Video of 3,000-gallon drop from CH-47 Chinook

CH-47 Chinook 3,000-gallon water drop
CH-47 Chinook 3,000-gallon water drop November 17, 2020. Image from OCFA video.

A CH-47 Chinook Very Large Helitanker (VLHT) with night-flying capability operated by Coulson Aviation is working under an 83-day contract in collaboration with Southern California Edison (SCE) and the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA).

Registered as N42CU, the Chinook is crewed 24/7 and available for responses day and night within the 15 counties served by SCE. The daily availability costs of $2.1 million for the contract period are being paid by SCE, while the hourly costs will be covered by the agencies responsible for the fire protection where the fires occur.

The Chinook is based at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base in Orange County. It can fill it’s 3,000-gallon internal tank while on the ground, or while hovering over a water or retardant source using its retractable snorkel hose.

To the best of our knowledge, here are the maximum capacities of firefighting helicopters, in gallons:

CH-47 Chinook   3,000
S-64 Air-Crane   2,650
S-70i Firehawk    1,000
CH-107   1,000
S-61    1,000
UH 60    900 or 1,000?
K-Max    700 or less
214-B    660
212    359
412EP    375

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12 thoughts on “Video of 3,000-gallon drop from CH-47 Chinook”

  1. was it 3000 gallons as that is 24,000 lbs of water. at a gross of 50,000 lbs and 400 lbs for pilots that leave 238 gallons of fuel at 405 per hour burn rate. 1 drop and return to base? So why a 3000 gallon tank?
    Seems like wasted weight from a practical standpoint.

  2. Took me a while to wrap my head around the numbers. It also threw me for a loop when it was suggested that the Coulson-Unical UC-47 was only good for one drop before having bingo fuel and needing to RTB for a fill up.

    MTOW 50,000 (Could be about 1000 lbs more depending on the model/upgrades)

    3000 gallons of water in the RADS tank at 8.34 lbs a gallon marches out to 25,020 lbs

    50,000 minus 25,020 = 24,980 lbs of remaining useable weight left to spend

    Fuel weights 6 lbs per gallon
    Burn rate is between approximately 358 and 400 gallons per hour depending on the source

    400 gallons of fuel at 6 lbs = 2400 lbs(remember that 24,980 of remaining useable weight left to spend?) ergo, one hour (Give ofrtake) of flight time at the 50,000 MTOW
    (Don’t get confused by the burn rate and be sure the rate is lbs or gallons!)

    But wait! There’s more!
    Now, you have to ask yourself (Self? What is the burn rate based on?) Constant flight, cruise speed at full MTOW at a set altitude? I dunno. Bueller?

    While in flight the bird isn’t operating all the time at MTOW. Dropping the load(s) and moving the fuel tank needle towards that E on the gauge changes up consumption. And depending upon knots in flight to the water source and back to the fire your one hour of flight time may vary.

  3. It’s not that complicated.
    Gross weight 50,000 lbs
    Empty weight 24,000 lbs + 3000 gal 24,000 lbs = 48,000 lbs

    The remaining 2000 lbs available is for crew and fuel.

    1. right and minus 400 lbs for pilots leave 1,600 lbs for fuel or 238 gallons or 1/2 hour. Take away the required 20 min reserve and you have 10 minutes in the air. remember that’s sea level on a standard day.
      not 30 c and 3000 ft.

  4. 3,000 gallons is an impressive load. The CH-47D is a capable aircraft.

    Helicopters travel with their own fuel rigs which operate close to the work site.

    The CH47D working fuel burn is 340 gph. Not 405. The fuel capacity is 1028 gallons. Like all aircraft, the CH47D does not operate at both maximum fuel capacity and maximum payload capacity. When working near the fuel source, range is largely irrelevant, and when working near fuel and a ready dip site, range and endurance are less important than lifting capacity.

    Helicopters do not have long endurance times; particularly so when lifting heavy loads, and especially so when operating at high density altitudes. The mission will dictate the priority. If the priority is going a longer distance or travel time, then more fuel and load close to the work site, and put fuel near the work site. More fuel to get there, then less fuel while working, and more payload. Not really that complicated.

    3,000 gallon capacity does not mean that the aircraft will need to lift 3,000 gallons every time. It may be faster and more expedient to carry less payload with faster turn times, or more fuel, or local conditions may dictate otherwise.

    24,000 lbs empty weight is a combat equipped empty weight. Are you drawing your numbers from wikipedia?

