An Erickson Air-Crane fills up with more than 2,000 gallons of water to fight the First Creek fire.
It looks like a 70-foot-long praying mantis but has the flying maneuverability of a muscled-up hummingbird.
Erickson Air-Cranes are helping fight Washington’s wildfires.
Over Lake Chelan, two of the 10-ton machines alternate in, dropping down to fill their tanks with more than 2,000 gallons. That takes about 30 seconds.
Two pilots are on board and can drop the load as a light rain or all at once.
That all-at-once drop will knock down trees, chief pilot David Barnett says.
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Or they could target eight or nine spots for smaller releases.
Barnett says he enjoys having “the sheer amount of power” from two 4,500-horsepower engines. The helicopter can climb more than a mile in a minute.
About 70 percent of Oregon-based Erickson’s business involves battling seasonal wildland fires around the world.
But the helicopters also have been used to line the downhill slopes with snow at Whistler for the Winter Olympics. With the fire tank removed, a grapple bucket was used to carry snow from higher elevations.
One of the helicopters removed and replaced the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol during recent renovations in Washington, D.C.
In Malaysia, an Air-Crane relocated an endangered Sumatran rhino to a preserve.
Barnett says there’s an unusual rear-facing seat for a third pilot used in precise construction situations.
Originally built for the military by Sikorsky, the helicopters have been made by Erickson since 1992. Aviation publications report each one costs more than $20 million.