The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved the acquisition of two Sikorsky S-70is for the county’s fire dept. With a unanimous vote, the deal was approved at a value of up to about $29.4 million for the aircraft, and pilot and mechanic training. Up to some $21.3 million was approved for a lease term that is not to exceed 10 years.
According to the Board Letter, signed by Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby, the acquisition is part of a replacement program, proposed in July 2016. A 2015 Bell Helicopter 412 accident that resulted in loss of aircraft, followed by a “destructive string of wildfires” in 2016, prompted an assessment of the aircraft program, the letter said.
“The most relevant recommendation highlighted in this report was the need to increase the District’s wildland response and aerial firefighting capabilities by enhancing the fleet and staffing up to five S70 Fire Hawk helicopters on high fire hazard days,” the letter read. “The District has been operating Sikorsky S70a Fire Hawk helicopters since 2000 and the aircraft has proven to be the most effective firefighting and multi-mission capable aircraft available.”
Funding is to come from the Helicopter ACO Fund and LAC-CAL equipment financing, the letter continues. The district would also cover miscellaneous costs in the fiscal year 2017-2018 and fiscal year 2018-2019 operating budgets. Miscellaneous costs include items like inspection, training and travel. Mission equipment conversion work would be acquired through tender.
In 2001, the county purchased three new H-60Ls. They are still in service. The Los Angeles County Fire Dept.’s helicopters are equipped with a public service radio package, hoist, dedicated medical/search and rescue interior, a 1,000-gallan water drop tank and extended landing gear. The tank features a retractable snorkel system. The S-70i is the civil version of the UH-60M Black Hawk. It features a fully integrated glass cockpit, and is available in four standard configurations.