New South Wales company acquires 11 Seahawk helicopters

Some of them will be converted to assist wildland firefighters

70B-2 Seahawk helicopter Skyline Aviation Group
The last of the 11 S70B-2 Seahawk helicopters purchased by Skyline Aviation Group was delivered March 31, 2019. Skyline photo.

A company in New South Wales, Australia has purchased 11 military surplus helicopters and expects to convert some of them for aerial firefighting.

In December, 2017 when the Royal Australian Navy retired the last of their S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopters Skyline Aviation Group saw it as an opportunity. Eleven months later the Lake Macquarie based company had sealed a deal to acquire almost a dozen of the Seahawks. The last one was delivered on March 31, 2019.

Skyline hopes to have two of them ready to fight fire during this 2020-2021 bushfire season, but the company has not yet been awarded a contract.

One of the issues identified in the report from the Royal Commission about the devastating losses in the 2019-2020 fire season was the lack of a robust aerial firefighting fleet, both rotor and fixed wing. Below is an excerpt:

Australian, state, and territory governments should work together to continue to improve Australia’s collective, Australian-based and operated, aerial firefighting capabilities. Though we see merit in the continued use of overseas-based aviation services and air crew in some instances, Australia’s current reliance represents a vulnerability, as demonstrated during the 2019-2020 bushfire season.

The development of a modest Australian-based and registered national fleet of VLAT/LAT [Very large Airtanker/Large Air Tanker] aircraft and Type-1 helicopters, jointly funded by the Australian, state and territory governments, will enhance Australia’s bushfire resilience.

The majority of the providers we heard from told us that short contracts and minimal work during the off season make it unviable to invest in expensive aviation equipment. Contracts traditionally engage providers for 84 service days (70 in Tasmania) within the fire season, but we heard that more contracted service days would allow providers to invest in more equipment and offer greater value for money to fire agencies.

In the video below, Greg Piper, a member of parliament, and Deputy Premier of NSW, John Barilaro, toured the Skyline facility and inspected the Seahawks. Mr. Piper said he hopes that the state government will provide some “assistance”.


Posted by Skyline Aviation Group on Wednesday, December 9, 2020

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5 thoughts on “New South Wales company acquires 11 Seahawk helicopters”

  1. I found an article that states the RAN retired their B models in 2013 and replaced them with R models.
    RAN put the B model on line in 1989. But give or take 2013 or 2017 retirement, 32/36 years in service is a heck of a testament to both Sikorsky and the RAN maintainers.
    I am sure that Skyline can freshen up these 70’s and that NSW gets another round of decades use from them as firebirds.

    As for the US Navy, about 200 B models cocooned up at Davis Monthan just waiting for an assignment.

  2. It’s a long and rocky road! If the NSW government help Skyline with this project, what message does that send to other Australian based operators?
    CASA has not ticked off on this type and I think only Timberline are operating something similar here each season. The purchase price would have been very low on these aircraft but the funds required for corrosion and modifications will be mind blowing. As long as all the other operators are given the same consideration then it’s a great step forward for an Australian based fleet.
    I did notice in the video that the politician kept his hands in his pockets – so maybe it’s not all systems go!

    1. Corrosion is not a problem on Sea Hawks helicopters.HDH last there contract to build the Sea Hawks but stuffed up because the Airframe is mostly Stealnes Steal.

  3. Corrosion is not a problem on Sea Hawks helicopters.HDH last there contract to build the Sea Hawks but stuffed up because the Airframe is mostly Stealnes Steal.

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