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Helinet Aviation Services has announced its addition of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to California’s aerial firefighting fleet. The former U.S. Army helicopter is on standby at Van Nuys Airport to assist with firefighting missions under call-when-needed contracts with the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection — CAL FIRE. The aircraft is the first of several UH-60 Black Hawks that Helinet intends on operating in the aerial firefighting market over the next few years. The addition of this specialty equipped firefighting Black Hawk augments Helinet’s existing UH-60 MovieHawk, which has worked for the past four years in the motion picture and television industry.
Manufactured by The Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., the UH-60 Black Hawk cruises at 160 knots and is capable of lifting up to 8,000 pounds of external cargo. When using its Bambi PowerFill buckets it can drop up to 900 gallons of water and can be refilled in less than a minute. Through Helinet’s partnership with the Black Hawk’s two private owners — Brown Helicopter, Inc. and Anduze Helicopter — the aircraft is supported by a team of pilots, a fuel truck, back-up equipment and maintenance technicians.
As estimated in 2019, California experienced 7,860 wildfires that burned nearly 260,000 acres of land, damaged or destroyed 732 structures and took three lives. Helicopters are a versatile fire management tool used to rapidly douse flames on steep canyons, mountains and rugged terrains that are difficult for ground crews to reach. The UH-60 Black Hawk has the versatility to reach the low altitudes required for effective water delivery and hold flames in check during the early stages of a fire.
Helinet’s call-when-needed contracts cover Type 1 helicopters, which are the largest used on fires and must be uniquely equipped to meet federal specifications. While the pilot-in-command is required to hold a minimum of 1,500 flight hours, Helinet’s chief Black Hawk pilot has logged over 5,000 flight hours in type.
“At Helinet, helping save lives is our most important mission — from transporting critically ill children and transplant organs to local hospitals to providing turnkey mission solutions for airborne law enforcement and firefighting operations,” said company CEO Kathryn Purwin. “Every member of our team is committed to upholding the highest levels of safety while providing critical services to the community.”
In addition to aerial firefighting services, Helinet’s 14 CFR Part 133 and 137 certifications allow the company to perform a wide range of utility operations including aerial seeding, powerline/pipeline inspection and construction, aerial mapping and on-demand external load air service. Its large fleet of aircraft includes single and twin-engine helicopters capable of performing a diverse set of missions.
“We are pleased to expand our helicopter services even further by providing a broad range of utility services while continuing to grow the Helinet brand,” said Helinet’s president and COO Sean M. Cross. “The launch of this new division reflects our ongoing commitment of providing our clients with the most diverse, robust and reliable aviation solutions on the market.”