PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- The summer of 2009 has been another season fighting inferno for Erickson Air-Crane, manufacturer of the world-renowned Helitanker and heavy-lift helicopters. As an essential tool for the Forest Service, the Aircranes are credited for helping contain several wildfires and are now hard at it on some of the worst fires of the season.
In Southern California, four of Erickson's Helitankers are on the scenes battling several deadly wildfires which are raging out of control, consuming homes and forcing thousands of evacuations. In previous weeks, they have already helped put out wildfires in Washington State, Greece, and British Columbia and will soon be to Australia for the bushfire season that is soon approaching.
"Our helicopters do so many things, from heavy lifts atop tall buildings, power line construction and logging to fighting wildfire and emergency response," said Udo Rieder, President and CEO of Erickson Air-Crane. "But clearly our busiest time, where speed is of the essence and our dispatch crews work around the clock, is in response to the many wildfires that burn out of control in so many parts of the world. It is also the most harrowing flying for our pilots and crews and the most rewarding for all of the Erickson employees - knowing that we really do make a difference saving lives and property."
In California, where several wildfires have burned from the northern part of the state to Southern California, the Aircranes have been a critical part of the Forest Service arsenal. Four Aircranes are making sortie after sortie, dropping millions of gallons of water and retardant on the fires and clearly making a difference. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency. Erickson's Aircranes are stationed in Southern California and several other parts of the country under annual contracts with the U.S. Forest Service as well as the city and county of Los Angeles.
"Our helicopters will be there working in concert with the ground fight until the last embers are extinguished," said Rieder.
The Aircranes suck up water from specially designed hoses while hovering over water as shallow as 18 inches, from creeks, lakes or even swimming pools. "Our patented sea snorkel allows the tanks to be filled without the need to slow down as the helicopter flies over the larger bodies of fresh water or the nearby ocean. It takes less than 40 seconds to fill the tank and then it's off for another drop.
"These are really incredible machines. Erickson transformed the heavy-lift helicopters into specialized firefighters in the 1990's and have been making a tremendous difference in the firefights ever since," Rieder added.
In the Pacific Northwest, --- Aircranes helped put out fires in central Washington State, about midway between Seattle and Spokane and in southeast Washington where nearly a hundred homes were threatened and a landmark restaurant destroyed.
In Canada, three Aircranes battled blazes in British Columbia. One helicopter, nick-named Elvis, was urgently called away from a demonstration at the country's largest air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and sent to join two other Aircranes already battling fires in Canada. It is the most activity Erickson has seen in British Columbia in ten years.
In Greece, five Aircranes have dropped nearly five and-a-half million gallons of water on fires burning out of control near Athens. They have been in Greece since mid-June. The country has had devastating fatal fires which have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses and threatened the heart of the Greek capital. The Aircranes fighting the fires in Greece have been featured in news photos and video around the world. The fires in Greece are out now and damage assessments are underway.
"These fires had the most raging flames we've seen in a long time," said Jeff Zuill, project manager in Greece. "The winds caused a great deal of angst and made for considerable turbulence as we were dropping water on the flames. The winds also pushed the fires close to our operating base which was quite worrisome. Luckily the winds died down and our water drops along with the ground fight had the fires contained."
In Australia, Erickson Aircranes and their crews are given hero status for the work they have done helping to contain devastating bushfires. In February, the infamous Black Saturday fire killed 173 people and burned more than two-thousand structures. Later this year, six Erickson Aircranes will be sent to Australia where bushfires are an annual threat to lives and property.
When the Aircranes are sent overseas, they are either sent by ship or by air in the cargo hold of the Russian giant Antonov AN-124, the largest cargo plane in the world.
Erickson Air-Crane has seasonal firefighting contracts with the U.S. Forest Service, Los Angeles City, and Los Angeles County Fire Departments. Internationally, Erickson has contracted with Australia for yearly employment of five Aircrane Helitankers and with the government of Greece for the seasonal use of five Helitankers. Since development of the tank system in 1992, Erickson Aircrane has sent the Aircrane Helitankers to battle wildfires in 11 countries including the United States and Canada.
About the company:
Erickson Air-Crane Incorporated is the manufacturer and operator of the S-64 Aircrane Helicopter with a fleet of seventeen S-64 Aircrane helicopters worldwide that have operated within sixteen countries since 1971. With a lift capacity of up to 25,000 pounds (11,340 kg), the Aircrane is unsurpassed in performance of Firefighting, Civil Protection, Hydromulch Application, Timber Harvesting, and Power line Construction. Erickson Air-Crane is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certified Repair and Overhaul Depot with a comprehensive manufacturing, maintenance, and repair capability. Erickson's worldwide fleet of S-64 Aircranes are supported and maintained from the manufacturing facility located in Central Point, Oregon, and the corporate headquarters located in Portland, Oregon, USA.
Firefighting with the Erickson S-64 Aircrane Helitanker
Our unique and versatile S-64 Aircrane Helitanker features a 2,650 gallon (~10,000 liter) tank with microprocessor controlled tank doors that allow for 8 different coverage levels. The microprocessor actually adjusts for airspeed and opens the tank doors to allow for a flow rate that matches the particular coverage level selected by the pilot. The Helitanker has received certification and approval from the United States Interagency Airtanker Board, which means that the fixed tank on the S-64 Aircrane firefighting helicopter conforms to the same criteria as tanks installed on fixed wing aircraft. Considering the fast refill time of 45 seconds in a water source within a mile of the fire, the Helitanker is capable of delivering up to 30,000 gallons (~114,000 liters) of foam mix, retardant, or water, per hour, to the fire. A special "Sea Snorkel" augments the freshwater fill capabilities of the hover snorkel by refilling the tank in nearby salt water sources as well as fresh water sources. Refill with the Sea Snorkel is accomplished by skimming above the water surface at 35-45 knots as the hydrofoil ram scoop forces water up and into the tank. With the Sea Snorkel, refill can be accomplished in 30 seconds.
The United States Forest Service (USFS) continues to call on Erickson's Helitanker firefighting services. In California, Los Angeles City and County agencies continue to keep a Helitanker in service through Shared Resource and Exclusive Use contracts. Other U.S. agencies have called on the Erickson Air-Crane Helitanker when they were in need of fast and precise suppression of threatening wildfires. These agencies include:
- California Department of Forestry
- Minnesota Department of Forestry
- Oregon Department of Forestry
- United States Federal Bureau of Land Management (USFS)
- National Parks Service
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- National Interagency Fire Center(NIFC)
Worldwide agencies contracting Helitanker fire suppression services include:
- Ministry of Civil Protection, Italy
- Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Australia
- Ministry of the Interior, Greece
- Korea Forest Service, Republic of Korea
- British Columbia Forest Service, Canada
- Sultan of Brunei / Brunei Forest Service, Borneo
- Mexican Forest Service, Mexico
- Greek Fire Service
- Ministry of Civil Protection, France
SOURCE Erickson Air-Crane Incorporated