On August 14 a Single Engine Air Tanker made a forced hard landing while working on the Horns Mountain Fire in Northern Washington. The pilot was transported to a hospital.
Air Spray USA, Inc, the company that owns the aircraft, stated:
The aircraft experienced an unknown problem on the fire it was working near the US/Canadian border. The pilot executed a forced landing on a logging road and was able to exit the aircraft. He was transported to the hospital. No other information is available at this time. An investigation is in process.
Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said on Twitter that the pilot is OK and receiving medical attention.
KXLY reported that the Department of Natural Resources told them the pilot survived the crash and was able to crawl to a nearby road to get help.
The aircraft was one of five amphibious FireBoss air tankers assigned to the fire Tuesday.
The lightning-caused fire has burned 832 acres in Washington southeast of Christina Lake, BC since it started August 11.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Robert. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
Above: One of Washington DNR’s UH-1H helicopters. Washington DNR photo.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is getting their fleet of eight helicopters ready for the coming wildfire season. The agency began acquiring their military surplus UH-1H (B-205) ships in 1989.
The DNR started their helicopter program in the 1960’s with two Bell-47’s used for recon and carrying a 50-gallon water bucket which was designed by one of their pilots, Harold Clark. By the mid-1970’s the Kaman Husky, which could carry up to 450 gallons, replaced the Bell-47’s. Those six Kaman’s were phased out in the late 1970’s due to a shortage of spare rotor blades and the availability of the more reliable and faster Huey UH-1B, which were replaced by the UH-1H about 10 years later.
The agency now has a program manager, one helicopter coordinator, 11 U.S. Forest Service certified helicopter pilots, 6 aviation maintenance technicians (AMT) who maintain, and configure the aircraft, and one chief pilot who leads the team. Usually 7 helicopters are deployed, with one held in reserve as a spare.
All of the pilots have current Class II Medical Certificates and FAA Commercial Rotor Wing Certificates. Many maintain an FAA Certified Instrument Instructor rating and Airline Transport pilot certification.
In addition to the pilots and mechanics, the staffing includes one transportation supervisor, 7 helicopter managers, 7 squad leaders, 14 firefighters, and 8 support drivers. All helitack modules have an incident commander. Generally they stage at Omak, Deer Park, Dallesport, Pomeroy, Wenatchee, Colville and Olympia.
Below is an excerpt from an article at Spokesman.com:
The department pays for fuel, operations and maintenance, which works out to about $1,600 an hour when they fly.
Dropping water on forest fires can be rugged work. But while these “Hueys” are old – the most senior helicopter in the DNR fleet came off the factory line in 1963 and did two tours in Vietnam, where it was shot down twice – they’re extremely reliable and spare parts are plentiful.
An RC-26 from Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane is assisting with situational awareness in the firefighting effort.
Above: An example of an RC-26, in this case a Texas Air National Guard aircraft. ANG photo.
(Originally published at 1:52 p.m. MDT August 16, 2017)
A military plane frequently used for supporting Special Forces is assisting wildland firefighters in Washington and Oregon. The Fairchild C-26 “Metroliner” twin turboprop from the 141st Air Refueling Wing was activated by the National Interagency Coordination Center on August 12 to perform up to three different types of missions using its array of infrared and video sensors.
Detect new fires, especially following lightning events. One of the goals is to find small fires early so they can be attacked before growing large.
Map existing fires, usually at night, to determine the perimeter and intensity.
Downlink live video to inform fire managers about the current status, location, and behavior of the fire. The Air Force calls that process “DRTI”, Distributed Real-Time Infrared.
Lt. Col. Jeremy Higgens, one of the pilots on the aircraft that requires a three-person crew, told us today that so far on this assignment they have been mapping and detecting fires, but have not yet been asked to stream any live video like they did when on a similar assignment in 2016. On the ground two displays are available, the video from the sensors and another with a map showing the location of the aircraft or the sensors’ target.
The plane is expected to work the fires seven days a week, so they brought a total of five people to provide daily service.
Lt. Col. Higgens said the infrared sensors can detect a fire that is 50 to 80 miles away. They have been flying one to two sorties a day each lasting for three to five hours. Their mapping data is sent to Geographic Information System (GIS) operators in Portland or Boise who analyze it and produce maps.
Two State of Colorado Pilatus PC-12 Multi-Mission Aircraft with similar capabilities were also mobilized earlier this summer to assist with wildfire detection and mapping and are currently operating from Redding, California and Missoula, Montana.
A couple of decades ago the U.S. Forest Service had a variant of the RC-26, a Swearingen Merlin affectionately known as a Flying Culvert outfitted with infrared equipment for detecting and mapping fires. Now they operate a King Air turboprop and a Citation jet for that mission.
In dramatic fashion, the helicopter was forced to hover over the tarmac while firefighters cobbled together a landing platform out of wooden palettes, The Yakima Herald reported. Some crew members and passengers jumped out of the helicopter while it hovered.
Below is the Rapid Lesson Sharing report from the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center. It is told from the perspective of the Helicopter Manager.
Operations had us go up and do some recon. One of the fires in the Complex was picking up and had spotted. We were going to check that out.
