Early this year the National Wildfire Coordinating Group published their standards for operating unmanned aircraft on fires.
Here is how they describe the 24-page document:
The “NWCG Standards for Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations” standardizes the processes and procedures for interagency use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), including pilot inspections and approvals. In support of fire management goals and objectives, the aviation community references these standards to utilize UAS in a safe, effective, and efficient manner. These standards further serve as a risk assessment for fire UAS operations and meet federal requirements for aviation safety and operational planning pertaining to recurring aviation missions. Agency level policy and guidance is provided through established federal or state plans and processes.
A DC-10 has been activated to assist with bushfires in Australia
Late Wednesday night Air Tanker 911, a DC-10, was over the Pacific Ocean on the way to Australia when it had to return to its base in Albuquerque due to a problem with a radio. About 50 minutes after departing from San Bernardino the pilots discovered that the High Frequency radio used on long range international flights was not working, even though it appeared to have passed earlier tests on the ground. There had been no need for the HF radio on T-911 since its last international assignment approximately seven years ago.
The Very Large Air Tanker, which can carry up to 9,400 gallons of water or retardant, has been ordered by Australia’s National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) on an Enhanced Call When Needed (EWCN) contract to assist firefighters in the country who are dealing with large numbers of devastating bushfires which have destroyed over 100 homes.
After the flight crew turned the huge aircraft around they landed in San Bernardino and then flew to 10 Tanker’s base in Albuquerque. John Gould, President of 10 Tanker, said technicians found the coaxial cable that connects the radio to the antenna on the tail was not attached. It was just laying by the radio. After connecting it the radio worked fine. Mr. Gould said that even if an antenna is not connected to a radio, if testing equipment is close enough it can receive a signal from the radio.
Mr. Gould said that after resting, the crew will depart again from Albuquerque, with planned stops in Santa Maria (Calif.), Honolulu, Pago Pago, and should arrive at RAAF Richmond, New South Wales (map) Saturday morning Australia time.
Normally the DC-10 operates with a three-person crew, two pilots and a flight engineer. On this flight they will carry a total of five, with an additional pilot and flight engineer to allow resting and crew changes while en route.
Australia is experiencing an unusually high level of bushfire activity
Due to an unusually high level of bushfire activity Australia has contracted for two additional air tankers to assist firefighters on the ground. Richard Alder, the General Manager of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC), said the aircraft were added using the NAFC’s system of Enhanced Call When Needed (EWCN) contracts.
On November 12, U.S. time, Tanker 911, a DC-10, was loading spare parts onto the aircraft and is expected to be fire-ready in Richmond, New South Wales on November 16. It is supplied by Agair/10 Tanker. The DC-10 is considered a Very Large Air Tanker and can carry up to 9,400 gallons (35,582 liters).
The other EWCN air tanker added to the fleet is a Coulson C-130Q with an enter on duty date of November 16, also at Richmond. It usually carries around 3,500 gallons (13,248 liters).
There are also changes on the rotor wing side. One of the most significant additions is a ECWN contract for a Blackhawk with long line bucket based at Toowoomba in Queensland. The helicopter is suppled through Kestrel Aviation (who are partnered with BHI2/Brainerd).
Recent additions bring the total number of firebombing aircraft in Australia to 63 fixed wing and 45 rotor wing. There are an additional 51 aircraft used for other fire-related missions.
A helicopter that was assisting firefighters on a bushfire in Queensland, Australia had a hard landing near Pechey north of Toowoomba. The pilot, believed to be in his 70s, was injured and flown to a hospital by another helicopter.
9News reported that the incident occurred as the pilot attempted to perform an emergency landing in strong winds.
We’re getting chopper vision of the water-bombing helicopter which crashed at Pechey on the Darling Downs. The pilot is in a stable condition. pic.twitter.com/ygIwQ5soTu
Tim Crippin sent us these photos of a new S-64 Erickson Air-Crane that is being tested before it is delivered to the Korea Forest Service.
“Heard it is supposed to be delivered to them in the next week,” Tim said. “It’s temporary N- number registration is N915AC. It’s been doing plenty of flight testing the past few weeks around Southern Oregon. I heard it is the first Air-Crane to have composite rotor blades.”
