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.

North American firefighting aircraft in Australia beginning to head back home

As the bushfire season winds down in Australia the large and very large air tankers are beginning to migrate back north to North America to prepare for the fire season back home. The DC-10, Tanker 910, arrived at Albuquerque at 8 p.m. Friday night after flying over 8,500 miles from Melbourne, stopping in Pago Pago and Honolulu on the way.

Two of the DC-10s will be on exclusive use contracts with the U.S. Forest Service this summer; one starts in late April and another in early May.

Tanker 910 DC-10 fire
The photo, supplied by 10 Tanker, shows Tanker 910, a DC-10, at Albuquerque Friday night after returning from a deployment in Australia. It could be a little blurry because the crew and aircraft may have been exhausted after flying for over 8,500 miles from Melbourne.

Conair’s Tanker 162 (an RJ85) and Coulson’s two C-130s (T-131 and T-132) are expected to depart around March 1. Britt Coulson said their two S-61 helicopters (photos) have both been extended for another week and a half and may get extensions beyond that if it continues to be hot.

One of our readers alerted us to the photo below that was taken February 28 when Tanker 910 stopped in Hawaii on the way back from Melbourne.

Photos of helicopters working the fire on Sproat Lake in British Columbia

Fire on Sproat Lake S-61
One of Coulson’s S-61 helicopters working the fire on Sproat Lake in British Columbia. Photo by Britt Coulson.

Britt Coulson of The Coulson Group sent us these photos of the wildfire burning along the lake near the company’s Martin Mars base in British Columbia. One of their S-61 Type 1 helicopters assigned to the fire can be seen in two of the photos, the black and white ship.

helicopter fire on Sproat Lake
One of Coulson’s S-61 helicopters working the fire on Sproat Lake in British Columbia. Photo by Britt Coulson.
Helicopters fire Sproat Lake
Helicopters working the fire on Sproat Lake in British Columbia. Photo by Britt Coulson.

Earlier we wrote about the inquiry the British Columbia Wildfire Service made about possibly activating the Martin Mars using their existing call when needed contract.