Pilot uninjured in Nevada helicopter accident

A helicopter carrying a sling-load crashed while working near the Destoya Fire in Nevada last week, the Bureau of Land Management said Monday.

The aircraft was working on a contractual basis for the BLM, when it had an accident near the fire on July 3. The pilot walked away with no injuries, and the crash is being investigated by the Office of Aircraft Services, said Randy Eardley with the BLM.

Eardley did not know what specifically caused the accident, nor did he know the name of the company on contract.

The BLM office in Elko, Nevada, in the state’s northwestern corner, is coordinating the fire effort.

Fire Aviation welcomes Ryan Maye Handy

Over the next few days our site visitors will have the pleasure of reading some articles written by a professional writer whose day job is a newspaper reporter. Ryan Maye Handy will be helping us out at times, contributing content on an as-needed basis. We would like to welcome Ryan to the website!

We had been aware of her coverage of wildland fires for a couple of years but met her for the first time at the Large Wildland Fires Conference in Missoula in May where she put on a very well received presentation on The Timeline of Media Manipulation during and after a Large Scale Wildfire.

Ryan currently works for the Fort Collins Coloradoan as the newspaper’s environment and public lands reporter. She was formerly the wildfire reporter for The Gazette, in Colorado Springs, where she covered the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, the two most destructive wildfires in Colorado history.

Recently she has written an article on the second anniversary of the Waldo Canyon fire, as well as traveled to Montana to cover the Large Wildland Fires Conference.

UDPATE: Hard landing for an Air Attack ship at Willcox

Courtesy Cochise County Sheriff's Office
Courtesy Cochise County Sheriff’s Office

Update 5:45 p.m. MDT, July 7, 2014; originally published July 3, 2014): An air attack fixed wing aircraft, an Aero Commander 500, overshot the runway while landing at Wilcox, AZ (map) on July 2.

The two people on board were not injured when their plane had a “hard landing” at the airport around 7:35 p.m., according to the Wilcox Range News. They were transported to a local hospital and were later released.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident. The plane was operating under a federal contract with Houston Air, and was flying back from the Whetstone Mountains Fire, also called the Radio Fire.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the Coronado National Forest had operational control of the 600 acre fire. The Forest considered the fire a possible threat, they said, but the fire was not burning on forest land. The Arizona State Forestry Division ordered the plane at the Forest’s request.

Carrie Dennett, a spokesperson for Arizona State Forestry Division, told us her agency had operational control of the aircraft.

Demonstration of fire retardant effectiveness

This video, featuring Shirley Zylstra, the Wildland Fire Chemicals Program Leader for the U.S. Forest Service, demonstrates the effectiveness of long term fire retardant dropped by air tankers, and occasionally by helicopters. In the video that was uploaded to YouTube yesterday, Ms. Zylstra explains how the chemical works even after the water evaporates by interfering with the combustion process.

The video is extremely low resolution, 240p, and looks like it was recorded with a flip phone, but it gets the message across.

MD-87 air tankers recalled

MD-87 at Redmond, June 9, 2014
MD-87 at Redmond, June 9, 2014. Photo by Jeff Ingelse. (Click to enlarge.)

All three of Erickson Aero Tanker’s MD-87s have been “recalled” — pulled out of service “due to intermittent engine surges when dropping [retardant at] high coverage levels”. John Kent Hamilton, the Aviation Safety Manager for the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, said the company believes they have a fix for the problem.

Erickson has developed and flight tested a new spade profile that has proved to eliminate this problem by keeping the fluid column much more vertical. They are in the final engineering approval stages and should be able to install with full approval early next week.

Since we ran a photo on January 6 of an MD-87 dropping water in an early test of the retardant system, there have questions raised on our site about retardant being ingested into the engines. That possibility gained further traction on June 9 with a photo of a parked MD-87 with what appeared to be retardant residue above the wing in front of an engine.

When we asked Kevin McCullough, the President of Erickson Aero Tanker, on June 9 if there were any problems with the MD-87s ingesting retardant into the engines, he said there were none.

The first two MD-87s, Tankers 101 and 105, began working June 4 and June 8, respectively. Soon thereafter, a third one, Tanker 103, reported for duty.

A few days after the MD-87s began dropping retardant on fires, a retardant leak inside the aircraft required that they be returned to their home base for repairs.

The last time we can remember an air tanker model being recalled was February 8, 2012 when the Federal Aviation Administration issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that required inspections of P2V aircraft after a 24-inch crack was found in a wing spar and skin on one of Neptune Aviation’s P2V-7 air tankers. This grounded the entire fleet of federal air tankers until all 11 of them were cleared the next day. Today we have a mix of five aircraft models, all with different retardant systems, reducing the chance that all of them will be shut down at the same time due to a defect.

CNN reports on LA County’s Firehawks

CNN put together the above video about Los Angeles County’s Blackhawk helicopters, which they call Firehawks. The footage is impressive, and looks like an advertisement for Sikorsky and the maker of the “souped up” engines, General Electric. Some of the scenes actually did come from a commercial for GE that we had on our site in February.

Air Spray acquires two SEATs

Air Spray has received a new Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) and will be getting a second one in a few weeks. The Air Tractor 802 holds 800 gallons of fire retardant and can get into narrow canyons that are more of a challenge for the larger 3,000 to 4,000 gallon “next generation” air tankers.

Air Spray has a contract for one of them with the State of Oregon and will be seeking employment for the other one.

Air Spray mobile retardant base
Air Spray mobile retardant base. Photo by Air Spray.

They have a mobile retardant base installed on a large trailer which will be heading to Oregon with the AT 802.

Air Spray mobile retardant trailer
Air Spray mobile retardant base. Photo by Air Spray.

Their effort to convert two BAe-146 jet-powered airliners into air tankers is going slower than they expected. When we visited their project at the Chico, California airport in March and talked with Ravi Saip (Director of Maintenance/General Manager) and Paul Lane (Vice President and Chief Financial Officer) they said they hoped to have most of the work done by the end of the summer, then they would begin the testing, tweaking, improving, and certification phases. In an article in the Chico ER, Mr. Saip was quoted as saying they now expect one of the BAe-146s to be ready for the 2015 fire season, and “They took longer to modify than we expected”. Other air tanker companies converting BAe-146s have found that much of the aircraft’s infrastructure in the belly has to be worked around and/or relocated in order to install an internal tank and door system as they are doing.

Air Spray executives
Ravi Saip and Paul Lane of Air Spray, March 21, 2014, in front of one of their Lockheed Electras at Chico, California, which is under a CWN contract with CAL FIRE. It will be in Chico again beginning in August, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

USFS and DOI warn about drones on fires

Today the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior issued an Interagency Aviation Safety Alert about the hazards of unmanned aerial vehicles operating near wildfires.

To enlarge the document below so that it fills your entire window, click on the icon in the bottom-right corner, just below the document. Then, to go back to regular viewing, click your browser’s go back button.

UAS Hazard