Rainier and Kaman team for California fire-fighting

Rainier and Kaman team for California fire-fighting 30 Aug, 10, Source: Rainier Heli-International

Rainier Heli-International, based in Kirkland, Wash., recently helped to contain a major wildfire in California’s Sequoia National Forest with a company-owned and operated Kaman K-MAX® cargo helicopter.  The blaze, named the Bull Fire after it began on July 26, consumed nearly 16,500 acres of national forest lands by the Kern River northeast of Bakersfield.  The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, known as CAL FIRE, assigned hundreds of ground-based fire fighters to the southern California area before the fire was contained in early August.

Rainier’s K-MAX®, flying under a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) contract from Kern Valley Airport, utilized its unique heavy lift capability and proprietary 700-gallon water tank and snorkeling system to drop hundreds of tons of water on the flames, assisting ground crews to contain the wildfire in about a week.

According to Richard “Lash” Larew, Rainier’s executive vice president, the company’s K-MAX®, currently based in Casitas, Calif., near Ventura, flies exclusively each year for the USFS from July to December, peak fire season in the western U.S.  “We’re on call 24/7, and completed the equivalent of an average month of flight hours in a week on the California fire,” said Larew.  “The USFS directs us to locations to handle initial attacks, and we fly up to seven or eight hours a day in some cases.”

Rainier vice president Steve Wright added that the K-MAX® has an excellent readiness record.  “The USFS classifies the K-MAX® as a heavy lift, or Type I, helicopter.  Our availability is nearly 100 percent, and unlike other heavy-lift rotorcraft, our maintenance costs are much lower.  We usually operate with one pilot, one mechanic and one fuel truck driver,” Wright explained.  “The K-MAX® features a simple design and very reliable single engine, optimized for repetitive heavy lift. It exactly fits the mission profile the USFS needs for effective aerial fire-fighting.  Other helicopters have to adapt to the mission. For this kind of work and weight, day in and day out, the K-MAX® is hard to beat.”

Larew added that Rainier purchased its K-MAX®, Aircraft No. 19, more than a decade ago and initially used the helicopter to supplement its logging operations.  “We were one of the original purchasers after the K-MAX® was certified in the mid-1990s.  We considered other uses for the K-MAX® and moved into fire-fighting.  Our USFS contract is full-service, and includes the aircraft and crew. To win the USFS contract, we designed our own water tank and snorkel system that enables us to fill the tank in one minute from lakes, rivers, streams or portable water tanks when natural sources aren’t available.”  Rainier’s one-of-a-kind K-MAX® tank system utilizes water but can accommodate fire retardants or other additives.  In the off-season, the company uses the helicopter for other heavy lift missions in the U.S. and overseas, including construction, placement of power line towers and oil rig support.

“Kaman is delighted that K-MAX® operators are so successful,” said Terry Fogarty, general manager of Kaman Helicopters’ Unmanned Aircraft Systems Product Group.  “The success of our manned K-MAX® operations is a testament to our program, and we’ll continue to provide the support necessary to help maintain the nearly 100% availability rates that the K-MAX® fleet has enjoyed,” Fogarty continued.

Rainier Heli-International, a Halvorson Company, is based in Kirkland, Wash. Halvorson and its companies buy, sell and lease aircraft, operate aircraft touring and excursion services, lease heavy construction equipment and provide a variety of manufacturing and modification services to the aviation industry. Ranier owns and operates a K-MAX® cargo helicopter for fire-fighting and construction missions and leases more than 16 other aircraft to third-party operators.  To learn more about Rainier, call 425-825-8411 or go to http://rainierheli.com/.

Kaman Helicopters is a division of Kaman Aerospace Corporation, a subsidiary of Kaman Corporation (NASDAQ-GS: KAMN). Founded in 1945 by aviation pioneer Charles H. Kaman, and headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut conducts business in the aerospace and industrial distribution markets.  The company produces and/or markets widely used proprietary aircraft bearings and components; complex metallic and composite aerostructures for commercial, military and general aviation fixed and rotary wing aircraft; safing and arming solutions for missile and bomb systems for the U.S. and allied militaries; subcontract helicopter work; and support for the company’s SH-2G Super Seasprite maritime helicopters and K-MAX medium-to-heavy lift helicopters.  The company is also a leading distributor of industrial parts, and operates nearly 200 customer service centers and five distribution centers across North America.

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