Helimax Aviation Expanding Its McClellan Airport Base

In a major move to streamline its operations, Helimax Aviation is expanding its long-time base of operations at McClellan Airport, in Sacramento, with the opening of a renovated 40,000 square foot hangar, expected to be on line by late June or early July of this year.

The company, owned by Chris Turner, a Michigan-based entrepreneur, is engaged primarily in aerial firefighting, with offices in Boise, Idaho, as well as Sacramento.

“The hangar will help to facilitate our plan to put all of our firefighting helicopters and utility aircraft, including those operated by CHI Aviation—also owned by Chris Turner—under the Helimax Aviation flag,” explained Larry Kelley, Director of Fire Operations for both companies. “This will give our customers better support, and (delete) a central point of contact and dispatch capability to wherever our aircraft are needed.”

The hangar will be the heart of Helimax Aviation’s flight operations and maintenance, with space to accommodate offices for the Director of Operations, Chief Pilot, Director of Maintenance and other office personnel. “It will also enable us to increase our aircraft support capability,” said Kelley, adding that the building will be able to accommodate up to six medium size helicopters and one CH47D Chinook heavy helicopter, of which Helimax currently operates three. The company also flies five Bell 205A-1++, one Bell 212HP, two S-61s, and one AS332 Super Pumas.

Anticipating a busy fire season, Kelley reported that the three Chinooks are carded for service with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire), and the US Forest Service. The aircraft will be dispatched from McClellan under call-when-needed contracts. All other Helimax aircraft are under exclusive use USFS contracts, and are currently positioned at Salmon, Idaho, Ogden Utah, Chester, Kernville, and Trinity, California.

CHI Aviation is a member of the American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA), the Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing the interests of the privately operated aerial firefighting industry before Congress, the US Forest Service, and other Federal and State regulatory agencies.

Aerial Firefighter Claims First-Time Jet Tanker Deployment In Alaska

A Neptune Aviation Services BAe 146 tanker just became the first jet-powered aircraft engaged on a wildland fire in the State of Alaska.

The modified four-engine regional jet was dispatched by the Missoula, Montana-based aerial firefighting company to a tanker base at Fort Wainwright/Ladd Army Airfield, near Fairbanks, on May 20.  Since that time, it has been flying fire retardant missions on the “Seaton Roadhouse Fire” in the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, near Tok, a community along the Alaska Highway, close to the Canadian border.  The operation, itself, is being directed by the US Department Of The Interior’s Bureau Of Land Management.

“This is the first time we have deployed a BAe 146 tanker outside the lower 48 States, and the first time a jet-engine-powered tanker has operated on a fire in Alaska,” said Dan Snyder, Neptune Aviation Service’s Chief Operating Officer.  “Alaska’s fire risk is high, given the combination of dry weather and higher than normal temperatures for this time of year.”

The Alaska deployment of the BAe146–one of five modified BAe146s owned and operated by Neptune Aviation–“clearly illustrated the efficiency of the modern tanker, given its advantages of speed and range over the remaining legacy propeller-driven tankers which Neptune is phasing out, Snyder noted.  He explained that the tanker, which had been stationed at Cedar City, Utah, was ordered to Alaska by the National Interagency Coordination Center.  After stopping in Missoula to take on tooling and equipment for field support, the aircraft refueled near Seattle for the trip to Fairbanks.

“The BAe 146 showed that it can be quickly repositioned, and fly long distances from a remote tanker base to drop retardant,” said Snyder who pointed out that Ladd Army Airfield is situated some 300 miles from the Alaska fire, which has currently consumed over 300 acres.  “The BAe 146 also has the capability to fight multiple fires within a single sortie, which has been demonstrated during its Alaska deployment.”

Snyder added that aerial firefighting in Alaska presents a unique opportunity at this time of year.  “We can operate well into the evening due to the available daylight,” he said.

Neptune Aviation Services is a member of the American Helicopter Services and Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA), the Washington, D.C.-based trade association which represents the interests of the privately operated aerial firefighting industry before Congress, the US Forest Service, and other Federal and State agencies involved with wildland fire protection.