About five minutes after taking off, I look down and there’s a snake looking up at me. He’s by my right foot pedal, crawling out just inches from my foot. Right before the flight, I’d been talking to a local landowner about rattlesnakes—so that’s my first thought.
I pull my foot back from the snake and it crawls into the helicopter’s clear “chin bubble”. It looked to be about 12-18 inches long with diamonds on its back—like a rattlesnake. But I couldn’t see its tail.
I say to the pilot: “I don’t want to freak you out.”
“I got a snake by my feet.”
“Yeah, it’s for real.”
Can’t Do Mission Due to Snake in Helicopter
I radio Operations and Helibase to inform that I can’t do the mission due to a snake in my helicopter.
As we return to Helibase, there is a suggestion. Apparently, the fuel truck driver likes snakes, so maybe he could get it out and we could take off.
I decide, no. Let’s not try to do that with rotors running.
So we land and shut down. The snake now slides into a hole in the cowling under my seat. While we are looking for it, he pokes his head out a few times—and retreats back inside the cowling.
Not a Rattlesnake
One of the guys gets a look at the snake’s face. He says it’s not a rattlesnake. He says it could be a bull snake; they also have diamonds on their backs. We’re informed that most of the rattlesnakes in this area are timber rattlers. So we figure this one is probably a bull snake.
Can’t Find Snake—Decide to Put Helicopter Back in Service
We pull the helicopter apart trying to find the darned snake—but we never do locate it. We make the decision to put the aircraft back in service—even though the snake could be anywhere.
So, how did the snake get into the helicopter? We think it either crawled up the long line into the belly, or was hiding in someone’s line gear or in the bucket bag when we loaded it. (A SAFECOM was filed on this incident, #15-073).
Eight Days Later, Snake Crawls Out Again
Eight days later, while the relief pilot is in flight, the snake crawls out again.
The pilot lands and the fuel truck driver grabs it. It is confirmed to be a bull snake. It is released unharmed.
Submitted by: Brad Mayhew, Damen Therkildsen, and Patrick Romportl with support from the Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group.
A shortage of pilots is grounding some of the Washington DNR helicopters.
The acting Chief Pilot for the Washington Department of Natural Resources said a shortage of pilots is grounding some of their helicopters. The DNR has eight UH-1 Hueys in their fleet and their goal is to have at least six operational at any given time during the fire season.
The National Park Service announced on its Facebook page on Friday than an unmanned aircraft system, otherwise known as a drone, took a test flight over the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park to gather infrared data.
An operational test of UAS on the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park took place recently. Learn more about the purpose of the flights and check out the footage.
Unmanned Aircraft System was a Success on the Paradise Fire
For the past week an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was utilized on the Paradise Fire. The system was demonstrating possible applications in wildland fire management and suppression. UAS’s can supplement manned aircraft, especially at times of reduced visibility due to smoky conditions and at night when manned firefighting aircraft may be limited in flying.
The primary goal of the UAS on the Paradise Fire was to gather infrared information. This information assisted fire officials in pinpointing the fires perimeter and identifying areas of intense heat. The extremely large old growth trees in the area of the Paradise Fire create a thick canopy that makes mapping the perimeter and observing hotspots from the air very difficult without infrared capabilities.
This was an operational demonstration provided by Insitu, Inc. with no direct cost to the government. The demonstration was one of a series of ongoing missions to further UAS use on wildland fire in national parks and is part of an interagency strategy for UAS integration into wildland fire support. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allowed the use of their land for the aircraft launch and recovery site. The purpose of the demonstration was to show the capabilities and effectiveness of unmanned aircraft technology on wildland fires. The ultimate goal for UAS use on wildland fire is to supply incident management teams (IMT) with real-time data products, and information regarding fire size and growth, fire behavior, fuels, and areas of heat concentration. Additional applications, such as search and rescue and animal surveys, may be explored.
As the fire season continues and more wildfires burn throughout the west, manned aviation resources are spread thin across the country and have become very difficult to acquire. In addition to supplementing aerial resources, UAS’s are quieter than manned aircraft, use less fuel, and present a much lower risk to employees.
This was not the first UAS to be flown in the Olympic National Park. The park partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey in 2012 to monitor sediment transport in the Elwha River as part of the Elwha restoration project using a Raven UAS.
The ScanEagle UAS that was flown on the Paradise Fire weighed approximately 50 lbs with a wingspan of 10.2 feet. The UAS was only operated within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporary flight restriction (TFR) area. The TFR has been lifted.
A helicopter working on the Blue Creek Fire 10 miles east of Walla Walla, Washington, had a mechanical failure while in flight Monday evening, according to the Union-Bulletin which quoted Heather Lee of Walla Walla County Emergency Management. The pilot autorotated the helicopter and walked away from the incident. He refused to be transported to an hospital, Ms. Lee said.
Autorotation can be used when there is a loss of engine power in a helicopter. It is a state of flight where the main rotor system turns by the action of air moving UP through the rotor, rather than engine power driving the rotor, forcing air down. With the right pedal and the collective property configured, the main rotor will continue to rotate and the rate of descent and direction of flight can be controlled. When nearing the ground the pilot will flare the aircraft producing, hopefully, a fairly soft landing, that may include sliding on the skids for a bit.
Congratulations to the pilot for successfully executing the maneuver.