Carter Hydra-Blaster Mission Kit
The Ultimate Answer to Thwarting the Devastation of Firestorms
A new concept for firefighting missions is being introduced by Carter Aviation Technologies (Carter) of Wichita Falls, TX. The firefighting capability is being designed as an adaptation kit for Carter's Heliplane Transport (CHT). The CHT is a heavy-lift transport being developed using Carter's patented Slowed-Rotor/Compound (SR/C™) Aircraft Technology. The full-size CHT will have vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities with a useful load of 70,000 lbs at a density altitude of 4000 ft with a range of 1000 miles.
The adaptation kit that would turn the CHT into a firefighting phenomenon is currently dubbed the Hydra-Blaster. The mission kit would give the CHT tanker and water cannon capabilities in combination with heavy-lift, hover and fixed-wing flight speeds. The CHT could dispense either retardant, water or foam via bomber passes or through super cannon precision applications. Personnel deployment and rescue operations would also be improved through use of the CHT's internal 20-man rescue cage. Carter foresees a tremendous advantage in combating fire disasters in both remote and urban areas due to the unique features and advantages afforded by the CHT Hydra-Blaster. The accumulated costs of recent firestorms and high-rise fires coupled with possible future catastrophes associated with terrorism or accidentally caused incidents makes it imperative that Carter technology be explored as a matter of improved National Security.
Background - Justification
The recent fires in Southern California could result in well over $2B in damages and have cost over $25M to combat, with 22 persons killed, over 1,000,000 acres charred, 4800 houses destroyed, and over 7000 firefighters involved. Devastation of this magnitude impacts more than the local community. To a large extent, the costs also reflect directly back onto the Federal Government - in this case nearly 74M in Federal aid. Current aerial firefighters have limited capability and agility to combat these types of large-scale firestorms. Increases in this type of menace could become a pressing issue for Homeland Security and national safety.
In California alone, the following bullets summarize the historical insurance costs since 1990:
- Oakland Hills, October 1991 2,900 structures lost, $1.7 billion in insured losses
- Laguna, October 1993 441 structures lost, $350 million in insured losses
- Topanga-Malibu, November 1993 323 structures lost, $375 million in insured losses
- Santa Barbara, June 1990 641 structures lost, $265 million in insured losses
In summary - just counting the largest California fires within the last 15 years - this totals more than $2.6 Billion dollars. When combined with this October's fires the expense could easily be in excess of $5 Billion dollars in damages and over $100 Million in firefighting costs. This, of course, pales in comparison to the estimated costs of the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers in the 9/11 attack by al-Qaeda. The Economist magazine estimates the cost of litigation alone at $200 Billion, not including the loss of lives and property in the WTC disaster. Cleanup cost totaled over $7 Billion dollars. These costs could equal a sum nearly as large as the entire Department of Defense budget for one year. Possible budgetary impact could destabilize State and Federal economies and create a clear and present danger to our way of life and National Security. Therefore, combining a broad view of the combination of loss of life, property damage, ecological habitat/environment destruction, and interruption of commerce, informed judgment demands closer study of what these large AMT SR/C™ transports could offer.
In addition to the $16 Million NIST study on why the WTC towers collapsed, an examination of the possible value of these mammoth urban firefighters is warranted. The recent fire on October 17, 2003 at the Cook County Municipal high-rise in downtown Chicago, where six died and over a dozen were trapped in stairwells as they tried to evacuate from upper floors, points out our vulnerabilities. Chicago alone has approximately 1,400 high-rise buildings (defined as more than 80 feet tall) and only an estimated 400 of them have sprinkler systems. Firefighters alone cannot effectively reach fires on higher floors or rescue the many people that may be forced to ride out the fire in upper floors or flee to the roof of the building. The CHT Hydra-Blaster can provide that lifesaving capability.
