Now widely used all over the world, Helitak have continued to build on their original design of the expandable fire suppression tank, adapting it to suit additional aircraft and broadening the number of models now approved to install and use in the war against wildfires.
Helitak commenced operations in 2006 and the efficiency and reliability of their tanks has not gone unnoticed, winning themselves a stable of awards along the way and, more recently, earning themselves further credibility after securing two FAA STC approvals.
In 2018 things really started to take off for the team when the Helitak FT4500 UH60 Black Hawk fire tank underwent rigorous flight-testing and trials in conjunction with High-Performance Helicopters (HPH) in California.
Two years later, in early 2020, the tank received 8110-3 Major Alteration approval, and in October the same year, the Helitak FT4500 UH60 Black Hawk fire suppression tank was awarded a US Design Patent.
HPH President Brad Bauder said at the time: ‘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, offering lightweight, Large Type 1 water volume capacity and easy plug-and-play operations offering a perfect and controllable drop pattern every time.’
An Australian aerial firefighting design and manufacturing company, Helitak have been specialising in rotary aircraft fire suppression systems for over a decade and is highly regarded for their innovative design which delivers 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) who are based in Southern California.
After many years, of research and development, the FT4500 UH60 Black Hawk tank offered unique capabilities not seen previously. The plug-and-play underbelly tank could be installed or removed in less than 25 minutes, required no costly aircraft modifications and was the only external Black Hawk tank on the market not requiring expensive landing gear extension.
The ease with which the tank could be installed and fully operational quickly caught the eye of other aircraft operators, including the military, government agencies and civilian operators.
Importantly, after many years of fine-tuning, this new range of Helitak fire tanks included 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 also complies with all agencies’ telemetry requirements.
At the time the FT4500 was approved, Helitak had similar retractable underbelly tank models working in fire zones around the world including the Airbus H125 AStar (Squirrel), Bell Medium series, Sikorsky S-58T and S-61, the BK117 and the Bell 214ST.
In late 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved seven additional Sikorsky Black Hawk Type Certificates on the Helitak FT4500 Black Hawk STC bringing the total to 10 UH-60 or EH-60 models approved for operation.
And in May 2022 further approval from the FAA, to add more Black Hawk model Type Certificates (TC) to the FAA Supplemental Type Certification (STC) of the Helitak FT4500 Black Hawk fire tank, was received, bringing the current number of TCs to 18 and the total number of approved models to 24 with more on the way.
The receipt of this recent Approved Model List amendment meant operators of Black Hawk helicopters issued under these 18 type certificates were approved to install and operate the Helitak FT4500 fire suppression tank.
During the time the FT4500 was being certified and patented, the Helitak tank capabilities continued to be noticed and in 2019, European rotary operator ‘Heli Austria’ reached out to Helitak in a bid to fast-track the development of the Helitak FT4250 Super Puma fire tank, which would have a capacity of over 1,000 gallons. Slowed down by the global impact of the pandemic, which delayed the process, three years of hard work came to fruition with FAA issuing a Supplemental Type Certificate (SR04509CH) in early March 2022 with EASA STC approval expected any time now.
Adding additional aircraft to what is now a rapidly growing list, tanks for the Sikorsky S-92, Leonardo AW139, AW169 and AW189 and the Boeing Vertol 107 CH-46 Chinook 234 CH-47 234 tanks are currently under development.
While continuing to add to their ever-expanding model list, Founder and Chief Engineer of Helitak, Jason Schellaars said: ‘These additions to the FT4500 Approved Model List added to the new tank model developments are very important as they increase the number of helicopters approved to operate with the Helitak fire suppression tank, and these operators, who are so instrumental in fighting wildfires and bushfires, will be able to use our tank as part of their firefighting strategies.
Always pushing the boundaries and continually testing their tanks to improve the design to allow for greater capacity and to improve the ease with which operators can use and install the tanks is something the whole team at Helitak do on a daily basis.
‘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 – it’s as simple as that,’ Jason said.
‘However, working in the confines of what is possible in such a limited space, we continually strive to find ways to carry greater loads and improve the speed at which the tank can be attached and detached and also exploring ways to improve the technology that will give the pilot all the information they need quickly to facilitate an accurate drop.’
Such improvements and developments include the AC and DC powered Shallow Fill pumps for inclusion in Fire buckets and the Black Hawk 10,000-pound Cargo Hook assembly which accommodates the lower empty weights, and higher lifting capabilities, of the new generation of civilian Black Hawks now working in the heavy-lift arena.
As the Helitak footprint expands to all parts of the globe, Helitak have recently signed sales and service agreements with Arista Aviation, Ace Aeronautics and Seaview Aviation in the United States and have entered into a Cooperation Agreement with the global Milestone Aviation Group, to collaborate on the design, production, testing and certification of a new aerial fire suppression tank for the Sikorsky S-92 airframe and discussions are progressing for new tank designs for other models of aircraft specific to the Asia Pacific region.
With the Helitak tank now an essential piece of equipment for helicopter operators as they fight the war on wildfires, expect to see further enhancements and additional STCs for this innovative, Australian company.
For more information, go to helitak.com.au