    Many helicopters use bucket capacities that are greater than the actual lift on given day. That doesn’t mean the capacity can’t be used, or isn’t used; operations at higher density altitudes may require necking the bucket down or a smaller lift, or releasing some content. Having the capacity doesn’t mean always using the capacity, but neither does it mean that the capacity is wasted. Likewise, having the additional fuel capacity does not mean the aircraft is filled to capacity on every refueling (most aircraft aren’t topped at every fueling); simply because its not filled to capacity doesn’t mean the capacity is wasted, nor does it mean it’s a “waste of weight.”

    What it does mean is that the aircraft has a high lifting capacity when required. The balance of endurance vs. payload is an operational consideration, but neither the fuel capacity nor drop tank capacity is wasted. Both are available, as appropriate, for mission requirements.

  5. Just a little mis-leading, that it can drop 3000 gallons. No water dropping helicopter I know of is able to drop it’s fully capable load unless maybe towards the end of it’s fuel cycle. This particular aircraft won’t be traveling too far, so it could probably go light on fuel and drop more. Trade-offs, especially high and hot.

    1. There are a lot of skewed numbers in this, I agree the CH-47 is a fantastic aircraft but the numbers in this article are not accurate.

      First the tank does not fill within one minute, there are multiple places where the company owner says they can almost fill within 2 minutes “The snorkel system has exceeded our expectations and we’re filling the entire tank in under two minutes,” said Coulson.
      ^verical mag

      Second the aircraft weighs 26,00ish, a lot of people consider just the empty weight of the aircraft but the tank and equipment weigh quite a bit. So an aircraft that weighs 26000 but max load of water is 25,050 and the aircrsft max gross is 50,000. Numbers don’t add up. Not to mention that a baffle was installed at the back of that tank that limited it’s water load to 2,700 gallons.

      Furthermore as cool as the retractable snorkel is, the 6inch hose diameter makes it physically impossible to load 3000 gallons within a minute with their electric pump on the end.

      I firmly believe the chinook is an incredible machine but those numbers are incorrect and false information has been spread about this companies tanks all year long. There are multiple chinook operators with tanked aircraft that barely fill within a minute and the ones that fill that fast use hydraulic pumps to fill.

      Fire guy

      1. To add on to my prior remarks

        The 26,000 pound of the aircraft is dry weight, so without fuel a full load of water puts the aircraft above max gross if it does take on a full 3,000 gallons.
        Fuel load on these aircraft can be up to about 8,000lbs. I just wish the truth would be advertised.

  6. This is one of my pet-peeves when it comes to actual performance v claimed/assumed ability. I always take it as the claimer thinks we are stupid and easily fooled. This is ok when dealing with us mere peasants but I take exception when the same bias is used to sell the aircraft to the Gov and have us, mere peasants…wait a second here, pay for a product we aren’t getting. Tax payers deserve the truth. Some Companies, ^cough ^ cough ^, are more inclined to round up to the theoretical best case scenario and their co-conspirators at the agencies awarding these contracts are more than happy to accept these figures with a knowing wink wink nudge nudge. So maybe the way we can draw our own conclusions about performance is to provide us with first load gallons, last load gallons and total loads delivered. Throw total fuel burn in there with AC empty operational weight and max liftoff and bingo, the true capacity. I mean, I could in theory based on kinesiology win a marathon tomorrow. Theoretical performance is not an indicator of practical ability. In saying all this my own observations of large helicopters be it Crane, CH47, Kmax, Kmov etc is they are well worth their weight and seldom would anyone not want one on hand. Just let’s keep the “alternate truths” to a minimum.

  7. Kick these numbers around and tell me what you get:

    Honeywell T55 engine at 4168 SHP X 2 = 8336 SHP on the CH47D. 400 gallons burn rate (give or take depending on the source)

    GE T408 at 7,500 SHP X 2 = 15000 SHP (WOW!) With an 18% fuel burn rate improvement over the T55’s.

    Now, if a train going 65 mph leaves Chicago at 5:05 pm…WAIT A MINUTE! High school math neuro pathway flashback. Sorry.

    With those T408’s cranking out 15000 SHP what do you think the MTOW would be on a CH47/CU47?

    Pssssssssssssst! US Army has one CH47D flight testing with T408’s.

    How about sticking a couple of those T408’s on UH60’s and UH1’s? Huh? Huh? Huh?

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