This year’s Zhuhai International Air Show, which was held between November 6-11, saw Oregon-based Simplex Aerospace marketing its wares in the International Hall. The company is the world’s leading developer of rotorcraft aerial firefighting systems with over 30 models operating around the world today.
Within the past four years, Simplex has developed five new helicopter systems it brands as the Fire Attack, with one of them now operating in China. The 1,000 gallon (3,800 litre) Simplex Model 380A system with a retractable hover pump and a Model 580 SkyCannon has been designed for China’s fleet of 11 AC 313 fire-fighting helicopters.
They have been delivered to several locations across this huge country, although only one, (-002) has so far been upgraded with the SkyCannon. There are plans to integrate the system on to local EC225s too as they have in Japan. The SkyCannon was first delivered to Tokyo Fire in late 2015 and the company is in the process of adapting it to other helicopter platforms using their Fire Attack systems.
Back in June 2017, Mark Zimmerman, Simplex Aerospace President and CEO, stated, “The SkyCannon systems in both Tokyo and Beijing will help local firefighters to better manage high rise building fires. By being able to fight the fire quickly and at its source, a new level of safety will be available to residents of Beijing and Tokyo. It is Simplex Aerospace’s intention to supply our SkyCannon system on all Simplex systems that meet equipment size requirements for effective use.”
At Zhuhai, Zimmerman told the author, “The AC 313 has a significant amount of electrical power on board so it lends itself well to having more sophisticated equipment. Working with AVIC, has resulted in the systems being authenticated, and can provide multi mission activities to the helicopter.
There are two cameras on the AC313 system which are viewed on the MFDs in the cockpit. According to Zimmerman, “one is necessary to view the hover pump while filling and the other is to watch the doors during the water drop. AVIC designed the system, to take our camera output and put into the MFDs. They did a good job.”
You would imagine the SkyCannon might have a large recoil, but Zimmerman says it doesn’t. “You can’t even tell you are firing water. It’s a weapon system that doesn’t have a surge of propulsion. For electrical purposes we soft-spark the cannon, so we roll it up gradually to ensure the system isn’t hammered with electricity.”
Ten of the AC313s serve the Forest Armed Police, which is currently being reorganized. Simplex sells directly to the factory, but the US company installs and integrate the systems, then supports them.
Zimmerman went on “We have supplied fire-fighting systems, which comprise a hover pump and foam tank, for the Chinese Ka32s. We developed this system in 1993 for Lucky Goldstar in South Korea where there are about 80 of them. There are more than five Ka32s operational in China with Simplex Systems, with more inbound.”
All of the Simplex systems have a technical back-up system which collects data to measure how efficient the fire-fighting operation is. “It records how much water you take on, where you took it, where you dropped it off and the drop pattern. The data is used for command and control to see how well you are hitting the fire, what was the reaction, was there enough impact and whether a line needs to be built in front of the advancing flames.”
Collecting data from the Simplex systems and measuring it with the helicopter’s fuel loads and speeds provides more information to the agencies. The users can work out how efficient the operation is and try to reduce the cost of a gallon of water delivered to the fire.
The Chinese benefit from the work other countries’ agencies have completed and then they can assimilate. Zimmerman finished, “It works well for all of us.”