CAL FIRE’s acquisition of new helicopter fleet still up in the air

CAL FIRE Firehawk
Model of CAL FIRE Firehawk, by Sikorsky. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

After several false starts over several years, CAL FIRE selected a variant of the Blackhawk to replace its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey firefighting helicopters, but that acquisition is stalled. In what appeared to be the final hurdle an administrative law judge ruled in December against a protest filed by a competing company clearing the way for CAL FIRE to purchase up to 12 new Sikorsky S-70i’s (Firehawks), from Air Methods/United Rotorcraft (AMUR).

When the effort began years ago to replace the fleet of aircraft that is now at the end of its useful life, the legislature was told each new helicopter would cost around $12 million, but they realized the price could escalate. The new Firehawks will run $24 million each with the additional features recently added by CAL FIRE and the Department of General Services.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Sacramento Bee:

The Governor’s Office and Cal Fire are ready to start buying the new machines. “We believe we have provided the Legislature with all the necessary and requested information to move forward on this project,” Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim.
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3 thoughts on “CAL FIRE’s acquisition of new helicopter fleet still up in the air”

  1. It’s about time they replaced the aging equipment that they currently deploy. The newer aircraft can carry more and fly faster.. equals less damage to environment

    1. The “new” Sikorskys are far from new and burn significantly more fuel than the Hueys or any of the other options. Literally anything is faster than a Huey. The only thing new about the Sikorsky is the price. They are built to a military surplus standard and can never be FAA certified.

      1. Dan, the “new” Sikorskys are just that. New S70i’s that are FAA and not surplus UH60’s. LACFD has extensively evaluated the Firehawk configuration as it has evoloved over 20 years. The Bell 412 was the only other aircraft evaluated that came close to similar performance. While it had a lower operating cost, it had a much lower production rate to stop wildland fires in the initial response.

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