Air tanker flyover honors the Granite Mountain Hotshots

A squadron of air tankers conducted a flyover in a missing man formation as the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park opened earlier this week. “The Chopper Guy” got some aerial footage as the four single engine air tankers flew toward the memorial site. As they approached, one of the SEATs trailed smoke as it climbed and turned to the right.

On June 30, 2013 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed as they fought the Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona, 90 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Helicopter operations at the Cedar Fire

Above: Helitanker 718 is on final at Show Low Airport and will land at the heavy helicopter area next to a Columbia Boeing Vertol, while JR Helicopter’s AStar is checked over by it’s mechanic. Members of the BLM’s Twin Falls Helitack chat near their medium Bell’s parking spot.

Helicopter Expresses Bell 205 departs the helibase area at the Show Low, AZ airport to the Cedar Fire, burning south of town on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
Helicopter Express’ Bell 205 departs the helibase area at the Show Low, AZ airport to the Cedar Fire, burning south of town on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

Tom Story sent us these captioned photos of operations at the helibase for the Cedar Fire south of Show Low, Arizona. More information about the 9,600-acre fire is at Wildfire Today.

Challenged by a pretty good breeze and lack of decent writing surface Angie Tom of Twin Falls Helitack runs the deck operations from the passenger seat of Durango Helitack's vehicle.
Challenged by a pretty good breeze and lack of decent writing surface Angie Tom of Twin Falls Helitack runs the deck operations from the passenger seat of Durango Helitack’s vehicle.
JR Helicopters AStar was staffed by Sandia Helitack while Idaho Helicopters Bell 205A was Twin Falls Helitack's ship.
JR Helicopters’ AStar was staffed by Sandia Helitack while Idaho Helicopters Bell 205A was Twin Falls Helitack’s ship.
The passenger side window of Durango Helitack's vehicle was pressed into service as a writing surface, showing a diagram of the helibase deck at Show Low, AZ airport for helicopters staged for IA and in support of the Cedar Fire on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
The passenger side window of Durango Helitack’s vehicle was pressed into service as a writing surface, showing a diagram of the helibase deck at Show Low, AZ airport for helicopters staged for IA and in support of the Cedar Fire on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

Arizona National Guard helicopter crews train for wildland fire

Above: planning for the helicopter water drop training. All photos were taken by Justin Jager.

Members of the 2-285th Assault Helicopter Battalion participated in an annual training and certification course for wildfire response at the Papago Park Military Reservation in Arizona May 4 and 5.

At the completion of the 24-hour course, 16 pilots and crew chiefs were certified to respond and assist with helicopter bucket operations and to deliver water for aerial firefighting.

national guard helicopter training Arizona

“The Arizona National Guard’s aviation crews possess a number of skills critical to the wildfire fighting efforts,” said Justin Jager, interagency aviation officer for the National Parks Service and U.S. Forest Service. “Developing the interagency operability of these crews to help support the ground crews is invaluable to the state and region in terms of preparedness.”

Aside from water drop capabilities, the Arizona National Guard’s aviation crews can support lift operations, extraction and insertion of personnel, search and rescue, hoist operations, and sling load equipment transport. There are also specially trained crewmembers who can perform casualty and medical evacuations.

national guard helicopter training Arizona

national guard helicopter training Arizona

Remotely operated K-MAX helicopters relocated to Arizona

Above: The Marine Corps’ first two Kaman K-MAX Helicopters arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Saturday, May 7, 2016. Photo by Pfc. Beorge Melendez.

The two remotely piloted K-MAX helicopters that have been used in Afghanistan for the last several years were recently relocated to Yuma, Arizona. These two helicopters are probably similar to the optionally-piloted K-MAX that was demonstrated to wildland fire personnel last October near Boise when it dropped water on a simulated fire and delivered external cargo.

Below are the details, as provided by the Marine Corp, about the two K-MAX ships that are now in Arizona.

