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New Forest Service Rules May Be Costly For Helo Operators

New Equipment Required For Firefighting Helicopters

The U.S. Forest Service has released new standards for equipment used on helicopters contracted for firefighting operations which could cost operators as much as $50,000 per aircraft.

The new standards apply to "call when needed" aircraft which operate on contract with the Forest Service. Media sources including The Republic from Columbus, IN and the Bend Bulletin newspaper from Bend, OR report that some of the mandatory equipment for this class of aircraft will be cable cutting kits, strobe lights, heated defroster units, and a specific cargo hook. The service says these are FAA requirements, and that the service is trying to standardize many areas of operation.

Forest Service Spokesperson Jennifer Jones said the new rules only apply to "Type III" aircraft, which drop between 100 and 300 gallons of water or retardant or transport eight people. Jones said the changes were intended to "enhance safety."

 
File Photo

But operators say they have been slapped with an unexpected bill of between $40,000 and $50,000 to stay compliant with the new rules, and warn that there may be fewer helicopters available during the fire season.

FMI: www.fs.fed.us

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