One could have been easily confused as to whether they were attending the right helicopter convention at this year’s Heli-Expo 2020 held in Anaheim, California in January. A look at some of the major helicopter exhibits could have easily confused an attendee that they might be attending an aerial firefighting show with the large number of key exhibitors that had brought along a firefighting aircraft to showcase as their centerpiece at this year’s show.
Sikorsky was a major player in the aerial firefighting presence, having a total of almost half a dozen aircraft that performed aerial firefighting missions on the convention floor. Featured aircraft that formed the centerpiece of their floor exhibit showcased the new CalFire S-70i along with sister ships from L.A County Fire and the San Diego City Fire Department on hand, all featuring an external tank fitted to each aircraft.
This in addition to aircraft on the convention floor that included a UH-60 from Firehawk Helicopters and multiple other exhibitors in the static aircraft displays featuring several other UH-60 models that also performed firefighting operations.
Not to be left out, one of the key exhibits on the floor of the Leonardo booth was one of the three Travis County (Texas) AW169 helicopters, which although a multi-mission municipal agency, mainly concentrates on EMS and aerial firefighting operations via Bambi bucket drops in Travis County.
Although Bell Helicopter featured no center stage aircraft in their convention space, there were plenty of Bell assets on display in the static aircraft section of the convention floor that included firefighting aircraft from Santa Barbara County, a UH-1H from Pinal County Arizona and even a legacy Los Angeles County Fire Bell 47 that is no longer flying, but has been brought back to a beautiful static display by the City of Los Angeles for use as a public relations tool.
One of the stars of the aerial firefighting displays at this year’s show was hard to get close to due to its unending line of curious onlookers, one of only two Airbus helicopters on display fitted with firefighting equipment, the belle of the ball being the mammoth AS332L1 Heli Austria “Firecat” fitted with the new Helitak Australia FT420 Firecat tank. Helitak Australia was another stand out exhibitor at Heli Expo this year with the FT4250, 1122 gallon tank debuting at this years show, along with the FT4500 fitted to a UH-60 from High Performance Helicopters on the floor and an additional tank on display for the AS-350 in display at the front of their booth.
Helitak has continued to produce multiple solutions for the aerial firefighting market that have displayed their intent to be a major player in the external tank market, now having tanks capable of being fitted to the AS350, S-58T, S-61, Bell 212/214 and 412 in addition to the new assets for the UH-60 and AS332 market. The company’s tank infrastructure also includes logic controllers that enable the pilot of an aircraft to monitor telemetry that includes hours of operation, water collection volume, pump operation time, door settings, water drop volume and GPS coordinates for drop locations with an impressive fill time of under 50 seconds, able to complete a drop in under 4.5 seconds.