Report of serious air tanker incident in Australia

Contact was lost with a large air tanker in New South Wales

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service is reporting that contact has been lost with a large air tanker that was working in the southern part of the state in the Snowy Monaro area.

@aus_forum
Posted at 7:22 PST January 22, 2019 (US time)

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

Helicopter ditches in lake while fighting bushfire in Australia

The pilot swam to shore and was taken to a hospital

UH-1H helicopter submerged Ben Boyd Reservoir
A UH-1H helicopter partially submerged in Ben Boyd Reservoir in the Ben Boyd National Park at Edrom, New South Wales. Photo by Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service.

Thursday afternoon January 9 at about 4 p.m. local time a helicopter under contract with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia ditched into a lake on the far south coast of NSW. After impacting the water the UH-1H helicopter submerged but the pilot was able to self-extricate and swim to shore. The pilot was the only person on board.

The Canberrra Times reported that the 47-year old pilot was treated at the scene by paramedics for shoulder, back, and ankle injuries before being taken to the South East Regional Hospital.

The helicopter was refilling with water at Ben Boyd Reservoir in the Ben Boyd National Park at Edrom, in the Bega Valley Shire.

The aircraft had been moved from the Clyde Mountain Fire to work on the Border Fire in Eden which has crossed from NSW into Victoria. It merged with another fire creating a massive 150,000 hectare (370,000 acres).

Firefighting helicopter goes down in Queensland, Australia

Helicopter Down crash Queensland Australia
Photo by 9News

A helicopter that was assisting firefighters on a bushfire in Queensland, Australia had a hard landing near Pechey north of Toowoomba. The pilot, believed to be in his 70s, was injured and flown to a hospital by another helicopter.

9News reported that the incident occurred as the pilot attempted to perform an emergency landing in strong winds.

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

Three firefighting helicopters have crashed in Portugal recently, killing 2 pilots

In the last 16 days two pilots have been killed in three helicopter crashes in Portugal while fighting wildfires.

The most recent fatality occurred today, September 5, involving a helicopter owned by Afocelca, a private firefighting company working for various Portuguese pulp producers. There are media reports that the aircraft crashed after hitting power lines, but that can’t be confirmed. The helicopter went down near Valongo, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Porto.

Reuters reported that yesterday, September 4, another helicopter crashed in Portugal while assisting wildland firefighters. Thankfully the pilot only had minor injuries.

fires map Portugal
The red dots represent heat detected in Portugal by a NASA satellite September 5, 2019.

In a third incident in Portugal, a pilot died August 20 in a helicopter crash.

From Safe Communities Portugal:

A helicopter fighting a fire in Castro Daire, Viseu, fell shortly before 13:00 hrs today Sunday 20th August, killing the pilot, Américo Sousa, aged 51 years.

The helicopter crashed into high-voltage cables, crashed and burned, and the pilot was trapped in the helicopter, according to a source at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MAI).

The helicopter had just dropped off a GNR GIPS team at a fire at Cabril, Castro Daire.

Américo Sousa was an experienced pilot. For several years, he had been flying helicopters on several missions, but especially for rescue and firefighting
The helicopter was based at the Air Media Center in Armamar, Viseu. The Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil belonging to Everjets is a single-pilot single-pilot helicopter with a maximum capacity of 5 people.

Castro Daire’s mayor, Fernando Carneiro, and fire chief commander Paulo Almeida confirmed the helicopter’s fall.

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

Lockheed drone crashes while mapping fires in New Mexico

Lockheed XE Stalker
Lockheed XE Stalker on a catapult. Lockheed image.

A Lockheed Stalker XE Unmanned Aerial System aircraft crashed as it was attempting to land after completing a mission to detect heat and map the perimeters of wildfires in southwest New Mexico.

It occurred August 7, 2019 about 26 miles west-northwest of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

The cause, according to a brief preliminary report, was an incorrect altitude of the landing area obtained from “a new GPS out of the box.”

Below is an excerpt from the report about the accident:

“The Type 2 UAS was ordered for a number of fires in and around the XXX Wilderness on the XXX of the XXX National Forest. The mission was to detect any heat remaining on the fires, map their perimeters, and provide imagery to local fire managers. The day before the mishap, a flight was conducted on a fire that went smoothly. On the second day, a similar mission was planned over a different fire. A thorough safety and operational briefing took place prior to launch with all members of the mission. The only difference in this mission and the previous day’s was the location of the fire and the placement of the launch area. The UAS flew over the fire for just over an hour collecting data before the Pilot in Charge (PIC) began the procedures for landing.

“On final and while flying on an automated flight plan, the UAS aggressively changed its angle of attack and pitched down. The UAS impacted the ground at this angle one-quarter of a mile from the intended landing zone. The fuselage, leading edges of the wings, and tail boom all sustained significant damage leading to the aircraft being deemed not airworthy. The angle of attack change is normal for this aircraft on approach to its landing zone.

“The crash was due to an incorrect input into the Ground Control Station (GCS) of the landing zone elevation. This elevation was gained from a new GPS out of the box. The input into the GCS was 5915 and the actual elevation of the landing zone is 6280. This incorrect input made the aircraft believe that it was over 300 feet higher and continue with this angle of attack prior to leveling off for landing.”

The Lockheed XE was first introduced in 2006. The latest models can fly up to eight hours with a propane fuel cell or up to four hours with a battery option at a cruise speed of 35 mph. It can be launched with a bungee cord, a catapult, or by using a recently developed optional vertical takeoff and landing kit.

