A 234 Chinook fighting a wildland fire near Cancun, Mexico.
The Ideal Fire Fighting Aircraft
Columbia Helicopters has specialized in the aerial application of water and chemical retardants on forest fires since 1967 using helicopters ranging in size from Bell 47G2s to the Columbia Model 234 Chinook. Columbia's current heavy-lift helicopter fleet consists of Columbia Vertol 107-II and Columbia Model 234 Chinook tandem rotor helicopters. Water buckets are matched to each helicopters' external lift capabilities. The Vertol 107-II carries an 1,300-gallon bucket and the larger Columbia Model 234 Chinook deploys a 2,650-gallon bucket.
The Ideal Fire Fighting Bucket
Columbia's fleet deploys to fires with the SEI Torrentula Bambi Bucket with Powerfill System. These buckets contain four high-speed pumps that can fill the buckets in less than 90 seconds, from sources as shallow as just 18 inches.
In addition to filling from traditional water sources such as lakes, ponds, rivers and oceans, these versatile water buckets can be filled from shallow streams and ponds. Slung 200-feet below the helicopter, Columbia's pilots are able to access tree-lined streams and ponds, backyard swimming pools, or other restricted-access water sources unavailable to tanked helicopters. Additionally, if no deep water is immediately available, pilots can dip from portable dip tanks which are easily filled by pumping water from nearby shallow streams. These 5,000-gallon dip tanks are equipped with wheels and can be pulled by pickup truck or slung by helicopter to reach the closest position to the fire.
When chemicals are needed to suppress forest fires, Columbia again has the answer. Short term retardant (foam) is kept in concentrate form in a holding tank onboard the helicopter. It is dispensed to the water bucket in exact proportions via a vinyl tube where it mixes naturally with water enroute to the drop zone. The pilot operates the system. Long term retardant can be mixed with water in Columbia's portable 5,000-gallon dip tank.
Once the aircraft is over the fire, Columbia's pilots are able to drop the water in a variety of ways that best meet the needs of the ground fire fighters. The pilots can create a massive fire line by partially opening the bucket while in forward flight; they can open and close the gate to deploy a series of spot drops; or they can hit those stubborn hotspots with a precision, massive spot drop.
Bubble windows on both the pilot and copilot's side facilitate quick pickup, and provide a full view of the drop area to ensure obstacle clearance and enhance safe load delivery. Once over the location, the load is placed precisely over the designated target, and the pilot electrically opens the bucket's gate.
The Economical Fire Fighting Aircraft
With it's speed and massive water bucket, the 234 Chinook has the lowest cost per gallon delivered to a fire of ANY fire fighting aircraft.