USFS restores 4 helicopters previously cut

Helicopters on contract, 6-19-2012
Firehawk helicopter
Firehawk helicopter. Photo by Bill Gabbert

In 2011 the U.S. Forest Service had 34 helicopters on national contracts and even though their request for proposals for this year was for 34, they only awarded contracts for 30. The agency cut the helicopters formerly based at Alturas, CA; Oakridge, OR; Orland, CA; and Porterville, CA.

Today the USFS announced they changed their minds and decided to award an additional four exclusive use national contracts for helicopters. They will be:

  • Two S-61s owned by Siller Helicopters of Yuba City, Calif.;
  • One S-64 Skycrane owned by Erickson Air Crane of Central Point, Ore.;
  • One S-70 (Blackhawk) owned by Firehawk Helicopters of Leesburg, Fla.

Here is the updated list of USFS helicopters on exclusive use national contracts for 2012:

Helicopters on contract, 6-19-2012

All of these helicopters are Type 1, which requires a minimum capacity of 700 gallons, except for the eight K-Max ships which can carry only 680 gallons according to the capabilities listed on two of the K-Max contractors’ web sites. The K-Max has about 25 percent of the capacity of an Aircrane and the cost is also about 25 percent. The USFS pays $1,924 per flight hour for a K-Max K-1200 compared to $7,718 for a CH-54/SK-64.

The National Interagency Aviation Council study that was approved by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group in July, 2008 recommended that there be on exclusive use contract in 2012, 34 Type 1 helicopters, 47 Type 2 helicopters, and 100 Type 3 helicopters. The same study recommended that by 2012 there should be 23 large air tankers plus 3 water scooper air tankers on contract, for a total of 26, and by 2018 a total of 35 air tankers (32 plus 3). Currently we have 9 large air tankers on exclusive use contracts with 3 more to be added by the end of this year, and 4 additional in 2013.

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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. Google+

7 thoughts on “USFS restores 4 helicopters previously cut”

  1. Thank You Bill G.
    It’s refreshing to have someone just tell the truth..I’ve been a Temp for the FS since 1978. I love the USFS, I love it’s mission, it’s management that talks out of both sides of their mouths and not really know what’s happening. I will continue to follow your blog and receive the truth..Thanks again..M. Dugan LSC2 from Northern Rockies

  2. What becameof the two surplus Cobra gunships they had outfitted with infared cameras a few years ago?

    1. Chris, the last I heard in 2010 the two “Firewatch” Cobras were stationed in Redding, CA and outside Boise, ID at Lucky Peak Helibase. Maybe someone has an update for us.

  3. Wonder how much those contracts cost for those rotar wings? Maybe just throw a jump ship platform on top of that…

  4. Firewatch 509 (aka Air Attack 509) is currently assigned to Fox Air Base, Lancaster, CA. Most recently, 509 flew missions on the George Fire (SQF) and Ozena Fire (LPF).

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