Helitak FT4500 UH-60 Black Hawk fire tank awarded FAA STC Certification

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 38 seconds.

Continual research and development has led to a new evolution of airborne firefighting tank technology to aid in accurate and faster dispersal of water onto bushfires.

In 2018, the Helitak FT4500 Fire Tank underwent rigorous flight-testing and trials in conjunction with High Performance Helicopters (HPH) in California.

A demonstration of the Helitak FT4500 Fire Tank. Helitak Photo

The tank received 8110-3 Major Alteration approval in early 2020 with HPH President, Brad Bauder commenting, “High Performance Helicopters has been testing and operating the new Helitak Black Hawk tank design for near on two years now and this tank is a game changer in the Aerial firefighting space. Lightweight, Large Type 1 water volume capacity and easy plug and play operations offering a perfect and controllable drop pattern every time.”

Helitak, an Australia aerial firefighting design and manufacturing company, have been specialising in rotary aircraft fire suppressions systems for over a decade and pride themselves on the delivery of high-volume water and retardant from their revolutionary retractable tank system offering enormous head pressure that offers an unmatched drop pattern coverage delivery.

The STC Certification project was overseen and managed by U.S. Technical (Aviation Products, Services, Engineering & Certification) based in Southern California.  In addition to continuing to work with Helitak on a number of projects, U.S. Technical will be the PMA house for this product.

After years of research and development the Black Hawk tank offers a plug-and-play underbelly tank which can be installed or removed in less than 25 minutes, requires no costly aircraft modifications and is the only external Black Hawk tank not requiring expensive landing gear extension.  This is of particular interest to the military, Government agencies and civilian operators.

The FT4500 has a maximum volume of 4,500 litres (1,188 gallons) and is filled by the AC-powered Helitak HP6000 Hover Pump at over 5,600 liters (1,500 gallons) per minute.

Australian Federal Member for Wide Bay and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Llew O’Brien said the certification of Helitak’s Black Hawk fire tank is a ground-breaking step forward in boosting aerial firefighting capability.

“Helitak’s is the first Black Hawk external fire tank to be certified in the world, and it will make a big difference to protect property and save lives from the threat of bushfire,” O’Brien said.

“For more than 15 years Helitak’s unique design and craftsmanship have been at the forefront of aerial firefighting and it’s fantastic to see the new Black Hawk fire tank being manufactured right here in Noosa in Wide Bay. I congratulate Jason Schellaars and the Helitak team for their ongoing innovation.”

The new range of Helitak fire tanks include the Helitak Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) that controls tank-to-cockpit-to base telemetry recording GPS water collection and drop volumes, retardant controls, door-drop pattern operations, maintenance logging and complies with all agency’s telemetry requirements.

CEO and Chief Engineer Jason Schellaars, a former helicopter firefighting pilot, developed the Helitak retractable tank system, due to the inefficiencies of the standard equipment available on the market.

“The Helitak formula is to provide an expandable water tank that provides the operator with the availability to lift as much water as the aircraft is approved to lift,” Schellaars said. “By comparison, the volume in our competitors’ tanks is limited to the space available between the floor of the airframe and the ground and not what the helicopter is actually allowed to lift.”

Helitak currently has similar retractable underbelly tank models on fire zones around the World for the Airbus H125 AStar (Squirrel), Bell Medium series, Sikorsky S-58T and S-61, the BK117 and the Bell 214ST.

Development is also progressing for new tank model designs for the Airbus Super Puma to be certified and released in June 2021 and the Leonardo AW139 and AW189 later this year.

Other recent developments are the AC and DC powered Shallow Fill pumps for inclusion in Fire buckets and the Black Hawk 10000-pound Cargo Hook assembly to accommodate the lower empty weights and higher lifting capabilities of the new generation of civilian Black Hawks hitting the heavy lift arena.

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