As we reported in March, Coulson Aviation is partnering with Unical Air, a new unit of the Unical Group of Companies, to create a heavy lift helicopter joint venture company that will build and operate Boeing CH-47 and Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk aircraft for aerial firefighting and other markets.
Todd McKinley sent us these photos taken Saturday, August 10, 2019 in Oregon. He said the AS350 B3 was at Ritter Butte in northern Grant County and at a nearby fire in the Ritter/Long Creek area. The Huey was at the Grant County Regional Airport Helibase in John Day.
Tenaya Wood sent us this interesting photo taken August 8 of the helibase at the Corta Fire off Old Harrison Pass Road in Northeast Nevada. She described it as having been taken from the “ABRO Box” — as in, Air Base Radio Operator. On Friday there were five helicopters working out of the base.
She took the photo with an iPhone 7 Plus, and is way better at using the panorama function than I am.
The Corta Fire, managed by Tyler Hecht’s Nevada Type 3 Team 1, has burned 16,533 acres southeast of Jiggs.
They toured CAL FIRE facilities at Sacramento McClellan Airport
Thursday morning Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and current Governor Gavin Newsom toured CAL FIRE facilities at Sacramento McClellan Airport and received a briefing on some of the new firefighting equipment that the agency is in the process of acquiring.
They checked out Air Tanker 118, an HC-130H formerly operated by the U.S. Forest Service and before that, the U.S. Coast Guard. It has had some depot level maintenance performed and new livery, but still needs to have a retardant delivery system installed, like the other six HC-130H aircraft the agency also recently received. CAL FIRE expects to begin operating some of the HC-130Hs in their final configurations as they slowly become available beginning in about two or three years.
CAL FIRE is training their pilots for the transition by leasing a C-130 air tanker, T-134, from Coulson which has a permanently installed retardant delivery system with a removable internal tank.
The agency is also replacing its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey firefighting helicopters with brand new Sikorsky S-70i (Firehawks) from United Rotorcraft. The aircraft will be capable of fighting fires at night.
The helicopters that are fully certificated and available in San Diego County for firefighting has grown in the last 15 or 20 years from practically nothing to eight now that an additional helicopter will be added to the mix.
Last week the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to split the cost of a Blackhawk helicopter with San Diego Gas and Electric. After the agreement is finalized, the helicopter will be positioned in the north part of the county during Red Flag Warning conditions.
Under the agreement SDG&E will cover the costs to operate the helicopter for the first two hours of any new flight, and the County will cover the second two flight hours. If used during a fire, the County could pay a maximum of $150,000 depending on flight time and reimbursements from the State of California or the federal government.
The County also shares a year-round lease with SDG&E for an Erickson Skycrane helicopter, which was put into action for several 2018 fires including the West Fire in Alpine, the Rangeland Fire in Ramona, the Pasqual Fire and the Recycle Fire in Campo.
The region currently has 10 aircraft available for initial attack:
A U.S. Forest Service firefighting helicopter during fire season
Three CAL FIRE fixed-wing aircraft, which consists of two retardant dropping airtankers and an air tactical supervisor plane,
Three County Sheriff/CAL FIRE helicopters
Two City of San Diego helicopters
The SDG&E-leased Erickson Skycrane helicopter.
For an extended attack the County can also call on 26 military helicopters if available.
Michael Dubron, a helicopter pilot with Los Angeles County Fire, posted this impressive video shot during a drop on the Star Fire July 28, 2019. Mr. Dubron was flying a Sikorsky Firehawk, a variant of the Blackhawk converted for firefighting.
Russian Helicopters Holding Company (part of Rostec State Corporation) has delivered three Ka-32A11BC multipurpose helicopters to Turkey. The aircraft will be used for firefighting.
They are equipped with various fire extinguishing systems, including the ability to carry an external water bucket as well as a horizontal firefighting system for knocking down fires in high rise buildings and within oil-and-gas industrial facilities.
The helicopter is EASA certified and meets FAR-29 and AP-29 standards.
The counter-rotating main rotors and absence of the tail rotor results in compactness and a high power-to-weight ratio. The Ka-32A11BC can carry up to 5 tons of cargo on the external sling.
Ashlyn Parker, a pilot with Helicopter Express, let us know about an all-female crew on a recent flight while working near North Kaibab, Arizona supporting the Little Springs and Castle Fires:
A helicopter flight on July 14th had an all female crew — (left to right) Ashlyn Parker (pilot), Natalie Bench, Dallas Baca, and Makenzie Mabery. We also had another female helitack crew member who was on the ground staffing the helispot, Mariah Jones. Photo taken at Jacob Lake Helispot by Helitack crewmember JA Ford. Helicopter is a Helicopter Express 407HP.
I would have to think that this has probably happened before — an all-female crew on a firefighting helicopter flight, but probably not often. Anyone have examples?