CONOPS and Specifications for the CHT Hydra-Blaster
Hydra-Blaster Mission Kits would be comprised
of four basic elements:
- On flatbed mounted platforms (roll on/off) - two 4200 gallon main baffled tank (combination pumper/hopper/tanker), computer systems control and foam concentrate 300 gallon side-saddle tanks - total of 9000 gallons
- Twin snorkels/ram hydrofoil scoops to allow 45 sec refilling of tanks from as little as 18" deep water sources though bomb bay type rescue door
- Fixed Super Cannon twin nozzle boom assembly with controllable spray pattern for mounting on left lower side of nose of CHT
- Associated umbilicals to connect primary electrical power, avionics interface to cockpit controls and emergency dump switches, and hose connections to pre-installed manifolds to back of cannon assembly and roll on/off flatbed mounted tanker platform
Concept of Operations for the Hydra-Blaster in Forest and Urban Environments:
On scene cyclic reaction times would be significantly less than fixed-wing aircraft and the CONOPS would be similar to how Erickson S-64 firefighters are cycled to the scene of the fire, however, CHT enroute speeds would be much higher than the helicopter, allowing a larger radius of action from reservoir to the fire in the same period of time. The twin water cannon could accurately apply a 600-gallon per minute controllable blast of water over 50 meters in front of the CHT Hydra-Blaster. The unique agility feature of the CHT to differentially vary anti-torque thrusts and mast tilt angles would allow "agile pitch pointing" and a 10 to 20 degree variance in nose up and down. It will also allow crosswind or downwind hovering to place the aircraft to the side or upwind of the fire with spray pattern precisely tailored to drench the fire and quench the flames while keeping aircraft and its downwash clear of fire and smoke. The CHT aircraft, in its utility configuration, could also be used to lower or raise firefighters, rescue personnel or survivors with its internally stowable 20-person rescue cage or by use of an external 60-person cage (as designed by Erickson as the ERV Emergency rescue vehicle). The CHT would also be capable of using multiple point fast ropes to precisely put firefighters in position and obviate the need for dangerous smoke jumper operations. It could also muster other logistics supplies and shuttle firefighters from the fire scene to operations centers and to rest/recuperation areas.
Utilizing high-speed scramble reaction times and a small fleet of strategically based CHT Hydra-Blasters, nationwide reaction times could be measured within hours and in some urban areas, in minutes. A backup response by installation of mission kits on Army, Air Force and National Guard AMTs could be launched within a day to support major hot spots. Based on the ability to roll on/off two 4200 gallon pumper/tanks or dry chemical hoppers via the rear ramp, rapidly "plug and play" install the twin-nozzled cannon and drop in the snorkel assembly through the bomb bay type rescue hatch of the CHT a line transport could quickly be re-configured as a Hydra-Blaster.
The future Hydra-Blaster promises to eliminate compromises with current technology as all of the advantages of both fixed-wing tankers and heavy helicopters are synthesized into one revolutionary firefighting system.
We are on the cusp of a great revolution in capability as represented by the CHT Hydra-Blaster concept. The firefighting capability is just one of many advancements that will become apparent as Carter's SR/C™ technology breaks the size boundary for very large, hovering, VTOL aircraft with the ability to cruise efficiently at high speeds. Conversely, this is also a low risk / high payoff program. Although the SR/C™ aircraft development is an emerging technology the basic CHT airframe has been flying since 1998 on the Carter Technology Demonstrator and the airtanker and cannon modifications are growth versions of proven technology currently flying on other aircraft.
Focusing on recent events, we can briefly analyze and glimpse the great potential for the future of this aircraft design. As reported in an Article in the Nov 10, 2003 issue of AW&ST, on pages 60 - 62, by William B. Scott, where he quotes Tony Kern, USFS national aviation officer, "We're redefining what 'airtanker' means. In 2004, we're going to see larger numbers of Type-1 (heavy) helicopters operating in what used to be a traditional fixed-wing role . . . In many cases, when you call for an airtanker, you're going to see a big helicopter show up -- and be glad it did."
In the same article, Robert L. Quirino, the USFS Region 1 helicopter operations specialist says, "Type-1s cost a lot per day, much more than an airtanker." Typical cost per flying hour for a S-64 in 2003 is $4,634. But by referring to a chart on page 61 of same article sourced from the Pacific Southwest Region Helicopter Deployment National Fire Plan 2002, one can easily see that value overcomes cost as a S-64 can deliver 20,000+ gallons of water an hour for a cost of $0.58 a gallon while a C-130 delivers 7,900 gallons an hour for a cost of $1.60 a gallon.
Based on the CHT's size, agility and speed it is estimated that it will more than double the delivery rate of the S-64 at about the same cost per flying hour. That would equal 40,000 gallons per hour at a cost of $0.30 per gallon - quite a bargain indeed. Obviously, the cost of development of the new airframe will be high, but if it is developed for the AMT role, that cost would not have to be amortized or applied to this secondary spiral or spin-off peripheral mission and only the relatively modest acquisition cost of $100 Million per airframe - about the same as a C-130 - and the cost of the mission kit would have to be factored into the equation.
In fighting the recent fires in California, Erickson S-64 AirCranes blurred the line between what Type-1 helicopters and fixed-wing transports can accomplish. The CHT Hydra-Blaster will completely erase that line and perform the tasks more economically. It is imperative for reasons of Homeland Security and national safety that the capabilities of the CHT Hydra-Blaster undergo study. The citizens of the United States deserve the peace of mind and security that this relatively inexpensive transformational capability can afford. Nothing currently available can come close to the Hydra-Blaster when it comes to defeating the multi-dimensional menace posed by firestorms and urban high-rise blazes.