Two new single engine air tankers are being designed

One version is expected to be available in 2021

October 3, 2020   |   1:45 p.m. MDT

Firecatcher F-45 air tanker
Firecatcher F-45. Firecatcher photo.

Three companies are collaborating to design and manufacture two new versions of single engine air tankers (SEAT).

A UK company, Arcus Fire, is coordinating the projects which are designed and built by two New Zealand companies, Flight Structures Ltd and Pacific Aerospace.

Firecatcher F-25 air tanker
Firecatcher F-25. Firecatcher photo.

Flight testing is scheduled to begin soon of the smaller of the two aircraft, the F-25, which is capable of carrying up to 660 gallons. It is a modification of Pacific Aerospace’s Super-Pac XL utility aircraft. The companies are working on CAA/CASA/FAA Certification and expect the air tanker will be available in 2021. It will be powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-140A engine.

Construction is in progress of a clean-sheet larger SEAT, the F-45, with a 1,188-gallon water or retardant tank. It will have a high wing and a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F engine. Initially it will be a Restricted Category aircraft, but eventually will be certified in the Standard Category with both cargo and passenger variants. The first flight is expected in 2023 with deliveries planned to start in 2024.

fuselage Firecatcher F-45 air tanker
A portion of the fuselage of the Firecatcher F-45. Firecatcher photo.

The cargo version will have a large cargo door with a flat floor cabin that can take three LD3 shipping containers with a 5,500 lb maximum payload capability. The aircraft will have a cruise speed of up to 190 knots (218 mph) and a 1,000 nautical-mile maximum range. The 19-passenger cabin will have full stand-up headroom and double abreast single-aisle seating.

FlightGlobal reported the pricing will be $4.2 million for the F-45 and $2.2 million for the F-25.

Firecatcher F-45 air tanker
Firecatcher F-45. Firecatcher photo.

Neither the F-25 or the F-45 are amphibious, but they can be outfitted with a scooping tube, or as Erickson describes it on their Air-Crane helicopter, a  “scoop hydrofoil attachment”. A Blackhawk operated by HP Helicopters also has one of these devices.

Erickson Air-Crane scooping
SDG&E’s Sunbird Air-crane helicopter, scooping water at Lake Hodges, shortly after it was delivered in August, 2010. SDG&E photo.

Empty water bucket contributed to New Zealand helicopter crash

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has determined that an empty water bucket contributed to the cause of a fatal helicopter crash on February 14, 2017.

David Steven Askin was piloting a helicopter for Way To go Heliservices working on a wildfire near Christchurch when it went down in the Port Hills.

Steve Askin
Steve Askin. Way To Go Heliservices photo.

The TAIC determined that a cable from the water bucket struck the tail of the Eurocopter AS350-BA.

The TAIC explained:

In the early afternoon, one of the helicopters, a Eurocopter AS350 ‘Squirrel’, registered ZK-HKW, crashed while the pilot was returning to the dipping pond to refill the firefighting ‘monsoon’ bucket. The helicopter was destroyed and the pilot was killed. Evidence shows that the likely cause of the crash was the empty monsoon bucket swung back into the tail rotor, damaging the tail rotor and causing the loss of the vertical stabiliser from the tail boom. After the loss of the vertical stabiliser, the helicopter gradually rolled to the right and descended until it struck the ground.

The TAIC’s investigation was aided by video from a camera mounted on the aircraft which showed the bucket swinging up toward the tail as the helicopter was enroute to a dip site.

Below is an excerpt from the Stuff website:

An abbreviated mayday call was heard by several pilots about 2.05pm, but it was not clear which radio frequency the call was made on.

The air attack supervisor asked for a role call of all aircraft involved. Askin did not respond.

After a brief search, another pilot found the wreckage of Askin’s helicopter on a steep slope near the head of a gully east of Sugarloaf.

According to TAIC’s report, the helicopter had struck a steep, tussock-covered slope. Main rotor strikes on the slope indicated the helicopter had tumbled further down the slope.

TAIC recommended several solutions, including using heavy ballast slings, and having someone monitor the operation from the ground.

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

Firefighting pilot killed in New Zealand helicopter crash

A helicopter pilot was killed February 14 while working on a fire in New Zealand. David Steven Askin was flying the aircraft at a wildfire when it went down in Christchurch’s Port Hills.

Mr. Askin was a pilot and instructor for Way To Go Heliservices, a company based in Rangiora, New Zealand.

Steve Askin
Steve Askin. Way To Go Heliservices photo.

Previously he had been a member of New Zealand’s Special Air Service, a special forces unit of the Army.  He served in Afghanistan and was wounded in a firefight with the Taliban after his unit came to the aid of Afghan police when they were attacked at the InterContinental Hotel in Kabul in a five-hour battle.

Police, the Civil Aviation Authority, and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission are investigating the crash.

There are reports that 15 helicopters were fighting the recent wildfires near Christchurch that have burned 600 hectares (1,483 acres).

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Askin’s family, friends, and coworkers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chris.

Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Helicopter crashes into New Zealand river

Helicopter crash Marlborough Fire New Zealand
A helicopter crashed while fighting a fire near Marlborough in New Zealand. Photo from Radio New Zealand.

A firefighting helicopter crashed into a river February 5 while attempting to fill a water bucket in a swift current.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Radio New Zealand:

A helicopter battling the Marlborough blaze crashed into the Wairau River about 11am, leaving the pilot in a stable condition in Wairau Hospital. The 47-year-old local pilot was refilling a monsoon bucket from the Wairau River at about 11am when the chopper went down, landing in shallow water. He was not seriously injured and was able to walk out of the wreckage.

Precision Helicopters chief pilot Matt Newton said the pilot was about 3m about the river when he got into trouble.

“Yeah, he just was loading the bucket out of the river and the river was flowing pretty fast and it pulled the bucket back and one of the ropes hooked around the back of his skid and he couldn’t keep up with it,” he told Checkpoint.

“It was just unfortunate but very lucky that he’s okay, that’s the main thing. We’re just grateful.”

Mr Newton said the pilot tried to untangle the rope but the strong river current dragged the bucket downstream and pulled the helicopter to the ground.

The crash scene is about 300m from the edge of the fire at Onamalutu, which has a perimeter stretching 11km.

There is a report that the helicopter was a Hughes 369HS.

The video below has a couple of still images of the helicopter. Even though the second annoying pop-up does not have a visible “X” which will remove it, hover your mouse over the box and the “X” will appear.

Another wildfire in New Zealand, west of Blenheim, was fought by 11 helicopters and 60 firefighters on the ground, according to a report by Radio New Zealand..

Note from Bill: I would be curious to hear any advice from helicopter pilots about filling a water bucket in a river with a swift current. Is there a safe way to do it? Is the length of the line an important factor in that situation? Have you ever tried to fly along with the current, or is that safe?

Thanks and a tip of  the hat go out to Nate.