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.

Firefighting helicopters in central Texas

The three EC-145 STARFlight helicopters in Travis County in central Texas are used for medical transport, swift-water rescue, search and rescue, high-angle rescue, fire suppression, aerial reconnaissance, and law enforcement. A fourth helicopter recently acquired, a UH-1H Huey, will only be used for fires. It can carry up to 325 gallons of water in a belly tank, much more than the EC-145’s 130-gallon attached Bambi bucket.

The Huey was originally manufactured by Bell Helicopter, served in Vietnam and was later retrofitted for STARFlight by Northwest Helicopters in Olympia, Wash. Travis County purchased the aircraft with spare parts, tools, and training for $2.2 million.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Jansen.

Montana company purchases first civilian-owned CH-47D Chinooks

Billings Flying Service Chinook
Billings Flying Service Chinook, February 18 near Huntsville, Alabama before departing for Montana. Photo by Billings Flying Service.

Billings Flying Service just became the first non-military owner of CH-47D Chinook helicopters. Gary Blain, a co-owner of the company, told Fire Aviation that the process was much like purchasing a used government-owned vehicle. He submitted a $6.5 million bid for two of them and it was accepted.

Columbia Helicopters has BV-234 Chinooks, but this is the first time the higher performance CH-47D models have migrated into the civilian world.

On Wednesday and Thursday Mr. Blain and another pilot flew the two Chinooks from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama to the company’s facilities south of Billings, Montana near the Yellowstone River.

Anything you do with aircraft is expensive. Mr. Blain said they spent $32,000 for fuel during their two-day trip, with an overnight stopover in Norfolk, Nebraska.

In about four months they expect to have one of them outfitted for wildland firefighting, with the other coming on line next year. He said with an external bucket the ships could deliver 2,500 gallons of water. They have been consulting with the manufacturer, Boeing, and are considering installing an internal water tank with a snorkel and water pump for refilling the tank. The Chinook has an unusually high capacity for electrical accessories, so they are looking at either an electrical or a hydraulic pump. The water would exit the tank either from the rear ramp or through a hole cut in the belly. We asked if the tank would be similar to the RADS tank pioneered by Aero Union, and Mr. Blain said that if they choose the internal tank option they would probably work with Boeing to engineer something new.

Billings Flying Service Chinook
Billings Flying Service Chinook, February 18 near Huntsville, Alabama before departing for Montana. Photo by Billings Flying Service.

When operated by the military the Chinooks have a three-person crew, two pilots and an engineer-type who monitors gauges and interfaces with passengers. Billings Flying Service will not haul passengers, so they will reconfigure the cockpit making it possible for two pilots to handle everything. They will also install a bubble window to improve the visibility when flying external loads.

The company expects to hire at least 15 new employees to complete the work on the two helicopters. They will also construct a hanger for the ships, either at their headquarters or at the Billings airport.

Billings Flying Service is a second generation helicopter company and currently has one Bell 212 on an exclusive use firefighting contract and three Sikorsky S-61s and two Bell UH-1Hs on call when needed contracts. In addition to aerial firefighting, they are experienced in aerial construction, power transmission line construction, equipment transportation, geo-seismic exploration and passenger air charter.


Thanks and a hat tip go out to Dick and Steve.

Redesigned helitank for Bell 212

Ascent helitank

Ascent Aerospace sent us these photos of their redesigned helitank for a Bell 212, called the Ascent 50001C. The 360-gallon tank is made from carbon fiber and has a retractable snorkle and a system that maps the coordinates of all water drops. The system is certified to allow the transportation of passengers when the helitank is installed.

The company told us the tank is certified to the latest FAA FAR 27/29 STC requirements for helicopter safety and crash worthiness. It received Supplementary Type Certification (STC) from the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) on June 19, 2013 and from Transport Canada on November 1, 2013. FAA STC certification will be underway in the near future.

Ascent helitank

CAL FIRE and DynCorp receive award from FAA

For a third year in a row the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) presented CAL FIRE and DynCorp International with the FAA’s Diamond Award of Excellence for Aviation Maintenance. The award recognizes CAL FIRE’s aviation maintenance unit after all maintenance technicians pass a rigorous and specialized aircraft safety training program.

CAL FIRE’s current support contractors are DynCorp and Logistics Specialties Incorporated (LSI). DynCorp provides airtanker and airtactical plane pilot services, and all aircraft maintenance services. All CAL FIRE helicopters are flown by CAL FIRE pilots. LSI provides procurement and parts management services.