Video of Hughes NH 500 helicopter during firefighting activity in Italy

The video shows an Italian Forest Service Hughes NH 500 filling a Bambi Bucket from a variety of water sources, and then finally at the end shows it dropping water on a wildfire.

Here is a description of their firefighting helicopter program:


“Among the Italian Armed Corps, the Corpo Forestale dello Stato (CFS, Italian for Forestry Service) acts as a police and ranger force, responsible for protecting Italy’s natural and environmental resources and eco-systems. Its duties include the prevention of environmental violations and wildfires, safeguarding animal species, ensuring antipoaching and habitat protection, and providing SAR in mountainous areas.

The CFS has a fleet of helicopters which includes NH-500Ds, AB-412s, Erickson S-64Fs and AW-109Ns used for fire-fighting, early spotting of wildfires, and coordination of other aircraft or with ground-based firefighters.

The Service also owns a P.180 fitted with a forward looking infra-red (FLIR)/TV camera system for ground surveillance in anti-pollution monitoring and geological/wildlife control, which can easily be configured as an air ambulance by means of a medical kit, and can ferry specialized teams or VIPs to various helicopter stations.

In summer, the aircraft are strategically deployed in areas where wildfire risk is higher.”

Park Police helicopter crew receives awards for actions in DC Navy Yard shootings

Park Police awards
Left to right: ALEA President Kurt Frisz; Pilot Sergeant Kenneth Burchell; Rescue Technician Sergeant David Tolson; and Airbus Helicopters Law Enforcement Market Sales Manager Ed Van Winkle. (Airbus Helicopters sponsors the Gus Crawford Award). Photo provided by Ryan Mason – Airborne Productions, courtesy of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association.

On Friday, July 18th, United States Park Police Pilot Sergeant Kenneth Burchell and Rescue Technician Sergeant David Tolson received the Airborne Law Enforcement Association’s Captain ‘Gus’ Crawford Memorial Aircrew of the Year Award for 2014.

The award acknowledges a pilot and/or crewmember(s) whose flying efforts and proficiency characterize ALEA’s motto, “To Serve and Protect from the Air.”

[The U.S. Park Police is a division within the National Park Service.]

For the nomination period of April 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014, the United States Park Police were nominated twice for flying efforts during the Navy Yard shooting on September 16, 2013.

On that date, a lone gunman entered Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC, and began shooting people, creating an active shooter incident. As calls for help were received, multiple law enforcement agencies responded.

United States Park Police helicopter Eagle I, crewed by Burchell and Tolson, was asked to assist by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department. The Navy Yard is located directly across the Anacostia River from their hangar, also known as “the Eagle’s Nest.” Tolson in turn asked for additional aircraft due to the possibility of a mass casualty incident.

Due to the proximity of the Washington Navy Yard to Washington/Reagan National Airport, Eagle I notified Washington Tower, which in turn diverted air traffic from the immediate area and designated Eagle I as “air bos,” for aircraft coordination in the Navy Yard area.

On this tragic day, the crew of Eagle I initially assisted with aerial reconnaissance and perimeter control, simultaneously performing air traffic control. The crew then switched roles for the deployment of SWAT personnel and reconfigured for the extraction of a critically injured woman, which resulted in a medevac transport.

The crew returned to bring in another SWAT officer and extract the final three survivors. In the final phase, they returned to reconnaissance and perimeter control. Air operations terminated with a total of 5.5 hours flight time. All of these operations were conducted with an active shooter below them.

For these acts, the Airborne Law Enforcement Association awarded Burchell and Tolson the 2014 Captain “Gus” Crawford Memorial Air Crew of the Year Award. Officer/Rescue Technician Michael Abate was also presented an ALEA Presidential Citation for his roles in the incident.

(From the NPS Morning Report)


Our original report about the Park Police flight activities during the shooting incident.

More information about the National Park Service’s Park Police fleet of helicopters.

Portable retardant plant at the Beaver Fire

Portable retardant plant
Portable retardant plant along the Klamath River on the Beaver Fire. (click to enlarge)

On Tuesday when I was at the Beaver Fire northwest of Yreka, California a Sikorsky Air-Crane was reloading with retardant from tanks at a portable retardant plant along the Klamath river.

Helitanker 743 reloads with retardant
Helitanker 743 reloads with retardant

Helitanker 743 reloads with retardant More information and photos about the Beaver Fire.


Firewatch Cobras at Redding

Two Firewatch Cobras
Two Firewatch Cobras going through their 150-hour service at Redding, California, August 8, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

While we were at Redding on August 8 the two U.S. Forest Service Firewatch Cobra helicopters were both going through their 150-hour service. Dan Johnson, the Regional Aviation Group Supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service’s North Zone in California, told us that they have both been heavily used in recent weeks and the 150-hour came due quickly.

