California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) has released images of their first Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk, including the one seen here. The helicopter has been built at the manufacturer’s plant at Mielec in Poland, and has been transferred to the United Rotorcraft facility for conversion to Firehawk standard. This primarily requires the installation of a 1,000-gallon (3,875 litre) water tank equipped with a snorkel system to facilitate refills in 60 seconds. It will also be fitted with extended landing gear, a medical interior and single-pilot cockpit. All of these features arm the aircraft for its role as a multi-mission firefighting tool.
The Firehawk features next-generation technology that provides specific benefits to firefighting operators. The digital glass cockpit with flight management system for improved situation awareness and precision hover capability using an enhanced global positioning system and an inertial navigation system. An integrated vehicle health management system monitors the aircraft’s operational health for preventive maintenance to detect anomalies for early repair.
Other vendors with interests in the CalFire Firehawk acquisition include Becker Avionics, Breeze Eastern hoists, and Kawak Aviation pumps. FX LLC are to provide on-site training, while simulator training will be provided by FlightSafety International.
The purchase of this Firehawk follows a decision by the California Assembly and Senate budget subcommittees approving the budget for up to 12 of the aircraft to replace the state’s aging UH-1H fleet over the next five years. Initially, CalFire have only signed on this one Firehawk.