the operation of the tanker based fleet,” Schumann said…

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Doug.

Helicopter footage of wildfire in Australia

@7NewsMelbourne said about the video:

Behind the scenes: this clip shows the turbulence around bushfires that the chopper has to handle.

Erickson’s warehouse

The Department of Interior had 182 drone aircraft in FY 2015

Photo above: an RQ-11 Raven Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is launched by Sgt. Dane Phelps, from 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division during a joint U.S. and Iraqi cordon and search operation in Patika Province, Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Guillory. The Department of the Interior has 105 RQ-11 A/B Unmanned Aerial Systems.

In fiscal year 2015 four agencies within the U.S. Department of the Interior had a total of 140 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Most, if not all of them, were acquired through military surplus at no cost, according to Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Randy Eardley. He said the number of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) enabled the DOI to replace aircraft that became unserviceable during testing without establishing and funding an expensive maintenance program to return those aircraft to full use.

In fact, one UAV, a Super Bat, crashed after it was inadvertently launched from the catapult without the engine running.

Mr. Eardley told us:

Now that DOI has operationally tested and evaluated the aircraft and is now moving toward purpose-built UAS, the DOD systems, the Ravens/T-hawks will be transferred to other federal agencies (to be determined) to continue providing benefit.

RQ-16 T-Hawk
RQ-16 T-Hawk. U.S. Army photo.

The two most popular models within the Department are the Honeywell RQ-16 T-Hawk (47 each) and the AeroVironment RQ-11 A/B Raven (105 each). As you might have guessed, these aircraft are far more expensive than the hobbyist UAVs that have interfered with air tankers and helicopters fighting wildland fires.

According to Wikipedia the hand-launched Raven fixed wing system, which includes four aircraft, two ground control systems, and spare parts, runs about $173,000. It is propelled by an electric motor.

In 2007 the U.S. Navy awarded a contract for 20 T-Hawks paying about $375,000 each. Named after a tarantula hawk, it is a ducted fan vertical takeoff and landing aircraft powered by a gasoline engine.

Six types of DOI UAS
The six types of UAS the DOI had in FY 2015. Data is from the DOI.

In FY 2015 the DOI flew 46 UAS missions for a total of 140 hours. No missions were flown by any of the twenty-five Falcon, Falcon Hover, or Pulse Vapor 55 systems.

Below is a summary of the use of the Department of the Interior Unmanned Aerial Systems in fiscal year 2015.

AgencyNumber of MissionsNumber of hours flownAircraft
BLM2269Super Bat, T-Hawk
USGS1539Raven Super Bat, T-hawk
OAS617T-Hawk, Super Bat

New 10-minute video about short-haul personnel extraction

Above photo: screen grab from the short-haul video

Today the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service released a 10-minute video listing the requirements, capabilities, and 2016 outlook for their short-haul programs — a system of extracting personnel suspended under a helicopter on a long rope. It can be very useful for removing an injured firefighter from a remote area to a location where more conventional and less hazardous transportation is available.

The video consists of text on the screen with occasional still photos and a few seconds of actual moving video.

Fake pen

The fake pen “writing” the text and the fake hand sliding in photos were slightly interesting for the first few seconds but they quickly became tiresome and tedious waiting for the fake pen to create the perfectly formed letters. It would have made more sense if the pen was making text that more resembled handwriting. If your video is nothing but ten minutes of text, distracting music, a few seconds of actual video footage, and a handful of still photos, why not just create a .pdf document that someone could read more quickly than watching a gimmicky video?

The credits include Lane Lamoreaux as video editor/producer (it does not say from what agency or company), and Seth Weber of the USFS as National Short-Haul Specialist.

Joe Montana and smokejumpers, aerial attack

Can anyone identify these jumpers? Click on the picture a couple of times to see a larger version.

Erickson to refurbish MH-53E Sea Dragon

Erickson Incorporated has been selected as a subcontractor by Adams Communication & Engineering Technologies (ACET) for the refurbishment of two Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters in support of the United States Navy Heavy Lift Helicopter Program.

This is the first contract awarded by the U.S. Navy for depot-level maintenance of a MH-53E helicopter to a commercial contractor, according to Kerry Jarandson, Erickson’s Vice President of MRO and Manufacturing.

The MH-53E Sea Dragon is one of the largest helicopters in the United States military. It is a variant of the CH-53E and is used for mine countermeasures. That family of helicopters has a troubling accident history, according to Wikipedia:

Between 1969-1990, more than 200 servicemen had been killed in accidents involving the CH-53A, CH-53D and CH-53E. The MH-53E Sea Dragon is the U.S. Navy’s helicopter most prone to accidents, with 27 deaths from 1984 to 2008. During that timeframe its rate of Class A mishaps, meaning serious damage or loss of life, was 5.96 per 100,000 flight hours, more than twice the Navy helicopter average of 2.26. A 2005 lawsuit alleges that since 1993 there were at least 16 in-flight fires or thermal incidents involving the No. 2 engine on Super Stallion helicopters. The suit claims that proper changes were not made, nor were crews instructed on emergency techniques.

Erickson has been building and operating Sikorsky S-64 Aircranes, which can carry up to 2,650 gallons of water, since 1992.

Aircrane. Erickson photo.