One dead after helicopter makes emergency landing in South Korea

A firefighting helicopter crew member died Monday during operations in the Gangwon Province of South Korea.

According to The Korean Times, the man “passed out as the aircraft made an emergency landing in Samcheok.” He was pronounced deceased after he was transferred to an area hospital, and early indications suggest the helicopter was forced to land after striking a high-tension power line.

At least 60 helicopters and 10,000 people have been mobilized for firefighting efforts in three areas, and residents across the region were urged to evacuate, the Korea JoonGang Daily reported. 

A new member of the Fire Aviation team

Jason PohlToday we’d like to introduce a new member of the Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation team, Jason Pohl. He will be contributing articles beginning May 7 while I am temporarily tied up on a project.

Jason Pohl reports on law enforcement and public safety issues for the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. A 2012 graduate of journalism and sociology at Colorado State University, Pohl has reported in Colorado newsrooms including The Denver Post, Greeley Tribune, and, since March 2014, the Coloradoan. Most recently, Pohl — who has been trained as an EMT and wildland firefighter — embedded for two weeks with a team of firefighters and first responders conducting refugee rescues on the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya. He has also written about wildfire, first responder mental health and other public safety, breaking news and accountability topics.

Pohl in December successfully defended his master’s thesis in sociology at Colorado State University. Through dozens of interviews and extensive fieldwork, Pohl investigated emergency evacuation messaging during natural disasters, specifically the 2013 Colorado Floods that came on the heels of devastating wildfires in the state. Outside of journalism, Pohl is an avid marathon runner who enjoys indulging in a craft beer — or three — and exploring Colorado’s high peaks with his wife and adventure partner.

Massive helicopter used in wildfire on Russia/China border

Click on the photos to see larger versions.

The automatic translation from Bing:

Cross-border forest fires occurred in Russia, driven by China in Mongolia Autonomous daeheung an Ridge North. Join the Wu troops in Mongolia and Heilongjiang total fire fighting!

And Google’s auto-translation:

Forest fires occurred in Russia crossed the border and spread to the northern part of Daixing Anrill in China ‘s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Forest Takeshi Kaiuchi Mongolia · Heilongji Squadron participate in firefighting activities.

Sheriff and Fire Departments in Orange County feud over helicopter responses

Above: file photo of firefighter with Orange County Fire Authority helicopter. OCFA photo.

In an air battle over the responsibility for helicopter rescues in Orange County, California the losers are the taxpayers and accident victims.

Historically the County Sheriff’s Department air fleet has taken the lead for searches, while the Orange County Fire Authority has handled rescues. Recently, however, the Sheriff has been poaching responses to rescues resulting in multiple helicopters appearing over the same incident potentially causing airspace conflicts and confusion.

According to the Orange County Register it happened twice on April 29, with the Sheriff’s helicopter being told repeatedly by the Incident Commander they were not requested and then ignoring orders to “stand down”.

Below is an excerpt from their article:

…Recordings from radio chatter on Saturday show sheriff pilots ignoring direct orders from local commanders.

In Orange, the commander on the ground told the sheriff pilot, “You will abide by what the ground (Incident Commander) is asking you to do.”

The sheriff helicopter completed the medical assistance call anyway.

“My concern is if you have four aircraft in the air, and the sheriff refuses to communicate, who will get hurt if there is an air accident?” said Orange City Fire Dept. Deputy Chief Robert Stefano.

In Laguna Beach, where an intoxicated 17-year-old was pulled from a beach cove, the commander told the Sheriff’s pilot, “You are not requested.” The Laguna official also declared that the Sheriff’s pilot was creating “an unsafe air operation” by not answering direct orders.

In another recording of the same incident, a Laguna Beach dispatcher told a fire official “It sounds like the sheriffs have gone rogue. They’re not listening to the (Incident Commander).”

It is absurd that emergency management professionals operating very expensive aircraft cannot act like adults and do what is best for the taxpayers, citizens, and accident victims who need the best medical care available administered in a safe environment.

The Orange County Register has a recording of the radio conversations that is astounding.

Fire monitoring helicopter crashes in Russia, reportedly killing three

A helicopter used for monitoring wildfires crashed May 4 in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, according to TASS which received information from regional emergency services. Three people were on board when it went down 30 kilometers south of the community of Inzer in the Beloretsk district. The reports are that there were no survivors.

Below is an excerpt from TASS:

The helicopter belonged to the Lightair company. The news it went missing came at 14:20 Moscow time. The helicopter had left Bashkortostan’s capital Ufa for Beloretsk. The distress signal from its emergency beacon was picked up by a satellite rescue system. The local office of the Investigative Committee has launched a probe.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers.

Air tanker 116 at Redding

The U.S. Forest Service distributed these photos Thursday of air tanker 116 at Redding, California. Normally the aircraft is based at McClellan Air Field in Sacramento, but it ventured north for “aerial firefighter training”.

The agency did not specify if the lawn chairs in the shade are part of the regular equipment inventory on the aircraft.

This plane is one of seven HC-130H’s that are transitioning from the Coast Guard to the USFS. The program has experienced delays but is expected to be complete by the end of this decade.

tanker 116 HC-130H tanker 116 HC-130H

Picture day for Coulson’s C-130’s

While Coulson’s three C-130-type air tankers were all together in Reno last month for carding by the U.S. Forest Service and pilot training the company took the opportunity to grab some photos of the aircraft while they were flying in formation.

