Single-Pilot Helicopter Battles Wildfires With Pinpoint Accuracy

Tuesday, March 7th 2017, 5:32 pm
By: Karl Torp

Federal-funded aircraft are helping Oklahoma’s Forestry Services with Oklahoma's outbreak of wildfires.

On Monday, a unique-looking, single pilot helicopter was seen dumping water with pinpoint accuracy in Payne County during a fast moving wildfire.

“I got lucky a bunch of the time, but it was a fun day,” said Adam Tate, who pilots a K-MAX helicopter.

Oklahoma Forestry Services tapped Tate and his team which were working in Texas.

They're in Shawnee through a federal contract.

"We knew last week, over a week in advance, that Monday was going to be one of those days,” said Oklahoma Forestry Services Fire Management Chief Mark Goeller.

Outside fire season, the K-MAX is used to lift heavy equipment on construction sites.

Now, the aircraft is equipped with a 700 gallon bucket.

It can lift 6,000 pounds. That’s 200 pounds more than a Chevrolet Suburban.

It is made possible with two rotors going opposite directions.

“Because it's counter-rotating, we don't need a tail rotor to keep us straight. We are using all that power to lift,” said Tate.

The power gave Tate pinpoint precision in winds that grounded the Oklahoma National Guard's Blackhawk helicopters Monday.

The Oklahoma Forestry Services said more federally-funded aircraft will arrive Wednesday as the fire threat ramps back up for western and central Oklahoma. Northwestern Oklahoma will be the priority, the Oklahoma Forestry Services said.