Photos of firefighting helicopters from Chicago, Sacramento, Kern County, and Santa Barbara County

Updated December 29, 2020

Bell 412EP helicopter, Chicago Fire Department. N682FD
Bell 412EP helicopter, Chicago Fire Department. N682FD. Photo by Jon Goldin, July 31, 2018.

At Fire Aviation we always like to receive photos of fire service aircraft, but we look forward to receiving shots of helicopters that are not often seen over wildland fires. Here are a couple of examples of ships from the Chicago Fire Department and the Sacramento Fire District.

Bell Uh-1H helicopter, Sacramento Fire District
Bell Uh-1H helicopter, Sacramento Fire District. N114FD. Photo by Jon Goldin, Sept. 29, 2018.

Kern County and Santa Barbara UH-1H helicopters are often used on fires in Southern California. These are good shots taken by Jon Goldin, who also took the ones above. Thank Jon!

Bell UH-1H helicopter, Kern County Fire Department
Bell UH-1H helicopter, Kern County Fire Department. N408KC. Photo by Jon Goldin, Jan. 1, 2018
Bell UH-1H helicopter, Kern County Fire Department
Bell UH-1H helicopter, Kern County Fire Department. N407KC. Photo by Jon Goldin, Jan. 1, 2018
Santa Barbara County Helicopter 308
Santa Barbara County Helicopter 308. N205KS. Photo by John Goldin

Updated December 29, 2020 to add photo of Santa Barbara County helicopter.

Helicopter lineup for Australia this fire season

The helicopters will be phased in over the next several weeks.

 Updated October 16, 2020   |    8:17 a.m. MDT

Air-Crane Gypsy Lady arriving at Sydney
Air-Crane Gypsy Lady arriving at Sydney. Chris Matei photo.

The first of six Erickson Air-Crane helicopters that will assist firefighters in Australia arrived at the Sydney airport October 12. “Gypsy Lady” was unloaded from an Antonov 124-100 after spending the summer fighting fires in Greece. It has since been reassembled and flown to Bankstown, New South Wales where it will begin its mandatory availability period on November 1.

The other five are also coming from Greece, but will be receiving less deluxe treatment lashed down inside the holds of ocean-going freighters like they were in April on the way from Australia to Greece.

Air-Crane Gypsy Lady arriving at Sydney
Air-Crane Gypsy Lady arriving at Sydney. NSW RFS photo.

Richard Alder, General Manager of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre in Australia, said on October 15 the positioning of the Air-Cranes will be the same as last year:

  • Bankstown, New South Wales, HT730, N189AC, Gypsy Lady, starts 11/1/2020
  • Bankstown, New South Wales, HT739, N247AC , Jerry, 12/1/2020
  • Essendon, Victoria, HT341,  N154AC, Georgia Peach, 12/2/2020
  • Moorabbin, Victoria, HT342, N194AC, Delilah, 12/23/2020
  • Brukunga (Adelaide Hills), So. Australia, HT743, N218AC, Elsie, 12/17/2020
  • Serpentine (Perth), Western Australia, HT740, N243AC, Marty, 12/20/2020

There will also be three Sikorsky S-61N ships and a Sikorsky S-76B owned and operated by Coulson:

  • Colac, Victoria
  • Mansfield, Victoria
  • Ballarat, Victoria; night-flying capable, along with the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter for night supervision and intelligence gathering.
Air-Crane Gypsy Lady arriving at Sydney
Air-Crane Gypsy Lady being reassembled  at Sydney. Kestrel-Erickson photo.

In addition to the lineup for the Type 1 helicopters, there is news about a couple of smaller Type 2 helicopters in Australia. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) has purchased two new Bell 412 helicopters. One of them, like Gypsy Lady, received deluxe transportation (compared to a cargo ship) when a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A hauled it from Vancouver International Airport, Canada, to Richmond, NSW on September 15.

Royal Australian Air Force transports new Bell 412 helicopter
Royal Australian Air Force transports new Bell 412 helicopter to Richmond, NSW for the NSW Rural Fire Service. RAAF photo.
Royal Australian Air Force transports new Bell 412 helicopter
Royal Australian Air Force transports new Bell 412 helicopter to Richmond, NSW for the NSW Rural Fire Service. RAAF photo.

Bell Helicopter Textron Canada, based in Mirabel, Quebec since 1986 has manufactured more than 5,000 aircraft.

Royal Australian Air Force transports new Bell 412 helicopter
NSW Rural Fire Service’s new Bell 412 helicopter after arriving at Richmond, NSW. RAAF photo.

Night-flying helicopter program to continue this season in Australia

NAFC is also looking toward developing a night-flying fixed wing air tanker program

night-flying helicopter Australia
An S-61 snorkels from a dip tank in phase 2 of the night-flying trial in Victoria, Australia. February, 2018. Coulson photo.

During the 2017-2018 bushfire season in Australia two helicopters were approved for dropping water at night with the use of night vision goggles (NVG) by the pilots.  At least one of the ships, an S-61, was approved for hover refilling which was the first time this had been done anywhere.

Richard Alder, the General Manager of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC), said the program will continue during the 2019-2020 fire season that is just beginning. This summer there will be a Coulson S-61 based initially  at Ballarat, Victoria and a Bell 412 operated by Kestrel out of Mangalore, Victoria.

“Both machines are tank-equipped and capable of hover filling at night,” Mr. Alder explained. “Supervision and support will again be provided by a Coulson NVG equipped S-76 [helicopter] and a number of other locally based NVG equipped Type 3 helicopters. It is hoped that the night program will be able to move into initial attack over the course of the 2019/2020 season, but this still requires some work to establish appropriate systems of work and procedures for initial attack.”

Last summer NAFC started thinking seriously about fixed wing air tankers working at night. They are still interested in having that capability but are taking a “crawl, walk, run approach”, Mr. Alder said. The agency is working with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and vendors on parameters for a trial, and hope to make some progress over the 2019-2020 fire season.

Bell 412 lands in water after tail rotor strike while refilling water bucket

The tail rotor of a Bell 412 struck a tree while it was attempting to refill its water bucket February 26, 2019 in the northwest part of Spain. The firefighting helicopter (EC-MAQ) operated by Babcock settled upright in a couple of feet of water in the Narcea River in Belmonte de Miranda, Asturias (map).

Photos show damage to the tail rotor. There were no reported injuries.

Park Police helicopter responds to D.C. shooting

During the law enforcement response to the tragic shooting at the Naval Yard in Washington, DC yesterday one of the the U.S. Park Police helicopters got a lot of air time on the television coverage.

According to reports the helicopter was used to insert snipers onto roof tops, serve as an observation platform, and to remove some non-law enforcement personnel from roofs or other areas. At times an armed officer was seen sitting in the open door. In addition to the video above, photos of the helicopter at the scene can be found at Yahoo and the New York Post.

The National Park Service has the helicopters organized within their Homeland Security Division, Icon Protection Branch, Aviation Unit which was created in 1973 with the acquisition of one Bell 206B Jet Ranger. Now they have multiple ships providing 24-hour coverage, including some twin-engine Bell 412EPs.

Last December we first wrote about the Park Police helicopters and included some photos taken during the response to Hurricane Sandy in the New York City area.