In Canada, competition for helicopter contracts is tough

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An article at laments the state of the charter helicopter industry in Canada. The slowdown in the economy has made competition for helicopter contracts fierce in the fields of wildland firefighting, mineral exploration, oil and gas exploration, and heli-tourism. Here is an excerpt from the article.

…With some 220 companies operating 1,752 commercial helicopters (a 34 percent increase since 2001), observers say there are now too many aircraft chasing too little work.


Wildland Firefighting

When it comes to wildland firefighting, contracts rates have been dropping as a result of the abundant supply of intermediate and medium helicopters idled by the decline in mining, oil and gas, and forestry work. For example, AS 350B2s were recently contracted by the Alberta government for $1,090 an hour and AS 350B3s for $1,290 an hour — when the normal casual-hire rates for these helicopters in the oil patch have been running in the $1,800- to $2,495-an-hour range.

When it comes to new innovations, a potential game changer is VIH’s Sikorsky S-61 helitanker concept: two were introduced to the B.C. Ministry of Forests last summer, before they were shipped to Australia for that country’s fire season. The S-61 helitanker concept features an Isolair 3,800-liter (1,000 US gallon) belly tank, which can be refilled in 40 seconds. B.C. has historically used fixed-wing retardant bombers and bucket-equipped helicopters, but the province is evaluating other options after incurring some extreme fire seasons in recent years.

“The S-61 has the ability to put more water on a fire per hour that other methods, said VIH’s Woytkiw. Another recent firefighting development is VIH’s selection of a Simplex water bucket for the heavy-lifting Kamov Ka-32, which Woytkiw called “bulletproof and very durable.”


Thanks Dick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.