They are all variants of Lockheed’s C-130 platform — Tanker 131 is a C-130Q while Tankers 132 and 133 are L-382G’s. Tanker 133, the newest addition to the fleet, just became operational a couple of weeks ago.

Scroll down to see how Dan Megna got the photos.

Coulson C-130 air tankers

Coulson C-130 air tankers

Coulson C-130 air tankers

Coulson C-130 air tanker

To take the photos Coulson rented an OV-10 that conveniently has a small compartment in the rear. Professional photographer Dan Megna sat in that tiny space to get the shots.

Smokejumper transition — round canopy to square

smokejumper square canopy
Smokejumper lands under a ram-air canopy. From smokejumplers_on_ig

Change is hard.

A change being made in the U.S. Forest Service smokejumper program is not only hard, but can result in hard landings.

In early 2015 a decision made in Washington, DC started the agency on a transition from the round parachute canopy they had used for 75 years to a ram-air or “square” canopy.

The round canopy has been improved over the last three-quarters of a century evolving into the current FS-14 version. There have been no fatalities directly related to that canopy.

The ram-air is a high-performance flying wing. The two canopies have been described as comparing a race car with a minivan. The race car can do astounding things at high speed, while the minivan cruises at comfortable speeds. Driving a race car requires a great deal of training and experience, much more than a minivan. A crash in a race car will probably result in injuries more severe than a fender bender in the van.

One of the reasons for transitioning to the ram-air is the assertion that the pilot can land in stronger winds. Former smokejumper Chuck Sheley, in a February, 2016 article for Smokejumper Magazine, wrote about this ability:

The stated advantage to the square is its ability “to jump in higher winds than round parachutes.” In my eyes the ram-air is being touted because of its ability, according to the BLM Spotter Handbook, to “land comfortably in open terrain with ground winds up to 25-30 mph.” However, in the April 15th practice jumps at Black’s Creek, two jumpers were injured and the jumps stopped with winds of 15-18 mph. Two square jumpers were injured on the Sequoia with only 100 yards drift. Where did the 25-30 figure come from?

Mr. Sheley also wrote:

The ram air canopy has a 20-25 mph forward speed vs 9 mph for the FS-14 round canopy.

Malfunctions of the round canopy are extremely rare. Someone with knowledge of operations at the Missoula smokejumper base told us that jumpers at the base have not had a malfunction in about 30 years.

Since 1991 there have been three ram-air fatalities:

  • Billy Martin, May 31, 1991. That ended the first attempt by the FS to transition to the ram-air.
  • David Liston, April 29, 2000.
  • Mark Urban, September 27, 2013.

On May 1, 2017 there was a ram-air malfunction out of the Missoula jump base, and a couple of weeks earlier there was one at Boise.

Before Tom Harbour, the Forest Service National Fire Director, retired in January, 2016 he led the decision to transition to the square chute. In the video below during the December, 2015 exit interview we conducted with him he discusses the decision beginning at 9:00.

Mr. Harbour was an advocate for inserting a Type 3 Incident Management Team, comprised of jumpers, into a fire in a Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) area. This new mission for jumpers, if ever implemented, might be ammunition for smokejumper diehards against the suggestions that helicopter-borne firefighters could be the modern evolution of airborne fire personnel.

The “two-manner in the Bob” he refers to, we believe, is two smokejumpers suppressing a small fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in western Montana.

Last month we asked Mr. Harbour’s replacement, Shawna Legarza, about the round versus the square canopy:

From the best that I know, Bill, you know Tom Harbour implemented that — would have done it in June I believe of ’15 and from what I understand and I’ve talked to a lot of smokejumpers about it, it sounds like the round chute that we’ve had in the Forest Service for so long was almost a legacy chute where this new square chute evidently has more adaptability than we could progress with the round chute.
And we all know that square chutes were originally with the BLM. The land in Nevada is flat and low, not hills and terrain like in the forest. And we all know that the round chute was going like straight down into the trees or whatever and so it sounds like the new chute has more adaptability between the different types of land and topography I guess we’re going to be jumping into.
So it goes back and forth some of the folks here are excited about doing that and the others are not so much, right? And so I’ve given my leader’s intent to the jump base when I saw them last year that we don’t have to rush through this.
I want people to take their time implementing it and do it right and do it safe and and to work through it because it’s a pretty significant change as you know.

There have been unconfirmed reports that some jumpers have left the program rather than transition to the ram-air. Any smokejumper who does not want to transition to the ram-air has 10-years from the start of the transition that officially began in 2016 before they will be moved into other positions for which they qualify.

Our source told us that the typical number of rookies in the annual combined Missoula, Grangeville, and West Yellowstone class is less than 10. This year there are 27. After checking with the smokejumper program, Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the FS, told us that the class usually has 12 to 16 rookies.

She said the agency’s primary reasons for transitioning to a different canopy are:

  1. Enhance the smokejumper program’s operational effectiveness by increasing the capability to staff wildfires during more severe environmental conditions (higher winds) when they are most vulnerable to escape, reducing the risk that they will become large, costly, and dangerous to other firefighters and the public.
  2. To accomplish this without increasing, and with the goal of reducing, the likelihood of serious and minor injuries attributed to parachute landings.

“Busy drop zone during our last proficiency jump of the season. #NPSB #ominecasmokejumpers #bcfs #smokejumper” 🎥: @npsb_ig

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Forest Service jumpers from Region 1 and Region 5 are entering into training season with an early refresher in Redding California. 🎥: @smkj94

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