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Sikorsky makes its mark in US for fire departments and museum
The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department have each taken delivery of a firefighting Sikorsky S-70i.
Up to 12 ground firefighters can be transported in the Sikorsky S-70i.

Three California fire agencies have taken delivery of the Sikorsky S-70i: the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD), and the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Configured by United Rotorcraft with a newly designed 1,000-gallon water tank attached to the belly of the aircraft, extended landing gear to accommodate the tank, a retractable snorkel that can refill the tank in less than one minute and a rescue hoist, the Firehawk helicopters will allow fire crews to attack wildfires, transport up to 12 ground firefighters to the fire line and rescue firefighters and civilians when in need.

“We thank Cal Fire, the County of Los Angeles and the City of San Diego for their trust in the combined efforts of Sikorsky and United Rotorcraft to bring a life-saving aerial firefighting helicopter to the urban centres and forests of California,” says Jason Lambert, VP of Sikorsky global military and mission systems. “Their firefighters now have a powerful and proven helicopter that can attack fires at night, in strong Santa Ana winds, manoeuvre with agility and safety in canyons and terrain from sea level up to 10,000 ft altitude, while dropping water with tremendous precision and force.”

Cal Fire's newly acquired S-70i Firehawk helicopter is the first of nine aircraft currently on order, with an option for three more. Cal Fire and San Diego are both first-time operators of the aerial firefighting helicopter.

LACoFD has operated three S-70A model Firehawks since 2001. During the ensuing 19 years, the county has pioneered and perfected the tactics needed to suffocate wildfires in their early stage when a fire is most vulnerable, while working in close coordination with other aircraft and with firefighting crews on the ground. The county's new S-70i Firehawk aircraft is the first of two, more powerful and faster than the S-70A model, that LACoFD is adding to its fleet.

“With the increase in wildfire danger, the Firehawk has never been more relevant to the State of California,” explains Mike Slattery, president of United Rotorcraft. “This capability brings unmatched multi-mission capability to these firefighting agencies to protect lives and property.”

United Rotorcraft contracted with Kawak Aviation Technologies of Bend, Oregon, to design and manufacture the water tank to new specifications based on input from LACoFD. Among other equipment on each aircraft are a 600 lb external rescue hoist, a 9,000 lb cargo hook with load cell system, forward recognition lights and a high intensity searchlight. Avionics installations include tactical communications and navigation systems.

A Firehawk begins life at Stratford, Connecticut-based Sikorsky as an S-70i Black Hawk helicopter. United Rotorcraft then converts the twin engine aircraft to its aerial firefighting configuration.

Sikorsky is also donating an S-76 airframe to the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center. The airframe was delivered this week by employees from the Sikorsky Coatesville, Pennsylvania, facility where it received a make-over into its original VIP customer configuration in preparation for its new home.

The airframe was created to be a realistic full-scale static display helicopter to showcase the S-76D model before its release. During its lifespan, the airframe has travelled across the globe on tradeshow assignments and has also been displayed at educational STEM events. Most recently, this S-76 wore a different outer skin and was shown as Sikorsky's Autonomy Research Aircraft, nicknamed SARA. The helicopter helped educate people about Sikorsky's autonomy capabilities and MATRIX technology, which will allow future aircraft to operate with two, one or no pilots. Now that the S-76D helicopter has been in production for some time, the airframe will be put into a full-time educational role at the museum.

“We are so proud to support the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center, which is focused on the rich history of rotary wing aviation,” says VP of commercial systems and services Audrey Brady. “We have been proud partners of the museum since its inception and hope this addition to its display will further enrich the experience of its visitors and inspire the next generation into STEM careers.”

Museum executive director Allison Titman adds: “The S-76 is an exciting addition to our collection of aircraft. It will greatly enhance our ability to educate the public about the many civilian applications helicopters fulfil, and we know that our visitors will enjoy experiencing its superior level of exterior and interior finishes.”

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