A Colorado state senator will be introducing legislation that would provide $9 million for four helicopters and an air tanker to suppress wildfires. A bill approved last year created the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC) but failed to appropriate any funds to run the agency or acquire any aviation assets.
The legislation specifies that a contract be issued for one Type 1 air tanker or a very large air tanker and four helicopters.
(The rest of the story, including the permanent acquisition of four air tankers, is on Wildfire Today.)
The Marines have conducted some tests to determine how feasible it would be for the MV-22 Osprey to fight wildland fires. As you may know, the Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft capable of vertical or short takeoff and landing. When airborne, it can cruise at over 300 mph, can carry 24 to 32 troops, or 15,000 pounds of external cargo.
In March, 2011 the Marines tested the Osprey with a 900-gallon Bambi Bucket suspended from 50-foot and 100-foot ling lines attached to the rear cargo hook while flying at up to 90 knots. After the tests, they came up with the following recommendations:
Maximum airspeed with bucket empty – 90 KIAS
Maximum airspeed with bucket full – 90 KIAS
Maximum airspeed when dumping – 50 KIAS
Max angle of bank- 30 degrees AOB
Use of Automatic Release Mode is prohibited.
Bambi bucket should be positioned to the 6 o’clock position of the aircraft prior to takeoff or landing.
Aircrew shall continuously monitor load for oscillations or unusual load movement.
WorldWind Helicopters began the 2013 fire season with three helicopters on contract, but after the company had some problems making the one at Peppermint, California available when the season started, the USFS cancelled their contract for that location and later awarded it to Hillsboro Aviation.
WorldWind again submitted bids for three helicopters on this latest contract but was only given two, for John Day, Oregon and Arroyo Grande, California, for a Bell 210 and Bell 205, respectively. The USFS did not announce any award for one line item, Trimmer, California, leaving it blank on the list.
This is the fourth time in the last two years that USFS fire aviation contracts have been protested. The others were for the next-generation air tankers which were protested twice (for the first and second decisions) and the no-competition award to Neptune for two BAe-146 air tankers. In all three previous instances, the companies that fought the awards ultimately received favorable outcomes. Coulson and 10 Tanker, which did not receive awards for next-gen air tankers, got them after the protest of the first decision. Neptune, which protested the second version of the next-gen contracts, suddenly and without explanation dropped the protest a few weeks after filing it, but six months later received no-competition contracts for two BAe-146s.
When the next-gen air tanker contract was protested the first time by Neptune, several months later the attorneys and U.S. Forest Service officials dealing with the protest decided that three of the seven line items on the solicitation were exempt because the company did not bid on those line items. As a result, three companies were issued five-year exclusive use contracts at that time. It is possible that in this 32-line-item helicopter solicitation there could be some unaffected contracts that could go forward, while the individual line items protested by WorldWind would be in limbo until a final decision is reached by the GAO, or the protest is dropped by WorldWind.
Yesterday the USFS awarded 31 exclusive use contracts for Type 2 helicopters. The award period began December 17 and ends April 30, 2015 with options for three additional years. This award process was first announced on April 5, 2013 and took over eight months to complete.
The number of Type 2 helicopters on this new contract, 31, is two less than there were in 2012 and 2013. One of the line items on the bid list, the helicopter at Trimmer, California, was not awarded.
There are 34 larger Type 1 helicopters on contract in 2013.
The Type 2 helicopter models which will be on contract are Bell 205, 210, and 212; you can see the entire list HERE.
I have seen some video previously of this contraption used for trimming trees from a helicopter, but this video from YouTube is better than some. Haverfield Aviation uses the 20-foot long side-trimming saw to trim trees along powerline and gas line right-of-ways. They said it is powered by a compact fuel injected engine and is able to side-trim a 20′ path of vegetation an average of three miles per day on both sides.
It seems that the pilot, in addition to having to have cojones of steel flying adjacent to a power line, would have to have exceptional depth perception to be sure the saw does not drag on the ground, since hitting dirt or especially a rock, would instantly dull the blade.
I’m not sure if this would be feasible to be used on fires if it can only side-trim the branches on trees. Maybe it could widen an established fuel break by 10 to 15 feet on each side.
In this first video you will meet a CAL FIRE helicopter pilot whose previous job was flying the President around in Marine One.
The bonus video below shows a very skilled pilot in Oregon quickly, very quickly, ferrying external loads of Christmas trees from the farm to trucks. It is Pilot Dan Clark flying a Northwest Helicopters, LLC 206B3 Jetranger in November of 2008.
The videos can also be seen on YouTube here and here.