Kamov helicopter shipped to Chile on IL-76

Photographer Heath Moffatt grabbed some photos of a Kamov Ka-32A11BC being loaded onto a Volga-Dnepr Ilyushin IL-76TD in Victoria, B.C. The IL-76 used internal cranes to lift and load the helicopter which was then flown to Chile. On Christmas Eve Billings Flying Service unloaded one of their CH-47D Chinooks off a ship in Chile. Both helicopters will be working on firefighting contracts.

The IL-76 can be loaded with a slip-in retardant or water delivery system that can hold over 11,000 gallons. In 2017 one of them was used to fight fires in Chile along with the 747 and a BAe-146.

IL-76 747
An IL-76 and 747 at Santiago Chile, January 30, 2017.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dave.
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CAL FIRE receives new Firehawk helicopter

The agency is replacing its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey firefighting helicopters.

CAL FIRE's new S-70i
CAL FIRE’s new S-70i. Photo provided by CAL FIRE.

CAL FIRE posted these photos today of a new addition to their fleet of helicopters.

A year ago the agency received approval to purchase up to 12 new firefighting helicopters, Sikorsky S-70i (Firehawks) from United Rotorcraft. These will replace its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey helicopters.

CAL FIRE's new S-70i
CAL FIRE’s new S-70i. Photo provided by CAL FIRE.

United Rotorcraft reported on October 26, 2018 that it had a contract from CAL FIRE for 12 Firehawks, worth a total of $240 million.

United Rotorcraft is also outfitting various configurations of Firehawks for Ventura County, San Diego Fire Rescue Department, and Los Angeles County.

Firehawks can carry up to 1,000 gallons of water in a belly tank while cruising fully loaded at 130 knots (150 mph), or 150 knots (173 mph) unloaded.

Columbia Helicopters to be acquired by the Bristow Group

internal water tank Columbia CH-47D
Columbia CH-47D Chinook at the HAI HELI-EXPO 2017 conference in Dallas in March, 2017. The helicopter has an internal water tank for firefighting. Columbia photo.

Columbia Helicopters has reached an agreement to be acquired by a company that primarily provides offshore helicopter transportation for the oil and gas industry. The Bristow Group has agreed to purchase Columbia for $492 million in cash and $68 million in Bristow stock.

The deal was reached in November, 2018 but Columbia has until April 9, 2019 to close the transaction.

“Columbia will continue to provide wildland fire suppression services after the transaction closes,” according to Santiago Crespo, VP of Business Development and Marketing. “Columbia has been adding employees for the past few years and expects to continue to do so after the transaction closes.”

Based in Aurora, Oregon, Columbia concentrates on heavy lift operations for industry, the military, and wildland firefighting agencies with their fleet of 21 Vertol 107s and CH-234/CH-47D Chinooks. The company has 860 employees and recently began using 2,800-gallon internal water tanks in some of its Chinooks.

internal water tank Columbia CH-47D
A 2,800-gallon internal water tank being loaded into a Columbia CH-47D Chinook. Screen grab from a Columbia video.

Both of the companies have been around since the 1950s.

Bristow provides helicopter transportation and aircraft support services to government and civil organizations worldwide with their fleet of 233 helicopters and 78 fixed wing aircraft . The company has major transportation operations in the North Sea, Nigeria, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and in most of the other major offshore oil and gas producing regions of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia, and Trinidad. Bristow provides search and rescue services for all of the U.K. on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. In March, 2018 the company had 4,058 people on their payroll, including about 100 in their Houston headquarters.

Bristow helicopter
A Bristow helicopter, an Airbus EC 225 LP, registered in Norway. Screengrab from Bristow video.

Bristow hopes that merging the companies would open opportunities for their currently underemployed Airbus H225s to compete for military contracts using Columbia’s U.S. Department of Defense Commercial Airlift Review Board certificate. And Columbia’s ships may find work in some of the 10 countries in which Bristow maintains air operator certificates.

