Firefighting Black Hawks for Portugal

The Força Aérea Portuguesa (FAP, Portuguese Air Force) has recently signed an agreement for the delivery of six second hand UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters.

These former US Army UH-60As will be supplied and modified for the firefighting role by an American company, Arista Aviation Services, based in Enterprise (AL). Arista is an FAA certified Repair Station and provides MRO (Modify, Repair and Overhaul) services with specialization in the Sikorsky UH-60 Black.

The contract includes the delivery of six aircraft over the next three years, training for six pilots and 21 mechanics, and five years of onsite maintenance and logistical support.

Each Arista-modified Black Hawk will have the ability to quickly transport twelve firefighters and over 750 gallons of water to rural areas when needed. With the addition of these helicopters, Portuguese Air Force aerial firefighting capabilities will be greatly enhanced.

Ordering the batch of Black Hawks has become urgent: the current situation in Portugal regarding firefighting helicopters is rather sad.

In 2006, the Portuguese Government ordered six Kamov Ka-32A11BC that were used by the Empresa de Meios Aéreos, S. A. EMA (EMA), a State owned Civil Protection Service. These were registered CS-HMK, -HML, -HMM, -HMN, -HMO, and -HNP. The five remaining Kamovs (CS-HMO was written off on 3 September 2012) were notorious for their low operational availability.

Apparently none of the Ka-32s was in airworthy condition earlier this year. That has not changed since then, as the Russian mechanics that maintained the Kamovs were expelled from Portugal after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Source: Arista Aviation Services 

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