Photos of aircraft at Aerial Firefighting conference

CAL FIRE OV-10
CAL FIRE OV-10

We took these photos last week, March 20, at the Aerial Firefighting conference in Sacramento. There were about 90 minutes set aside for displays of firefighting aircraft at McClellan Air Force base, as well as live demonstrations of water and water pellet drops from a helicopter, and the use of the AirTEP Airborne Tactical Extraction Platform marketed by Aerial Machine Tool. We have photos of Coulson’s C-130Q in another article.

CAL FIRE T-83, an S2T
CAL FIRE T-83, an S2T
Croman S-61 dropping water
Croman S-61 dropping water
Croman S-61 with modified tank for water pellets
Croman S-61 with modified tank for water pellets

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Colorado: bill introduced to provide firefighting aircraft

Two state senators in Colorado have introduced a bill in the legislature, Senate Bill 164, that would authorize the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC) to acquire helicopters and air tankers for the newly created agency.

For the 2014 fire season the bill authorizes the acquisition by lease or contract of up to three helicopters, and in 2015 up to four “large aircraft”, presumably fixed wing air tankers. If they obtain three helicopters, one must be capable of “command and control” and another would be a Type 1 heavy ship that would have rappel ability and could carry up to 18 passengers. The air tankers must be capable of night flying operations.

The bill was introduced by President of the Senate Morgan Carroll and Senator Steve King on March 21, 11 days before the CFAC Director Paul Cooke is due to release a report on April Fools Day that would recommend the direction the new agency should take.

The bill that created the CFAC last year did not appropriate funds to operate the agency or acquire aircraft. The new bill just introduced does not yet specify a monetary amount, but it will be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a fiscal note attachment and then sent to the Joint Budget Committee for recommendations on funding.

If the final version of the bill includes funding, getting it past Governor John Hickenlooper could be a challenge. He was quoted by the Durango Herald as expressing the belief that farmers and ranchers should be the first line of defense in fighting wildfires. However, the fact that one of the cosponsors of the bill is the President of the Senate is a sign that it has a chance of passing the legislature, and perhaps even overriding a veto.

Fighting fire with bags of liquid

Croman tank
The modified external tank to deliver the water bags. (I’m fairly sure the gentleman said: “Say ahhhh.”)

A company in Israel has developed a system for fighting wildfires by dropping small bags of liquid from a helicopter or cargo plane. The idea is that the bags would break upon impact. Elbit Systems demonstrated their “HyDrop” system at the Aerial Firefighting conference in Sacramento, California last week, when small bags of water holding less than one liter were dropped from a Type 1 helicopter operated by Croman. Shlomo Alkaher, Vice President of the company, told Fire Aviation that other liquids could be used in the bags, such as water enhancement products or conventional long term fire retardant.

At their exhibit in the conference center we asked Mr. Alkaher if we could see one of the bags, but were surprised to hear that none were available. Later at the live demonstration at McClellan Air Force Base, we found a person who had somehow acquired a bag and allowed us to photograph it.

water bag
One of the water bags.

In a video of a test drop the company was showing in the exhibit area at the conference, it was clear that some of the bags did not break when hitting the ground, and in fact bounced. Mr. Alkaher said that the fire would eventually burn the plastic and the water would escape.

The advantage of the bags, he explained, is that the water delivery would be less susceptible to being blown off target by winds, which would also allow the helicopter to drop from a greater height if necessary.

We asked if they had conducted any tests where the product would be dropped onto a standard grid of cups, a test that is used to determine the distribution of water and retardant dropped by helicopters and air tankers. He told us no, explaining that the bags would most likely destroy the cups.

Mr. Alkaher said tests on crash test dummies determined that if a bag hit a person it would not cause an injury. The plastic bags will easily biodegrade, he said. The company has developed equipment that fills the bags near the site where they would be loaded onto the helicopter.

The company has also designed a container system that could be used by cargo planes with a rear door, such as a C-130. The containers would have a conveyer belt that would feed the bags out the door.

The video below, which has been converted to slow motion, shows the March 20 demonstration at McClellan. The camera was pretty far away so you can’t see a great deal (it helps to put it on “full screen”), but the spectators could tell that some of the bags bounced. We were not allowed to walk over and get a closer look at the drop site to see what the effects were or how many bags broke.

Helicopter operations at a fire in Austria

Waldbrand Absam 20.03.2014 from Markus Angerer on Vimeo.

These videos, showing mostly helicopter operations, were shot at a wildfire in Austria, March 20. There were about 250 personnel fighting the fire in very step terrain, along with 7 helicopters, including one Black Hawk.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Georg.

DynCorp and Coulson announce cooperative venture

Tonight at the Aerial Fighting Conference DynCorp and Coulson are announcing a strategic alliance. They intend to work together to bid on aerial fighting contracts and will provide those services if selected.

Coulson has operated air tankers and helicopters in North America and Australia for years, and DynCorp currently has a contract to provide maintenance and pilots for CAL FIRE’s S2T air tankers and maintenance for their helicopters.

Helicopters fighting coal mine fire in Australia

Coulson S61 in Australia

A massive fire at a coal mine at Morwell, Victoria in Australia was fought with helicopters, as well as massive quantities of water from the ground. It is now under control after firefighters battled it for 29 days. The fire was most likely the result of a bushfire started by an arsonist.

Coulson’s Sikorsky S61 helicopters, working on contract down under, dropped water on the fire. We thank the Coulson company for sending us these photos.

Coulson S61 in Australia 3 Coulson S61 in Australia 4 Coulson S61 in Australia 2The video below was shot from the helmet cam of one of the pilots while dropping water on the fire.

NPS helicopter rescues man and two dogs from icy lake

Park Police ice rescue training. NPS photo.
File photo of National Park Service’s Park Police Eagle One helicopter conducting ice rescue training, February 17, 2010. NPS photo.

One of the four helicopters in the National Park Service’s Park Police aviation unit rescued a man and two dogs from an icy lake Sunday near Gainesville, Virginia. Their previous training, documented in the photo above, paid off

Below is a summary of the incident, from the NPS Morning Report:

United States Park Police
Crew Of Eagle 2 Rescues Hypothermic Man From Lake

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 23rd, the United States Park Police Aviation Section received a mutual aid request from the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department, which sought assistance from a Park Police helicopter with an ice rescue at Lake Manassas in Gainesville, Virginia.

US Park Police Eagle 2 responded with a crew of four – Sgt. Kevin Chittick, pilot; Officer Ryan Evasick, co-pilot; and Sgt. David Tolson and Officer Michael Abate, rescue technicians.

Eagle 2 arrived on the scene at about 3:45 pm and was asked to assist by hoisting an elderly man who had been stranded on Lake Manassas after his canoe became flooded with ice cold water. Prince William County Fire personnel had entered the water in ice rescue suits to attempt the rescue, but their efforts were hampered by unstable ice and dangerous conditions.

Chittick positioned Eagle 2 for the hoist and Tolson was lowered about 20 feet to the man, who was attached to a rescue strap and then hoisted aboard the helicopter. Chittick then flew it to the nearby shoreline, where the man was lowered to the ground. Paramedics transferred the man to a waiting ambulance and began basic and advanced life support treatment for severe hypothermia.

Eagle 2 then returned to the scene. Evasick was lowered to the canoe, where he located two dogs. He was able to rescue both animals and subsequently bring them to shore.

In 2012 we wrote about the Park Police aviation unit.