The US Forest Service has brought in some big Choppers from Columbia Helicopters to fight wildfires in the area. Currently based at Mcminn County airport, they are working the fires in the Cherokee National Forest. Last week they dropped over 100,000 gallons of water on fires across Signal Mountain near Chattanooga.
Columbia Helicopters is prepared once again to assist in battling wildland fires. The Oregon-based company has five aircraft under contract with the U.S. Forest Service this season, and more helicopters could be made available if needed.
“We have a long history of supporting Forest Service firefighting efforts with our aircraft, and are pleased that the US Forest Service recognizes the value of our flight personnel and fleet,” said Jim Rankin, president of Columbia Helicopters. “The new Simplex FAS tank system will allow us to fight fires in urban and forested areas.”
Among the aircraft on “Exclusive Use” (EU) contracts with the Forest Service are two CH-47D Chinook helicopters that are equipped with newly certified internal tanks that will permit the aircraft to fight fires in urban areas. The 2,800-gallon Simplex Aerospace tanks can be removed, allowing crews to switch to conventional buckets for firefighting if requested by the fire managers.
These tanks were custom developed in conjunction with Simplex Aerospace of Portland, Ore. While the tanks are the largest available for any helicopter fighting fires in the United States, Columbia maintains safety-first standards for all its operations. The Simplex Fire Attack System™ (FAS) tanks received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification in December.
“Our teams worked together to engineer and certify this system, and we are excited to bring these aircraft to the fire lines,” Rankin said.
The system consists of an internal 2,800-gallon water tank and a 140-gallon foam concentrate reservoir tank. Pilots use a 12-foot long hover pump to fill the internal tank, and can deploy the water or foam through a variety of drop or spread patterns.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) awarded Columbia Helicopters two EU contracts for the tanked Chinook helicopters beginning this year. The Forest Service also awarded the company three EU contracts for the company’s helicopters equipped with high-speed pump buckets.