Aerial Fire
Colorado’s New Firehawk Set for First Flight
April 17, 2024
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  • After a year of delays, Colorado’s Department of Fire Prevention and Control’s (DFPC) new Firehawk will make its first official flight, albeit a short one, from Denver’s Centennial Airport to Rocky Mountain Metro Airport for a press event with Governor Jared Polis Wednesday.

    Completed by United Rotorcraft, the new S-70i Firehawk has been tied up in numerous delays for over a year from its original delivery date after the order was made in 2021 to purchase the aircraft for $24 million from United Rotorcraft.

    The helicopter will be one of two ordered by the State of Colorado, adding two helicopters with firebombing capability to the state’s fleet, which includes two Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

    The many delivery delays initially expected in 2022 will finally end this week as delivery and acceptance occur after the state spent $2.4 million over the last year on a contract with Coulson Aviation to provide a pilot and mechanic for an aircraft that has yet to fly.

    “The contract was not something that was easy to back out of, right. It was a one-year contract and we know that we have to have pilots and maintenance,” said Mike Morgan, Director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. “There’s not a pause button on a contract. It was a one-year contract that we were kind of obligated to fulfill.”

    “It was very frustrating that there were a lot of delays in the process that were beyond our control,” Morgan said. “But to be clear, it’s not like these crews have been sitting in an office twiddling their thumbs. We’ve sent them to schools, simulators, all these different things,” said Morgan in a statement given to 9News Denver.

    The state still views the purchase of the Firehawks positively, stating that the economic damage that can span into hundreds of millions during large fires will easily offset the cost of the purchase of the helicopters in the long run as the aircraft will assist the DFPC in putting fires out earlier, thus saving on the economic impact of catastrophic fires like the Cameron Peak fire in 2020 that burned over 200,000 acres in the state.