Columbia Helicopters' Successes Leads to Work for Nevada Army National Guard
If you want to do something right, you need to go to the experts in that field. That's why Bravo Company, 1/189th of the Nevada Army National Guard (NVARNG) approached Columbia Helicopters for assistance in installing the SEI Torrentula Bambi Bucket with PowerFill System.
In doing so, the Nevada Army National Guard became the first military unit in the United States to outfit four of their Chinooks with the highly versatile fire fighting buckets.
"We already use the SEI Bambi Bucket," said SFC Don Gable, Flight Engineer and Standardizations Instructor with the Unit. "I started doing more research about other capabilities, and that led me to research the PowerFill System."
The Powerfill System essentially adds four high-volume pumps to the bottom of the Bambi Buckets that the Unit was already using below their Chinook helicopters. The pumps allow the bucket to be filled from water sources as shallow as 18-inches, provided there is adequate flow to fill the 2,000-gallon buckets.
With the buckets slung approximately 100-feet below the helicopter, the Powerfill System will allow the Unit's pilots to utilize water sources not available to tanked aircraft or those using conventional buckets, such as tree-lined streams or ponds.
Having noted Columbia Helicopters success on the fire lines with the same buckets, SFC Gable first approached Scott Ellis, Columbia's Director of Business Development, about 18 months ago.
"Columbia worked very closely with us through the entire process," continued SFC Gable. "From the R&D phase through the Air Worthiness Release."
"The first stage of our contract with them began with the engineering phase," explained Scott. "The field contracts came after all modifications to the airframe and electrical system were approved and blueprinted."
During the installation process, Program Manager Kirk Block and Electrician Ned Hager made the modifications to the airframe and aircraft electrical systems, installed the unit power pack and made approved modifications to the bucket as well.
One modification to the system in particular resulted from the different ways that Columbia Helicopters and the military coordinate external load operations. Since military Chinooks do not have the bubble windows that are common on Columbia's aircraft, military pilots rely on the Flight Engineer in the back of the aircraft to monitor and control filling the bucket, and then releasing the load over the fire. To accommodate this factor, Columbia worked with SEI to design special Flight Engineer controls that were placed next to the hook well in the back of the aircraft.
Kirk and Ned also installed SEI's "Sacksafoam" system on the bucket, which allows the Flight Engineer to add short term retardant - or foam - to the water in the bucket. Like Columbia's buckets, the NVARNG Chinooks will also be able to pick up long term retardant from batch plants at fires.
"Kirk and Ned took the time to check and double check their work on our Chinooks," added SFC Gable. "Their work exceeded our standards."
In all, Columbia Helicopters' provided the airframe and electrical modifications to four NVARNG Chinooks, with other military units interested in installing the PowerFill system onto their aircraft.
"We already have interest from 10 other states to conduct the same work on their Chinooks," said Scott. "We are also hearing that units operating the Blackhawk may be interested in our system as well."
"We are looking forward to expanding this line of work," said Todd Petersen, Vice of Marketing. "On the surface, it might appear that these aircraft will eventually compete with our helicopters. However, current regulations allow the use of military assets only after all commercial aircraft are already assigned."
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