CAL FIRE plans to purchase up to 12 Sikorsky S-70i firefighting helicopters
(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.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department announced that they are going to purchase two additional Firehawk Helicopters. Adding two to their fleet will bring the total number of Firehawks up to seven. The Department also has five Bell 412 ships — three are the EP model and two are HP.
The last two Firehawks LA County ordered are still being outfitted for firefighting and should be operational in the next two to eight months.
Two scooping air tankers on lease from Canada are due to arrive in the County September 1.
Michael Dubron, a helicopter pilot with Los Angeles County Fire, posted this impressive video shot during a drop on the Star Fire July 28, 2019. Mr. Dubron was flying a Sikorsky Firehawk, a variant of the Blackhawk converted for firefighting.
Firehawk helicopters are becoming more popular across the wildland fire services, especially in California.
A rather loose definition of a Firehawk is a Blackhawk, a Sikorsky UH-60 or S-70i, usually with an aftermarket 1,000-gallon external water tank for fighting fires, and a suction hose for refilling while hovering.
As far as I know most of the above ships will have external water tanks, which require installing a longer landing gear to raise the ship, making room for the belly tank. Coulson, on the other hand, is installing a version of their removable RADS tank internally, and at least one company, Simplex, for example, has built another version of a removable internal tank. The company had it on display last year in Sacramento and at HAI Heli-Expo in Atlanta today.
For the record, Sikorsky, the company that manufactures Blackhawks, does not support the use of an internal water tank in the ships. They are not worried about the floor being able to hold it, but are concerned that in the event of a hard landing the tank, especially when full, could pose a danger to the crew. A belly tank, their theory contends, would not threaten the crew as a projectile, but could crush under the aircraft, absorbing some of the energy — not unlike the crumple zone in the front of a well designed automobile.
Ventura County has purchased three military HH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and is in the process of converting them into FIREHAWKS that will be used for fighting wildland fires, personnel transport, search and rescue, law enforcement, and medical evacuation.
Ventura County Battalion Chief Gary Monday said heavy maintenance and minor modifications were completed on the aircraft at HSI Sikorsky in Huntsville, Alabama, then two of the helicopters were painted at the United Rotorcraft facility in Decatur, Texas. One of them is now being ferried to United Rotorcraft in Englewood, Colorado to receive navigation and communication systems, cabin interiors, and a 1,000 gallon external fixed water tank with a retractable snorkel system. The landing gear will be replaced with higher gear to enable the installation of the belly tank.
The military had the aircraft originally configured by United Rotorcraft as dedicated MEDEVAC helicopters with medical equipment and patient litter systems, some of which will be repurposed in the new FIREHAWK configuration.
Ventura County, in Southern California, has a joint Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department Aviation Unit. In addition to the FIREHAWKS, they have one Bell 206 Jet Ranger, one 212 HP, one 205B, and two UH-1A Hueys.
“We are a full service 24/7 operation capable of Night Vision Goggle rescues and firefighting”, Chief Monday said, “with three 375 simplex tanks for nighttime water dropping missions, S & R missions, LE missions, and anything else.”
In 2016 one of the Hueys, Copter 7, developed a mechanical problem while fighting the Pine Fire on the Los Padres National Forest. It had to be stripped down in order to transport it via truck on a route that included a tunnel with a height restriction.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Gary and Isaac. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The agency is replacing its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey firefighting helicopters.
CAL FIRE posted these photos today of a new addition to their fleet of helicopters.
A year ago the agency received approval to purchase up to 12 new firefighting helicopters, Sikorsky S-70i (Firehawks) from United Rotorcraft. These will replace its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey helicopters.