The helicopters are retrofitted Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, two of the 25 that the U.S. Forest Service acquired from the military. Most of the other 23 are at the aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson. A couple that are used for spare parts are sitting outside the hangar at Redding.

Spare parts Cobras
Cobras used mostly for spare parts at the Redding Airport. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

We first wrote about the Firewatch program in 2010 at Wildfire Today. The USFS has them outfitted with infrared and other sensors so that they can be used for close-in intelligence support for ground troops, such as GIS mapping, real time color video, geo-referenced infrared, and infrared downlink. In addition to intelligence gathering, they are also used as a platform for an Air Attack Group Supervisor (ATGS) or a Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO). Mr. Johnson said it would be possible to use them as lead planes, but he feels fixed wing aircraft are better suited for that role.

Sensors on Firewatch Cobra
Sensors on Firewatch Cobra. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Continue reading “Firewatch Cobras at Redding”

Aircraft at Redding, August 7, 2014

We spent some time yesterday at the Redding Air Attack Base in California and shot photos of the aircraft and will be posting them over the next few days. Here are a few to get started. Click on the photos to see slightly larger versions.

T-94 and T-95 at RDD 8-7-2014
T-94 and T-95 at RDD 8-7-2014
AA-240 and AA 505 and Coulson rig at RDD 8-7-2014
AA-240 and AA-505 (OV-10s) and the Coulson support rig at RDD 8-7-2014
AA120 landing at RDD 8-7-2014
AA-120, an OV-10, landing at RDD 8-7-2014
Chinook at RDD
California National Guard Chinook at RDD
Cobras and a Sherpa at RDD
Two Cobras and a Sherpa at RDD , 8-7-2014

All of the photos were taken by Bill Gabbert and are protected by copyright.

National Guard MAFFS and helicopters activated in California


California National Guard helicopters
Chief Brockly is interviewed as the California National Guard helicopters are activated. CNG photo.

The two C-130 MAFFS at the Channel Islands National Guard base in California are being activated to help deal with wildfires in the northern part of the state. Earlier today 17 California National Guard helicopters were also activated. More details are at Wildfire Today.

Colorado acquires firefighting helicopters

Bell 206L4 N538TD
Bell 206L4, N538TD, working on a fire in Miguel County, Colorado, July 21, 2014. CDFPC photo.

For the first time, firefighting helicopters are now under contract and have been working on fires for the state of Colorado. After a couple of years of planning, debating, and legislating, the funds for the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC) that the legislature appropriated earlier this year became officially available on July 1. On that date they had their contracts ready to go and on July 9 and 11 awarded them to private companies for one Type 2 and two Type 3 helicopters. The CFAC is within the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC).

The Type 2 helicopter is provided by Trans Aero Helicopters out of Loveland, Colorado. It is a UH1H built in 1970, registration #N60901 and is known as Helicopter 901. It is based at Jeffco Tanker Base in Broomfield, but is currently in Grand Junction on standby for initial attack. It was previously under a Call When Needed contract with the U.S. Department of the Interior.

One of the Type 3 ships is a Bell 206L4, N538TD, operated by Homestead Helicopters out of Missoula, Montana and is designated Helicopter 8TD. It is based in Montrose, Colorado. Homestead has at least three 206s and has had firefighting contracts since 2001.

The other Type 3 is an AStar B3, owned and operated by Brainerd and Firehawk Helicopters out of Florida. It is stationed at Alamosa Airport, but right now is positioned in Craig for initial attack. The company also operates at least one Blackhawk helicopter, which they call a Firehawk.

H-901, N60901
H-901, N60901, on the Radio Fire, July 25, 2014 in Garfield County, Colorado. CDFPC photo.

The DFPC positions all assets, including aviation assets, strategically based on preparedness levels, interagency situational awareness of fire activity, weather, National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) indices, location of other aerial assets, etc.

Colorado issued the Invitations to Bid on the helicopter contracts just last month, in early June. Those of us familiar with the lengthy process for awarding federal aviation contracts will find it refreshing that it does not have to take 523 days, as in the case of the contracts the U.S. Forest Service awarded for next-generation air tankers. But, that is a very low bar for comparison.

The CFAC’s earlier plan was to contract for three or four helicopters in 2014 and up to four large air tankers in 2015 and beyond. We asked DFPC Director Paul Cooke if they still planned to contract for large air tankers next year, and he said:

DFPC has no plans to acquire or contract for large air tankers. If the situation ever warrants reconsideration, DFPC must go back to the Governor and General Assembly for additional funding.

The DFPC has awarded two 120-day contracts for Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs).

They will also purchase two PC-12 multi-purpose fixed wing aircraft. The final provisions of the transaction are currently being negotiated. They expect to have a loaner PC-12 in use by August 15, 2014. More details about the PC-12s are in another article.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Bean.