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Friday, October 1, 2010

Kamov Ka-32s Display Firefighting Power in Spain   

Story By Thierry Dubois Photo Essay by Emmanuel Foudrot

Russian Helicopters organized an early July visit to Andalusia to show the Spanish region’s capacities in firefighting—notably with four Kamov Ka-32s operated by Inaer. The Spanish company owns 10 copies of the EASA-certified version, the Ka-32A11BC, the other six being used by other Spanish regions. Inaer provides full operation of the helicopter—aircraft, crews, equipment, fuel and maintenance.

“Our customer just has to order the missions to be done,” a spokesperson told Rotor & Wing. The service is provided on an exclusive basis, six months per year. The initial contract dates back from 2005.

Each Ka-32 flies an average 150 hours per season. When the fire season is over, Inaer flies the Kamovs for external cargo missions and construction work. This includes working on powerline towers and cranes, for example.

Inaer has 34 Kamov pilots. Russian instructors trained four of them in Russia and the rest in Spain. Recurrent training takes about seven hours per year, including checks. Eugen Amrhein, Inaer’s chief of Kamov pilots, said they are very happy. “The aircraft is very stable; it is the perfect tool for our job,” he said.

In highly turbulent air, as can be found in firefighting, the Ka-32’s coaxial rotor ensures greater precision and control. This is both a safety feature and a way to dump water more accurately. This rotor system has to be compared to tail rotors, which tend to be less effective in yaw control in tailwinds—this, too, can happen in firefighting. A Ka-32 dumps 4,500 liters (1,200 U.S. gallons) of water per discharge.

Inaer is endeavoring to further improve safety. In 2009, eight of the 18 most serious accidents in Spain were in the firefighting category. The company is now studying how to install cable cutters on the firefighting fleet. Moreover, it is working on aircraft modifications, including ergonomic improvements to prevent accidents with Bambi buckets.

Andalusia’s firefighting Kamovs are based near Granada, Seville, Jaen and Cádiz. Inaer provides them under contracts with local and national environmental authorities. Other regions Inaer sends Kamovs to are Extremadura (two helicopters), the Canary Islands, Castilla and León, Galicia and the community of Valencia (one each).

Kamov Ka-32A11BC (with underslung bucket) by the numbers:
MTOW 24,200 pounds
Water Discharge 1,200 gallons
Cruise Speed 124 knots
Service Ceiling 19,700 feet
Hovering Ceiling 11,500 feet
Range 335 nm
Crew/Passengers 2/13
Rotor Diameter 52 feet
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