STAR Flight debuts new firefighting helicopter
It may seem like a high-price tag for a Vietnam-era helicopter, but STAR Flight pilot Willy Colberson couldn’t be happier with the $2.2 million aircraft.
“It was a fantastic machine then and it’s a fantastic machine now with all the improvements gone into this product,” Willy Colberson, director of aviation operations, said.
The new aircraft is pretty different from the three other STAR Flight helicopters currently in service. The new “Huey” model has a 325-gallon water tank permanently attached, opposed to the 125-gallon buckets currently used by STAR Flight choppers.
“Being able to carry more water cost effectively and efficiently… that is what this aircraft can do,” Casey Ping, STAR Flight program director, said.
To put it in perspective—the new aircraft holds about half of what a typical normal fire engine holds, but fills its tank three times as fast.
Even more important is where the Huey can take that water.
“That is the advantage of the helicopter that we aren’t hindered by the terrain,” Ping said.
“This additional aircraft is definitely an asset to the community, but we continue to remind the community to do their part to reduce the fire danger we have in Travis County,” Robert Abbott, interim fire chief at the Lake Travis Fire Department.
The Travis County Commissioners Court spent $2.2 million on the used aircraft. New comparable helicopters run about $14 million.
“It’s one of those things that we hope we don’t need, but if we do it is going to be nice to have,” Ping said.