Annual fire training in California for National Guard helicopter crews

By John Yount 

This year the annual fire suppression training for California and Nevada Air and Army National Guard helicopter crews was held April 15-17, 2016 near Sutter Creek, California. Chinook, Blackhawk, and Lakota helicopters participated in a mock fire incident using Pardee Lake as a water source.

The Guard is only activated when private sector helicopter operators cannot fill the incident commander’s resource orders for a particular type or mission specific helicopter. Usually the requests are for a Type 1 helicopter, a  Blackhawk or Chinook, that cannot be supplied by the private sector in a reasonable period of time.

national guard helicopter fire traning

The Lakota helicopter is used as a helicopter coordinator platform and for medical evacuation missions. If requested by the incident commander the Lakota can be dispatched with military medics. During the last five decades the Guard assisted on fires in almost every fire season.

national guard helicopter fire traning

The policy of teaming a Guard helicopter with a CAL FIRE military helicopter manager serving as a flight crew member has been a successful program for twenty years. The military manager not only provides tactical fire direction including initial attack on new fires but arranges for complete logistical support.  The manager works closely with a military liaison to make sure the program flows smoothly.

national guard helicopter fire traning

These photos were taken by Bob Martinez, a Volunteer in Prevention Photographer for CAL FIRE. You can see more of his work at his web site.

national guard helicopter fire traning

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Simplex receives STC for Chinook internal tank

Above: A Chinook with the Simplex Model 347 internal tank for firefighting. Simplex photo.

The following is a Simplex press release.

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Simplex Aerospace was recently granted a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supplemental type certificate for a Fire Attack System (FAS) for the Columbia Helicopters CH-47D helicopter. The system is an internal/external system, comprised of a roll-on/roll-off internal tank system connected to an external plenum.

The Simplex Aerospace Model 347 FAS is the largest helicopter firefighting system in the world.

The Model 347 is comprised of a 3,050-gallon internal tank with a 2,800-gallon water reservoir, approximately 110 gallons of water through the hookwell and 140-gallon foam concentrate reservoir that can be loaded from the helicopter’s rear loading ramp. The system also includes a 12-foot-long, 10-inch diameter hover pump, capable of refilling the tank in less than one minute.

The system includes ground fill ports so the tank can be pre-filled and ready to go at a moment’s notice. The entire contents of the FAS can be dropped in less than four seconds.

The Simplex Model 347 has the capability for the pilot to select drop patterns ranging from a single drop to multiple drops depending on the demands of the mission. An automatic emergency water drop feature is included on all Simplex Fire Attack systems in the event of an aircraft power outage.

This new Simplex FAS can be installed on the helicopter using only four bolts. Only minor modifications are required to provision for FAS installation.

The gravity-fed Fire Attack tank is installed in the aircraft cabin; then connected to a sleeve, which extends through the aircraft hookwell, joining an external plenum in the belly. Vne (never exceed speed) for the Simplex 347 FAS is 140 knots, with or without the hover pump installed.

Water drops can be made at up to 100 knots. Newly developed pilot control and display allow for U.S. Forest Service Type-one compliance. The pilot controls can be configured to show water volume, and ground refilling volume displaying gallons (or weight) on both the flight deck and ground fill input location.

“This new and innovative CH-47D FAS for Columbia Helicopters is the largest helicopter FAS in the world today,” said Mark Zimmerman, Simplex president and CEO. “With total water evacuation in under four seconds, it is the most cost-effective FAS available to operators around the world.”

Zimmerman went on to say, “the system was developed for installation with very minimal aircraft provisioning required, making installation fast and cost effective.”

Helimax prepares for the 2016 fire season

Above: One of Helimax’s two CH-47D Chinook Type 1 helicopters they have on exclusive use contract with the U.S. Forest Service.

We stopped by the Helimax Aviation facilities at McClellan Air Field near Sacramento recently and talked with General Manager Josh Beckham and Director of Fire Operations Larry Kelly. Their mechanics were going over their fleet of helicopters preparing them for the upcoming fire season.

HelimaxTwo of their three CH-47D Chinooks are on a Type 1 exclusive use contract. One of them today became the company’s first helicopter to leave the nest this year, beginning work in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Mr. Beckham told us that they expect to buy “probably two to start with” of the internal 2,800-gallon tanks being built by Jordan Aircraft Services. He said the first one is nearing completion and they hope to begin flight testing in the next couple of months. The water or retardant will be pushed out of the horizontally mounted cylindrical tanks by a 54-inch piston.

Chinook tank
Chinook tank under construction, left side looking forward. Photo provided by Tony Cabler, the Quality Director for Jordan Aircraft Services.

Mr. Beckham said Helimax also has six Type 2 helicopters on exclusive use contracts, five 205A1++’s and one 212HP.

external belly helicopter tank Helimax
An external belly tank for the S-61N.
S-61N Helimax
S-61N and a Chinook
Helimax
Workers in the Helimax hangar get helicopters ready for the 2016 fire season.

On injured reserve is a Super Puma which needs some work — it was hoisted out of the ocean when it became floating debris after the 2011 Tsunami in Japan.

