Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lodgepole Helicopter Fleet

The Helibase for The Lodgepole Fire is a busy place.   The Air Operations Branch is managed by Whalen's Type 2 IMT. The Branch is overseen by the NIMO Operations Section Chief, Curtis Heaton.

Here are the Staff currently assigned to Air Ops from Team Whalen:

- Air Ops Branch Director - Bill Hayes
- Air Tactical Supervisor - Ted Mason and Josh Fulton
- Air Support Supervisor - Eric Taplin
-Helibase Manager - Lee Stwart

Here is the Interagency Helicopter Operations Guide:

Nine helicopters are assigned to the fire as of the first week in August.  The helicopters are classified as Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3.  The Type 1 helicopters are the heavy lifters of the fleet and often see near continuous daily duty duty carrying the most water to the fire line.

Helicopters are classified according to minimum standards for payload or water-carrying capacity.  Here is a chart that shows the minimum for each category.
On The Lodgepole Fire, there are four Type 1 helicopters.  Three are Sikorsky C64E Sky Cranes and one is a K-Max 1200.  Two Sikorsky helicopters are operated by Erickson Air Crane and one is owned by Siller.  All Erickson Sky Cranes have individual names.  Helicopter #737 is "Malcolm" and #749 is "Marty."  The Siller ship (#783) does not have a name.

The specification of the C64E are impressive:

  • Payload: 20,000 lb (9,072 kg)
  • Length: 70 ft 3 in (21.41 m (fuselage))
  • Rotor diameter: 72 ft 0 in (21.95 m)
  • Height: 18 ft 7 in (5.67 m)
  • Disc area: 4070 ft² (378.1 m²)
  • Empty weight: 19,234 lb (8,724 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 42,000 lb (19,050 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-4A (T73-P-1) turboshaft engines, 4,500 shp (3,555 kW) each
Performance-wise, the C64's are also impressive:

  • Maximum speed: 109 knots (126 mph, 203 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 91 knots (105 mph, 169 km/h)
  • Range: 200 nmi (230 mi, 370 km) max fuel and reserves
  • Rate of climb: 1,330 ft/min (6.75 m/s)
Here is "Malcolm" sitting in the Helibase for The Lodgepole Fire.  Here's a great article where someone took a tour of Malcolm:

Here is a video of a crew member giving a Mom and Son a tour of the Malcolm's cockpit:
The Sky Cranes are easily one of the most eye-catching assets of any incident's aerial inventory.  Here's a great 9:33 video showing many different aspects of the usage of the Sikorsky:

The v-shaped attachment sitting under the payload bay of Malcolm is where the water is stored in transit to the fire line.  This tank can hold 2,650 gallons and can be filled in a couple of minutes by a complex pump at foot of the intake tube.  The contracted hourly rate for the C64's as of July 2013 is $7,840 per hour.  These helicopters use 525 gallons of fuel per hour.
Above is a Bell 212.  The Bell 212 Twin Huey (also known as the Twin Two-Twelve) is a two-blade, twin-engine, medium helicopter that first flew in 1968. Originally manufactured by Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas, production was moved to Mirabel, Quebec, Canada in 1988, along with all Bell commercial helicopter production after that plant opened in 1986.
The 212 is marketed to civilian operators and has a fifteen-seat configuration, with one pilot and fourteen passengers. In cargo configuration the 212 has an internal capacity of 220 ft³ (6.23 m³). An external load of up to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) can be carried.

The Bell 212 has a contracted rate of $1,998 per hour and uses 100 gallons of fuel per hour.
Here is a 4:14 video showing a short flight of a Bell 212:
Above is a Bell 206 L4. A smaller helicopter than the Bell 205, this aircraft is used to take recognizance flights, move smaller buckets of water and to fly special missions that may only need to move a few people at a time. The contract rate for the Bell 206 L4 is $1,028 per hour.  It uses the least fuel per hour of any of the helicopters--38 gallons.

Many of the helicopters serving The Lodgepole Fire are Bell 205's  Three are shown below on The Lodgepole Fire. The Bell 205 is used to transport crews, drop water and haul equipment. It's a high performance aircraft capable of hauling heavier loads in higher elevation, which makes it an ideal aircraft for the Lodgepole Fire.
Here is a five minute video of the start up and take off of a Bell 205:
The hourly contract rate for a Bell 205 ranges from $1,709 to $1,753.  These helicopters use 88-90 gallons of fuel per hour.
The Bell 205 is actually a civilian version of the Bell UH-1 (Huey) Iroquois single-engine military helicopters. They are type-certificated in the transport category and are used in a wide variety of applications, including crop dusting, cargo lifting and aerial firefighting.  Their design and use dates back to the mid-1950's
One of the helicopters (shown above) on The Lodgepole Fire is a K-Max 1200 We have added a photo from Wiki with a human to give some scale to this helicopter.  Note that the K-Max does not have a tail roto.  The helicopter is actually called a "Kaman synchropter."  The synchropter uses counter-rotating side-by-side intermeshing (combing) rotors, as the means to solve the problem of torque compensation, normally countered in single rotor helicopters by a tail rotor or vented blower exhaust.

The K-MAX has been called an "aerial truck" and is the world's first helicopter specifically designed, tested, and certified for repetitive external lift operations and vertical reference flight (Kaman received IFR Certification in 1999), an important feature for external load work. Other rotorcraft used for these tasks are adapted from general-purpose helicopters, or those intended to primarily carry passengers or internal cargo. The aircraft's narrow, wedge-shaped profile and bulging side windows gives the pilot a good view of the load looking out either side of the aircraft.
The K-MAX relies on the two primary advantages of synchropters over conventional helicopters. The first of these is the increased efficiency compared to conventional rotor-lift technology; the other is the synchropter's natural tendency to hover. This increases stability, especially for precision work in placing suspended loads. At the same time, the synchropter is more responsive to pilot control inputs, making it possible to easily swing a load, to scatter seed, chemicals, or water over a larger area.
For more information see:
The K-MAX contract rate is $1,836 per hour and it uses 85 gallons of fuel per hour.

The helicopter shown below at The Lodgepole Fire Helibase is an MD-900 that normally flies out of the Grand Canyon, Arizona.  This is the same helicopter the National Park Service uses for river and hiker rescues. The second photo below is from Wiki and shows N368PA in the air.  The initial production model of the MD 900 was powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206A (or PW206E or PW207E) turboshaft engines.  MD Helicopters can trace its lineage back to 1947 when it was a part of Hughes Aircraft.  Today MD Helicopters is separate business that is based in Mesa, Arizona.  The MD 900 has proven its utility in many rescue missions inside Grand Canyon.  The photo at left shows the MD 900 in action on one portion of complex short haul rescue of rafters stranded mid-river on the rock bar below Crystal Rapid in 2010.

Click here for the full story on that rescue mission.

All photos of helicopters on The Lodgepole Fire are courtesy of The USDA Forest Service.  We wish to Thanks Lodgepole PIO Robyn Broyles for her gracious assistance in preparing this article.

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