After four decades operating Bell UH-1F Hueys, (1981-1990) and UH-1H Super Hueys, (1990 to present), California’s state fire agency, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, (CAL FIRE), has begun a long anticipated upgrade to their aviation program.
The Sikorsky S-70i FIREHAWK was chosen to carry on the agency's aerial firefighting legacy. A total of twelve FIREHAWKS will be acquired over the next couple years as the Hueys are phased out.
The first CAL FIRE HAWK was delivered in October 2019 and designated Copter 903. It was publicly showcased as a static display at the January 2020 HeliExpo. Today it is based at the CAL FIRE aviation headquarter facility at Sacramento McClellan Airport and serves as the first of what will be two maintenance spares for the new fleet.
The first fully operational CAL FIRE HAWK, (Copter 205), entered service in July 2020 with CAL FIRE’s Tehama Glenn Unit at Vina Helitack Base. The second fully operational FIREHAWK, (Copter 404), is assigned to the Columbia Helitack base.
With two more aircraft expected by early 2021, it is likely four CAL FIRE HAWKS will be operational for the upcoming fire season. It is projected the balance of the new fleet will be operational by spring/summer of 2022.
This is Copter 903 during a training exercise with Columbia Helitack. It is being utilized, along with the new Columbia aircraft, to facilitate the transition training for the Helitack crews.