This Super Puma was floating in the ocean after the Tsunami in Japan.
This Super Puma was floating in the ocean after the Tsunami in Japan.

Three helicopters and one air tanker available for the Cold Fire

The Incident Commander ordered two large air tankers but only one was available.

Above: a Sky Aviation Bell 206L4 (N482TJ) lands at Custer Airport near a Central Copters K-MAX (N115).

On Saturday when the Cold Fire started 8 miles southeast of Custer, South Dakota, no firefighting aircraft were available. The Incident Commander requested an air attack platform, two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters, two large air tankers, and one light helicopter. Sunday a P2V departed Chattanooga, Tennessee and most likely cruised at about 200 mph until it arrived in Rapid City at about 3 p.m.

ch-47d chinook billings flying service
One of Billings Flying Service’s CH-47D Chinooks, at Custer Airport, April 3, 2016.

The P2V was not used Sunday, in part because the winds were too strong and turbulent. Two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters dropped water Sunday morning. Three privately owned contracted helicopters became available at the Custer Airport: one K-MAX (Central Copters), one CH-47D Chinook (Billings Flying Service), and a Bell 206L4 (Sky Aviation), but only the 206L4 was used. It dropped numerous loads of water Sunday afternoon while we were there.

Chinook Custer airport
One of Billings Flying Service’s CH-47D Chinooks (N561AJ), at Custer Airport, April 3, 2016.

We wrote about the Billings Flying Service Chinooks in 2014 when they became the first civilian operator to obtain CH-47Ds. Gary Blain, a co-owner of the company, and another pilot flew two of them from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama to the company’s facilities south of Billings, Montana near the Yellowstone River. Two of the company’s CH-47Ds are on federal contract through April 30, 2017.

chinook water bucket
The data plate on the water bucket used by the Chinook.

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.

K-MAX custer airport
A Central Copters K-MAX at Custer Airport, April, 3 2016. N115.

We have seen that K-MAX paint job before, but it was on a different K-MAX operated by Central Copters, N414.

When the Chinook arrived at Custer, some of the cargo that was unloaded is in this photo. Can you guess what it was? Let us know in a comment.

Chinook
Cargo unloaded from the Chinook upon arrival at Custer.

Photos of Chinook tank under construction

As we told you on December 21, Jordan Aircraft Services is constructing internal tanks for the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter. With the horizontal configuration of the tank, 54-inch pistons at each end will push the water toward the valve in the center in order to maintain adequate head pressure and a constant flow. The tanks, designed by Eric Foy of Perideo LLC, will hold up to 2,800 gallons.

Chinook tank
Chinook tank, left side looking forward.

Tony Cabler, the Quality Director for Jordan Aircraft Service, sent us these photos he took, explaining that the tanks are far from being ready to use.

Chinook tank piston assembly
Piston assembly.
Chinook tank
Chinook tank — inside looking forward.

The personnel at Jordan Aircraft Services have been involved in constructing tanks for a number of aircraft, including S-61 Sea King helicopter, 10 Tanker’s DC-10, Erickson’s Air-Cranes and MD-87s.

Internal tank being developed for Chinook

A company in Central Point Oregon is developing an internal tank for the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Jordan Aircraft Services is constructing a tank engineered by Eric Foy of Perideo LLC in Rogue Valley Oregon that will hold up to 2,800 gallons.

CH-47 Chinook CHI Aviation
CH-47 Chinook operated by CHI Aviation working out of Medford, Oregon December 15. Photo by Tim Crippin.

It will employ an innovative method to help produce a constant flow of water or retardant, according to Ed Jordan, owner of Jordan Aircraft Services. Since the tank system is primarily horizontal in the aircraft, it could be difficult to maintain adequate head pressure at the bottom of the tank as it empties using gravity rather than a pressurized system. As the water is dispensed through a valve in the belly of the Chinook, horizontally mounted 54-inch pistons will push the liquid toward the center of the tank over the valve. This is intended to maintain an adequate head pressure ensuring that the desired flow rate is obtained.

(Photos of the tank on Fire Aviation.)

Mr. Jordan told us that the tank itself is completed, but they are still working on the valve system. The tank has been installed in a Chinook in Medford, Oregon operated by CHI Aviation, formerly known as Construction Helicopters. They expect to be able to begin testing by early Spring.

The personnel at Jordan Aircraft Services have been involved in constructing tanks for a number of aircraft, including S-61 Sea King helicopter, 10 Tanker’s  DC-10, Erickson’s Air-Cranes and their MD-87s.

On a related note, Billings Flying Service now has six Chinooks. The company began acquiring them from the military in 2014 when they purchased two which they flew back to Billings from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. The ships were busy in 2015, Gary Blain, a co-owner of the company, told Fire Aviation. He said they expect to have five of them available in 2016.

Mr. Blain said they are following the development of the internal tank closely, but so far they are having success with external buckets.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tim.

Video of National Guard helicopters fighting fire near Bastrop, Texas

The above video shows Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters from the Texas Army National Guard dropping water on a fire near Bastrop, Texas, October 15, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard video by Mr. John Thibodeau).

The video below also shows National Guard helicopters working a fire near Bastrop, Texas, but it was shot September 6, 2011.