Columbia would be a wholly owned subsidiary operating as a separate company with its own board and management structure, and would remain in Oregon, retaining the Columbia name and the aircrafts’ livery.

Since the deal was announced the week of November 5, 2018 Bristow’s stock price has fallen 73 percent, closing at $3.28 Wednesday.

Bristow stock price
Bristow stock price, November 6, 2018 through January 16, 2019. Yahoo.

Activist investor Global Value Investment Corp. (GVIC) has some concerns with the acquisition and last week issued an open letter to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bristow Group Inc.

Under the proposed financing, GVIC estimates that about 33 million shares of Bristow’s common stock will be issued in order to consummate the Columbia acquisition. Compared to Bristow’s November 2, 2018 outstanding share count of 35.8 million, this represents dilution of approximately 93%. GVIC believes that any benefits that may result from the Columbia acquisition are greatly outweighed by this dilution.

Bristow announced a $144.2 million net loss for the September 2018 quarter. With the downturn in oil production and other market forces the company has considered canceling their existing orders for 23 additional large helicopters.

OregonLive reported that if the deal to acquire Columbia falls through, the agreement signed in November requires Bristow to pay a $20 million termination fee.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

NSW firefighters assist with wildfires in Tasmania

Gell River Fire Tasmania helicopter
Photo by Andrew MacDonald

Firefighters in New South Wales have traveled across the Bass Strait to assist their brothers and sisters in Tasmania. The five personnel will be working with the Tasmania Fire Service, specifically on the Gell River Fire in the southwest part of the state. The deployment of five arrived Sunday to assume specialist aviation roles operating out of Hobart and Strathgordon.

Map Gell River Fire in Tasmania, Australia
Map showing the location of the Gell River Fire in Tasmania, Australia.

The Gell River Fire has burned 50,600 acres (20,500 ha) primarily in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Portions of the fire are burning in peat, which means the deep-seated blaze will likely persist for months and continue to produce smoke.

Below is an update on the fire from the Tasmania Fire Service:

The fire continues to burn in buttongrass and mixed forest vegetation in the Vale of Rasselas, approximately 10 kilometres northwest of Tim Shea and along the Denison Range and Gordon Range. A sprinkler line around the northern side of Lake Rhona was successful in protecting fire-sensitive vegetation communities. Fire fighters and aerial water-bombing also managed to protect these vegetation communities in other areas.

Specialist remote area fire fighters are working in rugged terrain to extinguish the fire. Although the fire is still uncontained, suppression operations conducted by fire fighters and water bombing aircraft have been successful to date, with many active fire edges minimised.
An increase in smoke may be visible in the Greater Hobart area, Derwent Valley and Huon Valley on Tuesday evening and Wednesday due to increased fire activity, particularly at the southern end of the fire.

Resources currently deployed to the Gell River bushfire include 60 personnel and eight aircraft.

Tasmania Fire Service
Gell River Fire Tasmania
Gell River Fire. Photo by Andrew MacDonald
Gell River Fire Tasmania helicopter
Photo by Andrew MacDonald
Gell River Fire Tasmania
Gell River Fire. Photo by Andrew MacDonald
This image of smoke from the Gell River Fire was captured by a satellite on January 4, 2019. Since then the activity has decreased due to a change in the weather. The red dots indicate heat detected by the satellite.

Billings Flying Service begins helicopter contract in Chile

The Chinook will be working for a private company, assisting wildland firefighters

Billings Flying Service CH-47D helicopter
Billings Flying Service’s Helicopter 03, a CH-47D Chinook, just before being unloaded from the ship in Chile December 24, 2018.

On Christmas Eve Billings Flying Service unloaded one of their CH-47D Chinooks off a ship in Chile. Two days later after reinstalling the rotor blades they flew it to a base just east of Concepción where it will begin a firefighting contract for one of the largest pulp and paper companies in Latin America. Compañía Manufacturera de Papeles y Cartones (CMPC ), which translates to Manufacturing Company of Papers and Cartons, employs over 15,000 people in Chile and seven other countries in South Ameria.

