Public Service

San Diego Fire Gets First Black Hawk for Aerial Firefighting

By Amy Kluber | July 16, 2018
Send Feedback | @amykluber

Lockheed Martin San-Diego-Firehawk

San Diego Fire-Rescue Senior Pilot Chris Hartnell (left) and Chief Chuck Macfarland accepted the department's first S-70 Black Hawk helicopter in June from Sikorsky, six months after contract award. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Sikorsky has delivered the first S-70 Black Hawk to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department for modification and operation as a firefighting aircraft. The helicopter will begin performing aerial firefighting services as a Black Hawk later this year.

The aircraft initially will be fitted with an 850-gallon internal water tank and painted in San Diego Fire-Rescue livery before it is operational. In 2019, it will be souped up to true Firehawk configuration with a 1,000-gallon belly tank, retractable snorkel, extended landing gear and rescue hoist.


The S-70 aircraft's advanced digital cockpit takes on many of the aircraft's flight functions, allowing the pilot to pre-program and manage missions while adjusting flight parameters, such as speed, precision hover, heading and altitude, as needed. A digital moving map shows the pilot the aircraft's precise location and destination at all times.

In December 2017, the Los Angeles County Fire Department added two S-70i helicopters to its fleet of three existing Firehawks. In May, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) selected the Firehawk to replace its legacy fleet of Bell UH-1H Hueys.

Receive the latest rotorcraft news right to your inbox