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – The Marine Corps’ first two Kaman K-MAX Helicopters arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. May 7, 2016.

The Kaman K-MAX Helicopter is very unique in many different ways, such as its purpose and design. It is a helicopter with interlinking rotors whose primary mission is to provide cargo load operations with a maximum lift payload of 6,000 pounds.

“The most unique thing is this aircraft can fly itself,” said Jerry McCawley, a Chief Pilot and Flight Safety Engineer with Lockheed Martin. “These two particular aircraft were over in Afghanistan for almost three years flying unhanded, and moving almost five million pounds of cargo, keeping numerous convoys off the road, preventing any roadside attacks.”
The K-MAX will utilize MCAS Yuma’s training ranges in both Arizona and California, and will soon have an integral part in testing and operations.

As MCAS Yuma continues expanding its scope of operations, the K-MAX will continue revolutionizing expeditionary Marine air-ground combat power in all environments.
“It’s very resilient and can fly day or night,” said McCawley. “It’s out here in Yuma for future test and development with the Marines. It’s great now, and it’s only going to get better.”

The K-MAX will be added to MCAS Yuma’s already vast collection of military aircraft, strengthening training, testing and operations across the Marine Corps.

Improvements scheduled for Prescott air tanker base

 Prescott Airport.
A ramp at the Prescott Airport. The red stains on the tarmac are typical of ramps at air tanker bases. Google Earth. (click to enlarge)

The City of Prescott, Arizona has agreed to accept a $1.44 million grant from the  Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) which will go along with $1 million from the U.S. Forest Service for improvements at the air tanker base at the Prescott Airport.

The ADOT funds will be used to upgrade the apron used by air tankers, while the USFS funds will add new plumbing infrastructure and a taxiway. The changes will increase the number of loading pits from two to three. The ADOT grant will cover 90 percent of the cost of the apron project, and the City of Prescott will supply the additional 10 percent.

In spite of the new construction which is scheduled to begin June 2015, the runway will still not be able to support Very Large Air Tankers such as the DC-10, according to City Manager Craig McConnell. During the Yarnell Hill Fire last year, two DC-10s reloaded at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, 90 air miles southeast of the fire.

An air attack plane crashed May 17 in Arizona

We just found out that an air attack plane under contract to the Department of the Interior crashed May 17 at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The Rockwell Aero Commander 500S impacted the ground shortly after takeoff.

The aircraft was on an orientation flight for a new pilot on the air attack contract. It was operated by Ponderosa Aviation and was taking off from Sierra Vista Municipal Airport – Libby Army Airfield, in Arizona.

Below is an excerpt from the NTSB preliminary report:

The pilot and certified flight instructor were seriously injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage throughout. The airplane was registered to, and operated by Ponderosa Aviation Inc. under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as an orientation flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local area flight.

Witnesses reported they observed the airplane takeoff normally. When it was over the departure end of the runway, they heard a distinct “pop pop” noise followed by silence. The airplane immediately made a steep left turn; as the wings started to level, it descended below rising terrain. Shortly thereafter they observed a large dust cloud.

On November 23, 2011 another Ponderosa Aviation aircraft, a Rockwell 690, crashed, killing six people including three children and Russel Hardy, a co-owner of the company. The NTSB concluded that the cause of that crash on a moonless night was “controlled flight into terrain”.

Although the airplane was technically not airworthy due to the unaccomplished inspection, the investigation did not reveal any preimpact airframe, avionics, engine, or propeller discrepancies that would have precluded normal operation. Airplane performance derived from radar tracking data did not suggest any mechanical abnormalities or problems.

Contributing to the accident were the pilot’s complacency and lack of situational awareness and his failure to use air traffic control visual flight rules flight following or minimum safe altitude warning services. Also contributing to the accident was the airplane’s lack of onboard terrain awareness and warning system equipment.

An air attack plane operated by Houston Air experienced a very hard landing at Wilcox, AZ on July 2.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Duncan.