Billings Flying Service CH-47D helicopter
Billings Flying Service’s Helicopter 03, a CH-47D Chinook, being unloaded from the ship in Chile December 24, 2018.

The helicopter that Billings shipped to Chile is N303AJ, a Boeing CH-47D manufactured in 1989 that fights fire with an external water bucket. At least one of the company’s ships was testing a new 2,500-gallon internal tank last summer. Billings became the first non-military owner of CH-47D Chinook helicopters when they purchased their first two in 2014. Gary Blain, co-owner of the company, and another pilot flew those aircraft from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama to the company’s facilities south of Billings, Montana near the Yellowstone River. Anything you do with aircraft is expensive. Mr. Blain said they spent $32,000 for fuel during their two-day trip, with an overnight stopover in Norfolk, Nebraska.

Billings has seven other Chinooks, one Sikorsky UH-60, five Bell 206s, five Airbus AS350 B3s, one MD 500, and one Hiller 12B.

All of these photos in Chile were provided by Brian Jensen of Billings Flying Service.

Billings Flying Service CH-47D helicopter Chile
Rotors being reinstalled.
Billings Flying Service CH-47D helicopter Chile
Billings Flying Service CH-47D helicopter Chile
Billings Flying Service CH-47D helicopter Chile

Italy purchases three AW139 helicopters

Will be used for fire suppression and search & rescue. There is an option to buy 12 more.

Leonardo photo.

The Italian government’s Fire Brigade has signed a contract to purchase three AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters from Leonardo. The € 45 million order includes integrated support and training services for pilots and technicians and provides options for an additional 12 AW139’s . The delivery of the three new helicopters will begin shortly and will be completed in 2019. 

The AW139 was chosen by the Fire Brigade following a tender held in mid-2017. The helicopters will be equipped with a wide range of equipment including a recovery winch, cargo hook for the use of a firefighting water bucket, weather radar, satellite communication system, electro-optical system, high-definition mission console, data transmission system, an advanced anti-collision system, night vision capability, searchlight, floats, lifeboats, PA system, and medical instrumentation.

The Los Angeles Fire Department currently operates four AW139’s as well as two Bell Jet Rangers. 

A LA Fire Department AW139 sits atop LAPD’s Hooper Heliport. Photo by Ryan Mason.

Two bases in Victoria are providing night-flying helicopters for bushfire suppression

Emergency managers in Australia will be using night flying helicopters operationally this summer for the first time, following a trial a year ago

Kestrel helicopter night fying
The Directors and Crew of Kestrel. EMV photo.

Victoria’s second night vision equipped firefighting helicopter was deployed yesterday in Mangalore.

For the first time Kestrel Aviation’s helicopter was double-crewed to ensure it had day and night personnel available for firebombing, if it was required.

They join another certified operator, Coulson Aviation, who can also provide a night firebombing service to Victoria with helicopters based at Ballarat.

Ballarat and Mangalore are the two locations where night firebombing helicopters are located, however the aircraft can potentially respond to any area across the state – but only in the right circumstances.

This summer the focus of the night firebombing trial is to test procedures and operations on real fires.

Night operations will be used as an extension of day operations, meaning aircraft will be able to assist ground crews on fires for a longer period of time. Night firebombing will only occur on actual fires where it can add value to fire operations, or in circumstances where the experience can help build or improve the night firebombing capability.

A look at the crash rescue kit

On December 18 the National Wildfire Coordinating group published a 4-minute video that gives a brief overview to the contents of the Crash Rescue Kit. It can be ordered like any other fire equipment through the fire cache system, as NFES #1040. If you desire to purchase it, the cost is $724.75.

The video implies it would be appropriate to have the kit available at an incident helibase.