Kaman K-Max helicopter operators have captured 40 percent of all U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Type 1, large helicopters four-year firefighting contracts. Alaska-based Rotak Helicopter Services received one such contract to provide two of the K-Max aircraft for wildfire suppression. Rotak uses its K-Max fleet for aerial construction activities, wildfire suppression, disaster relief, and power line construction. Company general manager Ely Woods called the helicopter “a great platform with a proven record.”
“Kaman is honored to provide a product that allows K-Max operators to successfully support the USFS firefighting operations and our employees are proud of the role the K-Max plays in reducing personal loss to all Americans who are impacted by wildfires,” said Kaman air vehicles division v-p and general manager Darlene Smith.
The K-Max, which was certified by the FAA in 1994 and features a counter-rotating rotor system, is optimized for cyclical, external load operations and can lift up to 6,000 pounds.
First flight of a civil unmanned K-Max is scheduled for the third quarter. Kaman first flew an unmanned helicopter in the 1950s and deployed unmanned K-Max aircraft with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2013.
Several civil operators, including Rotak, have identified the need to deploy autonomous, unmanned K-Max aircraft. The K-Max UAS kit will be available as a retrofit, as well as on new-build helicopters.