With their arrival today at the Barton Heliport in Pacoima, the Los Angeles County Fire Department has two new Firehawk helicopters fully equipped and ready to go. Both of the ships, Helicopters 21 and 22, were converted by Colorado company United Rotorcraft into firefighting machines, with extended landing gear, 1,000 gallon firefighting tanks, and retractable snorkel systems. H-21 was in California last winter, went back to Colorado to finish the conversion, then came back with it’s sister ship, H-22, today August 4.
Now the LACoFD has 10 helicopters, 5 Firehawks and five Bell 412 ships.
Another new Sikorsky S-70i Firehawk has been delivered to CAL FIRE’s base at Sacramento McClellan Airport. John Vogel spotted it May 21, two weeks after Paul Filmer photographed it being flight tested at the Centennial, Colorado Airport. It is helicopter 205, N485DF, and “VINA” can be seen near the engines.
Today I found time to go through some of photos from the Helicopter Association International HELI-EXPO in Anaheim, California. Today, January 30, is the last day of the event that started on January 28. Most of the 60+ helicopters that are exhibited staged at the Fullerton Airport 6 miles northwest of the Anaheim Convention Center before flying to a parking lot just west of the Center.
At times there were dozens of helicopters parked at Fullerton waiting for their scheduled departure, occurring at 15-minute intervals. The convention center is across the street from Disneyland and the airspace is usually restricted over the Anaheim Resort District.
Many of the helicopters had to have their rotors removed before they were towed through one of four exhibit hall doors. The largest door is about 40 feet wide by 25 feet high. The pilots were told to arrive with “minimum fuel”, enough to return to Fullerton while abiding by FAA regulations. Towed-in aircraft had to be purged of fuel.
The 60+ helicopters will depart from HELI-EXPO Thursday, January 30, beginning at 4:00 pm following the conclusion of the show, and Friday, January 31 beginning at 7:00 am. Anyone wanting to observe may be able to get a view of the activity through a fence on S. West Street on the west side of the convention center.
San Diego Fire-Rescue is not the only department that is adding new Sikorsky S-70i Firehawk helicopters to their aerial firefighting fleets. The finishing touches are being applied to one for Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD).
This new aircraft, Helicopter 21 (N821LA) was photographed while it was being tested in Colorado (above) on November 16 by Eric Lama, United Rotorcraft’s program manager on the Firehawk.
On November 23, 2019, the day it was ferried to LACFD’s Barton helibase in Pacoima, California it was photographed again. Helicopter 21 departed from the Denver area at 6:15 a.m PST and arrived at Barton at 4:19 p.m. PST.
United Rotorcraft converted it into a firefighting machine with extended landing gear, a 1,000 gallon firefighting tank, and a retractable snorkel system. The FAA registration number is N821LA.
Another Firehawk purchased by LACFD is in the process of being converted at United Rotorcraft in Colorado and should be delivered in the Spring of 2020. The Department announced in July that they were going to buy two more.
So if you’re keeping score, they had three Firehawks, the one delivered last week brings the number to four, the one expected next Spring will make five, and considering the July announcement there will be a total of seven. LACFD also has five Bell 412 helicopters.
It takes one or two years, at least, for an S-70i to be manufactured, painted, converted into a Firehawk, and delivered. It can also take additional weeks or months for the receiving department to further outfit the aircraft and train personnel.
San Diego Fire-Rescue is adding a Sikorsky S-70i to their aerial firefighting fleet. After being retrofitted by United Rotorcraft it was delivered at Montgomery Field (map) November 23, 2019. It is now known as a Firehawk after being reconfigured with an aerial firefighting mission package including extended landing gear, a 1,000 gallon firefighting tank, and a retractable snorkel system. The FAA registration number is N283SD.
San Diego has two other firefighting helicopters, a Bell 212 (N800DM) and a Bell 412EP (N807JS) manufactured in 1980 and 2008, respectively. The Fire-Rescue Department has two registration numbers reserved to be used later, N281SD and 282SD.
In June, 2018 the S-70i was ferried from Sikorsky’s manufacturing plant in Coatesville, Pennsylvania to Decatur, Texas where it was painted in United Rotorcraft’s facility. The rest of the Firehawk conversion was done by United Rotorcraft in Englewood, Colorado.
All of the Firehawk photos above were taken by Eric Lama, United Rotorcraft’s program manager on the Firehawk.
The San Diego Police Department presently has four Eurocopter AS 350B3 helicopters manufactured in 2006 which they expect to replace in the foreseeable future at a cost of about $21 million, the LA Times reported November 20, 2019:
The City Council this week approved a five-year agreement with Airbus Helicopters to immediately buy one helicopter for $4.6 million and purchase three more for $5.5 million each before the deal ends in 2024.
City officials stressed that the council will be required to approve each of the additional helicopter purchases and that the purchases will be based on whether the city has adequate resources at the time.
The plan to replace all four helicopters is based on recommendations from a consulting firm that analyzed the city’s helicopter fleet in 2017.
San Diego PD will replace the four helicopters with Airbus H125s, which is basically an updated version of the 350B3.
(Above: CAL FIRE’s Firehawk helicopter 903 at Centennial Airport southeast of Denver on the weekend of October 5, 2019, shortly before it was delivered to CAL FIRE in Sacramento. Photo by Kevin Falkenstine.)
Helicopter 903, with “McClellan” painted on the side, will be able to carry up to 1,000 gallons of water in an external belly tank. Other features include a 9,000 pound capacity cargo hook, 360-gallon fuel cell, night vision compatible lighting, rescue hoist, augmented reality mapping system, and retractible drafting hose. It can cruise fully loaded at 130 knots (150 mph), or 150 knots (173 mph) unloaded.
Each of CAL FIRE’s new Firehawks costs about $24 million which includes pilot training and a two-year warranty.
The three photos seen here that were taken out of doors are by Kevin Falkenstine. He spotted the aircraft on the weekend of October 5 flying near the compass rose at Centennial Airport, which is where United Rotorcraft is located southeast of Denver.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jack. Typos or errors, report them HERE.