Columbia Helicopters has over 50 years of aerial firefighting with its fleet of heavy-lift helicopters. The fleet can deploy to fires with the SEI Torrentula 2,600 gallon (9,850 litres) Bambi Bucket on the Columbia Model 234 Chinook or the Simplex Fire Attack Systems (FAS) on the Columbia Model CH-47D Chinook. The latter has a 2,800 gallons (10,600 litres) capacity.
Columbia’s Santiago Crespo, Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, spoke to Alan Warnes about the company’s fleet. “There are ten 234s, primarily for fire-fighting, oil and gas and for department of defense missions in Afghanistan.
“We have 13 107-IIs, all operational in different missions – a few in defense for troop transportation and a few for general lift, like logging. We used them for fire-fighting for many years but not anymore. We also acquired the Swedish KV107s, but they are not operational yet.
We bought 11 CH-47Ds from the US Army and have three which are operational, under our own type certificate. We made a few modifications. We removed the third crew member so that the helicopter can fly with only two crew members, and a couple of other modifications for tank integration with the cockpit. All three helicopters are on contract with US Forest Service. Two are equipped with the Simplex FAS system and one with the SEI Torrentula Bambi Bucket. They will be operating from Rifle, Colorado, Silver City, New Mexico, and Helena, Montana.”
The Columbia Model 234 Chinook was originally certified by Boeing in 1981. The type certificate was transferred to Columbia Helicopters in early 2000s and the company now owns the commercial model of the military CH-47 variant and the type certificate of the Model 107-II from Boeing, followed by type certification for the CH-47D in 2014. This allows Columbia to specialise in the design, manufacturing support and maintenance for all three helicopters.