In dramatic fashion, the helicopter was forced to hover over the tarmac while firefighters cobbled together a landing platform out of wooden palettes, The Yakima Herald reported. Some crew members and passengers jumped out of the helicopter while it hovered.
Below is the Rapid Lesson Sharing report from the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center. It is told from the perspective of the Helicopter Manager.
Operations had us go up and do some recon. One of the fires in the Complex was picking up and had spotted. We were going to check that out.
About five minutes after taking off, I look down and there’s a snake looking up at me. He’s by my right foot pedal, crawling out just inches from my foot. Right before the flight, I’d been talking to a local landowner about rattlesnakes—so that’s my first thought.
I pull my foot back from the snake and it crawls into the helicopter’s clear “chin bubble”. It looked to be about 12-18 inches long with diamonds on its back—like a rattlesnake. But I couldn’t see its tail.
I say to the pilot: “I don’t want to freak you out.”
“I got a snake by my feet.”
“Yeah, it’s for real.”
Can’t Do Mission Due to Snake in Helicopter
I radio Operations and Helibase to inform that I can’t do the mission due to a snake in my helicopter.
As we return to Helibase, there is a suggestion. Apparently, the fuel truck driver likes snakes, so maybe he could get it out and we could take off.
I decide, no. Let’s not try to do that with rotors running.
So we land and shut down. The snake now slides into a hole in the cowling under my seat. While we are looking for it, he pokes his head out a few times—and retreats back inside the cowling.
Not a Rattlesnake
One of the guys gets a look at the snake’s face. He says it’s not a rattlesnake. He says it could be a bull snake; they also have diamonds on their backs. We’re informed that most of the rattlesnakes in this area are timber rattlers. So we figure this one is probably a bull snake.
Can’t Find Snake—Decide to Put Helicopter Back in Service
We pull the helicopter apart trying to find the darned snake—but we never do locate it. We make the decision to put the aircraft back in service—even though the snake could be anywhere.
So, how did the snake get into the helicopter? We think it either crawled up the long line into the belly, or was hiding in someone’s line gear or in the bucket bag when we loaded it. (A SAFECOM was filed on this incident, #15-073).
Eight Days Later, Snake Crawls Out Again
Eight days later, while the relief pilot is in flight, the snake crawls out again.
The pilot lands and the fuel truck driver grabs it. It is confirmed to be a bull snake. It is released unharmed.
Submitted by: Brad Mayhew, Damen Therkildsen, and Patrick Romportl with support from the Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group.
A shortage of pilots is grounding some of the Washington DNR helicopters.
The acting Chief Pilot for the Washington Department of Natural Resources said a shortage of pilots is grounding some of their helicopters. The DNR has eight UH-1 Hueys in their fleet and their goal is to have at least six operational at any given time during the fire season.
The National Park Service announced on its Facebook page on Friday than an unmanned aircraft system, otherwise known as a drone, took a test flight over the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park to gather infrared data.
An operational test of UAS on the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park took place recently. Learn more about the purpose of the flights and check out the footage.
Unmanned Aircraft System was a Success on the Paradise Fire
For the past week an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was utilized on the Paradise Fire. The system was demonstrating possible applications in wildland fire management and suppression. UAS’s can supplement manned aircraft, especially at times of reduced visibility due to smoky conditions and at night when manned firefighting aircraft may be limited in flying.
The primary goal of the UAS on the Paradise Fire was to gather infrared information. This information assisted fire officials in pinpointing the fires perimeter and identifying areas of intense heat. The extremely large old growth trees in the area of the Paradise Fire create a thick canopy that makes mapping the perimeter and observing hotspots from the air very difficult without infrared capabilities.
This was an operational demonstration provided by Insitu, Inc. with no direct cost to the government. The demonstration was one of a series of ongoing missions to further UAS use on wildland fire in national parks and is part of an interagency strategy for UAS integration into wildland fire support. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allowed the use of their land for the aircraft launch and recovery site. The purpose of the demonstration was to show the capabilities and effectiveness of unmanned aircraft technology on wildland fires. The ultimate goal for UAS use on wildland fire is to supply incident management teams (IMT) with real-time data products, and information regarding fire size and growth, fire behavior, fuels, and areas of heat concentration. Additional applications, such as search and rescue and animal surveys, may be explored.
As the fire season continues and more wildfires burn throughout the west, manned aviation resources are spread thin across the country and have become very difficult to acquire. In addition to supplementing aerial resources, UAS’s are quieter than manned aircraft, use less fuel, and present a much lower risk to employees.
This was not the first UAS to be flown in the Olympic National Park. The park partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey in 2012 to monitor sediment transport in the Elwha River as part of the Elwha restoration project using a Raven UAS.
The ScanEagle UAS that was flown on the Paradise Fire weighed approximately 50 lbs with a wingspan of 10.2 feet. The UAS was only operated within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporary flight restriction (TFR) area. The TFR has been lifted.
A helicopter working on the Blue Creek Fire 10 miles east of Walla Walla, Washington, had a mechanical failure while in flight Monday evening, according to the Union-Bulletin which quoted Heather Lee of Walla Walla County Emergency Management. The pilot autorotated the helicopter and walked away from the incident. He refused to be transported to an hospital, Ms. Lee said.
Autorotation can be used when there is a loss of engine power in a helicopter. It is a state of flight where the main rotor system turns by the action of air moving UP through the rotor, rather than engine power driving the rotor, forcing air down. With the right pedal and the collective property configured, the main rotor will continue to rotate and the rate of descent and direction of flight can be controlled. When nearing the ground the pilot will flare the aircraft producing, hopefully, a fairly soft landing, that may include sliding on the skids for a bit.
Congratulations to the pilot for successfully executing the maneuver.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is adding an eighth UH-1 Huey to their helicopter fleet. Their goal is to have six operational helicopters at any given time during the fire season. King5 has a video report.
It is interesting how the color scheme on the helicopters is similar to that of the Seattle Seahawks.
Reno-Stead air attack base prepares for fire season
KTVN has a story about how the BLM air attack base at Reno-Stead is getting ready for the wildfire season.
Wired writes about smokejumpers
Wired has a lengthy article about how smokejumpers and hand crews in Redding, California are training and preparing for the fire season.
The Hungry Hill fire, started when a logging helicopter crashed, has burned about 70 acres in the northeast corner of Washington. The fire is burning in a logged area, and firefighters are challenged by rolling logs. Two additional Type 1 crews arriving today should enhance their progress.
(Originally published at 12:20 p.m. MDT May 8, 2015)
On May 7 a helicopter working on a logging operation in the northeast corner of Washington crashed and started a fire. A spokesperson for the Forest Service said the 30-year old female pilot was rescued and is in stable condition at a hospital in Colville.
The crash of the UH-1 helicopter, at about 5:45 p.m., occurred on the Colville National Forest, 26 miles northwest of Colville, Washington and 7 miles south of the Canadian border.
A witness said the helicopter had just lifted off with a load of logs when there was a loud popping noise before it crashed.
The crash started what has become a 50-acre fire named Hungry Hill. It is being fought by 100 firefighters.