It is believed to be the first time a large air tanker has been deployed on a non-federal wildfire in Kansas
In what is believed to be the first time a large air tanker has been deployed on a non-federal wildfire in Kansas, a privately owned S-2 was used on a fire in Cheyenne County in the northwest corner of the state November 9.
The Kansas Forest Service said Air Tanker 95 and two aerial ag applicator aircraft helped firefighters on the ground by dropping water. The assistance to local agencies was made possible by state funding for fire suppression approved in the last legislative session.
Cheyenne County was under a Red Flag Warning Saturday for strong winds and low humidity.
Red Flag Warnings in parts of Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado on Saturday. As temperatures rise into the 70s, relative humidity will fall off to 10 to 15 percent by mid afternoon. Westerly winds may frequently gust up to 25 MPH.#wildfirespic.twitter.com/HTl08BzleU
KSN reports that the aircraft is stationed at Hutchinson Airport northwest of Wichita, becoming the state’s first permanent base for an air tanker.
Bill Garrison, owner of Ag Air Service out of Nikerson, Kansas, acquired the aircraft formerly operated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection from an aviation museum. CAL FIRE operated it as Tanker 81 and 93 with registration number N477DF. Later in its career the tanker number changed to 95, still used today, and was owned by Yesterday’s Flyers and then Cactus Air Force, both in Nevada. The current registration number is N508JR under the ownership of Mr. Garrison with a certificate issue date of February 14, 2019.
The aircraft can carry up to 800 gallons and still has the radial engines unlike the S-2s operated by CAL FIRE today that have been converted to turbine engines.
Mr. Garrison said he used one of the company’s aerial ag applicator planes in 2017 to drop 20,000 gallons of water on the Highlands Fire in Reno County, chipping in to help when the Kansas National Guard Blackhawk helicopter pilots ran out of duty time.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Matt. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
Alberta Wildfire published a series of three tweets showing training for helitack personnel. One of the two videos shows four firefighters being transported at the end of a long line below a helicopter.
Click on the tweet below to see two additional tweets on the topic, including two videos.
#DYK? We use a few techniques to get firefighters on the ground quickly when a wildfire is detected. Firefighters carried by a line underneath a helicopter is called Human External Cargo (HEC). pic.twitter.com/zAGt3zfKgH
Helicopter Association International (HAI) announced November 8 that the Los Angeles County (California) Fire Department Air Operations Sikorsky S-70 Firehawk helicopter teams are the 2020 recipient of the Salute to Excellence Humanitarian Service Award. The award honors the person or persons who best demonstrate the value of helicopters to the communities in which they operate by providing aid to those in need. The award will be presented January 29 at HAI’s Salute to Excellence Awards luncheon at HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim, California.
As wildfires once again burn throughout Southern California in 2019, this award recognizes the efforts made by the flight and ground crews of the four S-70 Firehawk helicopters while battling the 2018 Woolsey Fire, the largest wildfire on record in Los Angeles County. The fire destroyed nearly 97,000 acres, with 1,643 homes lost and more than 295,000 people evacuated at its peak.
The Woolsey Fire began midafternoon on Nov. 8, 2018, just outside of Simi Valley near the borders of Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and the City of Los Angeles. The four S-70s joined multiple other aircraft and ground crews battling the conflagration over the next four days. While the flight and ground crews rotated as necessary, the helicopters themselves were shut down only for refueling and inspection. This resulted in the four LACFDAO helicopters totaling 119.4 flight hours in the first three days—equivalent to almost an entire month’s worth of flying and maintenance in one week—completing more than 350 water drops amid winds ranging from 40 to 70 knots.
Operating on the leeward side of the flames due to high winds, LACOFD helicopters and crews were often the only aircraft working the lines. The winds kept the smoke low across the terrain and homes, forcing the crews to fly and refuel within the smoke as they realized that the only way to attack the fire was to become engulfed in it. Flying conditions quickly became almost nightlike because of the reduced visibility.
In addition to the efforts of the flight crews, the maintenance and support crews worked tirelessly on the ground. Operating in 24-hour shifts, the maintainers kept the aircraft available for every launch, ensuring they were always safe and ready to go. A majority of the 20 people on the maintenance team volunteered into the night and weekend to ensure that routine maintenance was performed efficiently and safely.