Recently Warbirds Online visited Scone NSW where Pay’s Helicopters has for a second year brought a modified Sikorski UH-60A Blackhawk, N5630J into the country to work through the Australian Bushfire season. The aircraft is owned by USA based company Timberline Helicopters and is one of 3 of the type they currently have in their fleet. Although this is not our typical Warbird story the Blackhawk is nonetheless a Warbird in every sense with Australian Defense Forces still utilizing the type as well as the S-70B and MH-60R in service with the RAN.
Last year Pays brought another of the Timberline fleet N434TH, call signed ‘Helitack 260’into Australia as the first civil Blackhawk operated in the country and such was the success Pays have repeated the arrangement this year with N5630J Nicknamed “Thing 2” again operating as “Helitack 260”.
N5630J was a US Army UH-60A Blackhawk serial number 81-23563 and was built and delivered to the Army in 1982. The aircraft is powered by 2 × General Electric T700-GE-700 turboshaft, 1,890 hp (1,410 kW) each. After its service career ended the aircraft was purchased by Timberline along with two others and converted to the civil role which involved the removal of Military systems and wiring etc which reduces the aircrafts weight by 300 Kg.
The early series Blackhawk as a type are becoming available in numbers now in the USA on the civil market and more and more are being converted to the Fire Bomber role and also serve in many utility tasks when not on Fire Bomber duties. Recently it was announced that over 10 Blackhawks are to be imported to Australia for demilitarization and conversion to Fire Bombers.
Pays have deployed its Blackhawk mostly up and down the eastern seaboard and it has been a great success and certainly raised much interest in the Fire Bomber community. It is understood that more operators will adopt the type in the future. The Black Hawk is equipped with a 3,410 litre multi-shot BBX7590 Bambi bucket with a fast-fill pump to help fill it in just over 30 seconds. The type is seen as a vast improvement over the previous mix of Bell Huey and other medium types as well as being more effective than some of the fixed wing types as well given its ability to deploy to difficult locations and rapid turnaround time between missions.
The Blackhawk had a relatively quiet fire season this year but was nonetheless involved in several high profile missions in NSW, particularly in the Hunter Valley and its abilities were once again expertly showcased. It is assumed that the aircraft will be a very popular highlight of Warbirds Over Scone Airshow on the 25th of March 2018 along with a host of other Warbirds and Classic aircraft.
Warbirds Online thank Pay’s Helicopters for access to the UH-60A Black Hawk, N5630J “Thing 2”and we will follow the type’s service with them in years to come.
© John Parker 2018