In 2015 Lockheed demonstrated how the Stalker XE can provide data and a precise geolocation to an unmanned K-MAX cargo helicopter, which conducted water drops to slow the spread of a fire.

Small plane with engine failure deploys parachute, lands in Quebec forest

The pilot was rescued

small plane engine failure parachute landing
Screenshot from the video shot by the pilot before he was extracted by helicopter.

Pilot Matt Lehtinen, flying over a forest in Quebec July 27, 2019, could not have been better prepared for a loss of oil pressure and engine failure:

  1. The plane was a Cirrus-SR22 that had a ballistic parachute recovery system, what the company calls a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS).
  2. He had a Garmin emergency communication device (that probably sent text messages via satellite).
  3. He had a survival kit.
  4. He remained alert, kept calm, thought clearly, and acted decisively.

It appears that he was not seriously injured. He sent a message that included his location and then started a small fire to create smoke to make it easier for him to be seen. Eventually a C-130 flew over and dropped para-cargo for him that included a radio. Next a Royal Canadian Air Force  helicopter appeared, dropped off a crewman or two, and extracted him with a hoist. All within five hours.

And the reason we know all this is that he documented every step on video.

He wrote at the end of the video, “Thank you to the service members of the Canadian Royal Air Force, Mounted Police, law enforcement, search and rescue, air traffic control and Nav Canada. You are my heroes, and you saved my life. Sincerely, A Grateful American.”

Great job, Mr. Lehtinen, the Air Force crew, and the other agencies!

small plane engine failure parachute landing
Screenshot from the video shot by the pilot just before he was extracted by helicopter.

SEAT crashes in lake in Portugal

The pilot was not injured

air tanker crash Portugal
Recovery of a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.

A single engine air tanker (SEAT) crashed while scooping water on a lake in Portugal on July 3, 2019. It happened near Trizio, in the municipality of Sertã, in Castelo Branco.

Just after the aircraft’s pontoons made contact with the water the aircraft tipped forward and may have flipped once or twice. It settled upright for a short while as the uninjured pilot self-extricated, then it sank in 25 meters of water.

The aircraft had been based at Proença-A-Nova, in Castelo Branco district.

It appears in the video below that the landing gear was down as it began scooping.

,

Divers with the Humanitarian Association of Volunteer Firefighters of Cernache do Bonjardim (BV Cernache do Bonjardim) recovered the aircraft from the lake bottom by attaching air bags. When it surfaced it was towed to the shore. These photos by BV Cernache do Bonjardim are used with their permission.

air tanker crash Portugal
Recovery of a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.
air tanker crash Portugal
Recovery of a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.
pontoons air tanker crash Portugal
Pontoons from a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.
sonar air tanker crash Portugal
Sonar was used in the recovery of a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.

NPS Regional Aviation Manager and Safety Manager killed in Alaska plane crash

The two men died May 27 in the accident near Whitehorse International Airport

(From the National Park Service, May 29, 2019)

The National Park Service (NPS) is mourning the loss of two of its Alaska-based employees following an airplane crash in Whitehorse, Canada on Monday evening.

The two men, Jeff Babcock and Charles Eric Benson, were on a personal trip to ferry a privately-owned airplane from the Lower 48 to Anchorage, Alaska, when the plane went down shortly after take-off from Whitehorse International Airport.

According to Canadian officials and witnesses the airplane crashed at about 5:30 p.m. Monday shortly after takeoff into a forested area south of the airport. A column of smoke was seen rising from the area and emergency personnel from Whitehorse Fire Department, the Whitehorse RCMP and airport firefighters responded immediately to the scene.

Jeff Babcock served as the NPS Alaska Region Aviation Manager and Charles Eric Benson was the NPS Alaska Region Safety Manager. “Jeff and Eric were two of our very best and the National Park Service and Alaska Region have suffered a terrible loss,” said Bert Frost, NPS Alaska Regional Director. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Jeff and Eric and we are heartbroken,” said Frost.

Both men were accomplished professionals, as well as skilled airmen. Prior to working for the National Park Service:

Jeff Babcock had a distinguished 23-year career as a Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain in the Alaska State Troopers where he served as a Commercial Pilot, Aircraft and Vessel Section Supervisor, Use of Force Instructor, Accident Reconstructionist, Undercover Investigator, Internal Investigator, Tactical Dive Master, Firearms Instructor, and Certified Flight Instructor. After retiring from the Alaska State Troopers, and before coming to work with the National Park Service, Jeff flew for 7 years as a pilot for K-2 Aviation. He enjoyed flying guests around Mt. Denali and sharing with them his favorite parts of Alaska.

Eric Benson served for 25 years in both the U.S. Air Force and in the U.S. Army in a variety of assignments. From 1993-1994 he attended and graduated from the Initial Entry Rotary Wing Qualification and the Aviation Officer Basic Courses at Fort Rucker Alabama. He then served as a UH-60 Army Aviator, Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, Brigade Aviation Element, and an Aviation Maintenance Company Commander. Eric’s active duty career culminated in December of 2007, with the 10th Mountain Division while serving as a Battalion Executive Officer for the General Support Aviation Battalion at Fort Drum, New York. He joined the National Park Service after retiring from the U.S. Army.

Jeff Babcock and Eric Benson were long-time residents of Alaska and are well-known throughout the state. Services for Jeff Babcock will be held on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Colony Chapel, 9475 East Silver Springs Circle, Palmer, Alaska at 11:00 a.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. Private services are pending for Eric Benson.

Jeff Babcock killed plane crash Alaska
Jeff Babcock. NPS photo.
Eric Benson killed plane crash Alaska
Eric Benson. Photo courtesy of the Benson family.