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Nevada ANG Installs Power Suction for Bambi Buckets

To maximize its firefighting capabilities in a very dry year, the Nevada Air National Guard has upgraded its 2,000-gal. SEI Torrentula Bambi Buckets with a power suction system on their four CH-47 Chinook helicopters.”We already use the SEI bambi bucket,” says SFC Don Gable, a flight engineer with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 189th Brigade. But years of drought are leaving traditional water sources far below normal capacity, making them less useful for traditional dip-fill tactics.

Gable learned that Columbia Helicopters of Aurora, Ore., has been successfully deploying its SEI bucket and power fill system, so he turned to them 18 months ago to upgrade the Guard’s equipment. Nevada’s naturally dry climate was taxed even more by three years of drought.

Five years ago, Columbia helped SEI Industries of Vancouver, in its first deployment of the system for a 2,000-gal. bucket. The company has developed power pumps for smaller buckets but Nevada’s ANG is only the second to use the pumps for the large-size bucket Chinooks can carry.

They have not yet been deployed in Nevada this year; the firefighting season gets underway in June. But Columbia has already contracted its Chinooks to combat blazes in Texas and in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Power suction pumps have been applied to smaller buckets but only Columbia and the Nevada ANG are using them on the 2,000-gal. size.Credit: COLUMBIA HELICOPTERS

Normally, bambi buckets, which dangle about 100 ft. below the helicopter, are fully dipped into a water source. But that requires a river, lake or pond that is fairly deep and can preclude drawing water from backyard swimming pools.

Gable notes that the Guard’s Chinooks need the full 100-ft. cable extension because water sources in Nevada are typically surrounded by cottonwood trees that the helicopter must stay above.

The system involves a remotely operated pump attached to the bottom of the bucket (four inlets are located in the black grated bottom, below) so that it can be filled in a direct hover from sources as shallow as 18 in. The pump is so powerful that it can suck the bucket beneath the surface, provided there is enough depth, says Columbia’s media manager Dan Sweet.

Gable notes that flight engineers must be aware that the pump also can suck in water weeds and muck if the inlet is used in water that is too shallow.

Columbia’s Chinooks carry two-pilot crews with bubble windows that allow them to monitor and control bucket operations. The windows are not available on military CH-47s, which fly with two pilots and two flight engineers.

So the military relies on a flight engineer in the back of the aircraft looking straight down through a window. A second flight engineer guides the operation from the forward right cabin door, monitoring air speed and altitude.

Columbia- and SEI-engineered airframe and aircraft electrical system modifications are installed in a unit power pack. Flight engineers now control the operation.

The controls are positioned next to the hook in the rear of the aircraft and are easy to operate, says Gable. ‘You just squeeze the trigger.’

A ‘Sacksafoam’ system has also been installed so the engineer can add retardant foam to the water in the bucket.

Aviation Week & Space Technology May 25, 2009, p.66

Michael Mecham
San Francisco
Very large bucket that can draw water from shallow sources enhances firefighting helos
Printed headline: A Big Combo

Dan Sweet
Public Relations Manager Columbia Helicopters, Inc.

503-678-1222 office PO Box 3500

503-970-4449 cell Portland,Oregon 97208

503-678-5841 fax


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