In California, more than 16,750 firefighters are battling the 29 major wildfires that have burned a total of 3.3 million acres across the state. The record-breaking temperatures and lack of rain have exacerbated these conditions and are not expected to improve any time soon.

United Rotorcraft, a division of Air Methods Corporation, and Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, have delivered five new S-70i™ FIREHAWK® helicopters to California fire agencies: two in Los Angeles County and three that Cal Fire is using at their bases in Northern California. The multi-mission S-70i brings improved engine power, greater maneuverability and lift at high altitudes, reduced pilot workload, and a newly designed 1,000-gallon (3,785-liter) external water tank.

Greater lift, power and safety: The S-70i aircraft’s more powerful GE-701D engines, wide chord composite blades, four-axis fully coupled flight controls, helicopter terrain awareness warning system, and integrated digital cockpit give the new FIREHAWK® helicopter increased maneuver capability and safety margins, improved performance and enhanced vertical rate of climb following water drops. Other improvements include increased airframe and seat crashworthiness, and an integrated health and usage monitoring system.

Multi-faceted fire attack: The S-70i can carry 12-14 firefighters in the cabin, and be immediately available to siphon and drop water in different configurations, perform a hoist rescue or provide medical transport. A new control mode enables the pilot to quickly open/close the tank doors to extend a water drop along a fire line.

Multi-function cyclic: Depending on the mission, the pilot can use the same finger controls to operate the water tank, the rescue hoist, the cargo hook, and long line operations with water bucket.

New tank features: The Kawak Aviation Technologies water tank is rated for aggressive flight characteristics, such as 4 g turns with a full load of water. Other improvements include an auto water snorkel reel system, a refill pump that siphons 1,000 gallons in 45 seconds (vs. 60) while hovering, a cockpit display showing tank fill status and diagnostic feedback, and an internal tank spray wash to prevent cross contamination of invasive species between water sources. 

Firefighters are working tirelessly to put out these fires across the West Coast and Air Methods remains steadfast in their commitment to doing everything they can to support them during this tragedy.

Check out the Cal Fire Instagram to see photos of firefighters in action and to learn more about how you can help.