Asked about the new mission Russell said, “It’s completely different and took a lot of training. But it all came together when the BLM came and said they were impressed.”
He added that the aircraft, on a firefighting mission, is operating at near its gross weight capacity in challenging conditions.
“It’s a real high workload environment and you really have to stay on top of your game,” he said.
The system chosen has a 323-gallon tank attached to the belly of the helicopter and there is a tube used to draw water into the tank. The process takes about 90 seconds but then the pilot is flying with an additional 2,500 pounds of weight.
To make a water drop three electrically controlled doors are opened, which is another challenge since the pilot then has to compensate for a sudden drop in weight.
Right now the RAVEN is carded for fighting fires in areas where the BLM has jurisdiction but not for the U.S. Forest Service. That certification is currently being addressed.
Russell says he expects a very busy summer since the RAVEN has been used on five fires already and more are expected.
Asked about the extra tasks, Russell said, “It’s not about the workload but about the community.”