An Erickson Air-Crane Press Release
"Elvis" Saves the Building"
Erickson Air-Crane Incorporated has been providing Helitanker firefighting services to the Australian Department of Natural Resources and Environment since December, 1997. In the last four years, the S-64F model Aircrane Helitanker has operated from a base at Essendon Airport near Melbourne in the State of Victoria.
In late December of 2001, a series of fires, some suspected to be arson related, sprang up around the suburbs of Sydney. It was December 27th, when N179AC "Elvis", and S-64F Helitanker, arrived by barge at Swanston Docks near Melbourne. By December 28th, the Helitanker was ready to begin it’s yearly contract with pilots Kenny Chapman and Grant White at the controls. Because of the immediate danger the fires presented, the DNRE immediately sent the Helitanker to Bankstown, 15 minutes from Sydney to begin fire suppression efforts in the most threatened areas.
From December 29 until January 4, "Elvis" waged what has become a much publicized war against the flames in Sydney saving an estimated 300 homes, according to news sources. Elvis was brought out to the Blue Mountain region of Woodford to stop the advance of a firestorm threatening a nearby small town.
On January 2, 2002, because of the increasing threat the fires posed and the predictions of more hot dry weather, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service requested the services of two more S-64 Aircrane Helitankers from Erickson Air-Crane. Erickson began immediately mobilizing and preparing two S-64E model Helitankers for the trip to Sydney.
To accomplish the move, Erickson contracted the services of an Antonov AN-124, the largest capacity transport airplane in the air today. The Antonov is operated worldwide by Antonov Airlines based in Ukraine, Russia, (Accurate statistics are available on the web) To prepare and package the helitankers for shipment, Erickson mechanics and crew removed the vertical struts of the two main landing gear legs and installed a special dolly system that raised and lowered the helicopter is it was fit inside the Antonov. The main rotors and tail rotors were also removed and packed for flight along with support pods for both helitankers and miscellaneous supplies and equipment. The entire process began at 7:00a.m. January 4, and ended with both helitankers packed with all of the support equipment by 2:30 a.m. January 5. Approximately four hours later, the Antonov departed Rogue Valley International Medford Airport bound for Sydney International airport. The flight would last approximately 28 hours including a rest and refueling stop in Hawaii along the way.
On the morning of January 7, the Antonov arrived at Sydney International Airport with N154AC "Georgia Peach" and N164AC "Incredible Hulk" inside. Upon arrival, news sources say that customs and inspection procedures were greatly expedited to allow for the two Helitankers to be cleared for flying in Australia as quickly as possible. After unloading, the two aircraft were taken to the nearby Qantas facility to accomplish reassembly and flight status.
The following morning, both helitankers, along with "Elvis" were assigned to an airbase in the town of Nowra, near Sydney. "Incredible Hulk" began immediately fighting the fires dumping an average of 30,000 gallons (~114000 litres) per hour on the fires near Shoalhaven. The following day, "Peaches" began her fire suppression efforts in the same area. "Elvis" had already been fighting the fires in the same region and had been reported by local news sources as assisting in ground firefighting efforts that saved a small coastal resort of Fisherman’s Paradise with a population of over 200 residents.
Statistics for all three Helitankers during the New South Wales Fires:
N179AC "Elvis" Dec 28th - January 13th
Flight hours: 64
Total Gallons Dropped: 1,136,650
Total Litres Dropped: ~4,319,270
N154AC "Georgia Peach" January 9th - 13th
Flight hours: 44.7
Total Gallons Dropped: 591,521
Total Litres Dropped: ~2,247,780
N164AC "Incredible Hulk" January 8th - 13th
Flight Hours: 41.4
Total Gallons Dropped: 823,920
Total Litres Dropped: ~3,130,896
*source, Erickson Air-Crane Flight Sheets
Notes to Editors
About Erickson Air-Crane Incorporated
Erickson Air-Crane began in 1971 with the lease of a Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane. The Skycrane was to pioneer the first successful use of the helicopter in aerial timber harvesting. Since that time, Erickson Air Crane has harvested timber in many areas of the United States, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Canada.
Since purchase of the Type Certificate in 1992, Erickson Air-Crane now manufactures, operates, and supports the largest fleet of Aircranes in the world (18). The S-64E has a lift capacity of 20,000 lbs (10 tons) at sea level and the S-64F, which was first manufactured by Erickson in 1993, has a lift capacity of 25,000 lbs (12.5 tons) at sea level.
With the addition of a 2,500 gallon (~9,500 litre) tank, flexible hose snorkel, patented hydrodynamic ram water scoop, and "Water Cannon" the S-64 becomes one of the most powerful and versatile fire suppression platforms in the world. Water, foam mix, or retardant can be delivered in 8 different coverage levels from microprocessor-controlled tank doors. A high volume snorkel system allows for refill in water sources as shallow as 18 inches (~45 cm). The Water Cannon delivers a horizontal stream of water or foam mix up to 160 feet (~49 m) at a rate of 300 gallons (~1,140 litres per minute).
The S-64 has performed as an airborne "Water Bomber" since 1971. Following introduction into the European market in 1999, Erickson Air-Crane has provided up to six Helitankers to Italy and two to Greece for four consecutive fire seasons. Australia has contracted Helitanker services during every fire season since 1998. This year in the United States, Erickson flew five Helitankers dropping over 7 million gallons (~26 million litres) on fires all across the western region including Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.