Sunshine Coast Ignite Ideas recipient Helitak strengthens foothold in the US

Sunshine Coast 2019 Ignite Ideas Fund recipient Helitak has strengthened its position in the United States thanks to an agreement the startup has struck with a major US aviation aircraft engineering and maintenance company. 

Helitak Firefighting Equipment has formalised an agreement with helicopter specialists Seaview Aviation to assist with US sales, installation, service and maintenance of their expandable, aerial fire tanks out of their California base at Camarillo. 

Founded by former helicopter firefighting pilot Jason Schellaars, Helitak Fire Fighting Equipment received $100,000 in Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas funding to commercialise their innovative retractable firefighting water tank technology specifically for the Sikorsky Black Hawk Helicopter – the Helitak FT4500 Black Hawk Tank. 

Helitak developed an expandable water tank for the Sikorsky Black Hawk Helicopter – the Helitak FT4500 Black Hawk Tank. 

What makes their technology unique is that it does not require modification to a Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter’s underbelly and can fill 4500 litres of water or fire retardant in less than 45 seconds using the Helitak HP6000 Hover Pump.  

The load can be dropped in under five seconds. 

The ‘plug and play’ underbelly tank is light and flexible and can be installed or removed in less than 25 minutes. As an added bonus, it does not require costly aircraft modifications. 

Operations Manager Paul Blundell said the Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter was an extremely powerful and versatile heavy lift helicopter, originally designed for the military, making for a very robust aircraft built for the toughest conditions and uses. 

“Black Hawks have only just entered the civilian market over the last few years and are being widely accepted in aerial firefighting by operators both in Australia and internationally,” Mr Blundell said. 

“We are looking to put ourselves on the front foot as we see Black Hawks as becoming frontline aircraft in combating bushfires. The Helitak tank is the first underbelly fire tank designed for the Black Hawk airframe to be awarded certification by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).” 

Mr Blundell said the Ignite Ideas Fund assisted Helitak in marketing the fire tank through display and demonstrations at international industry trade expos as well as through targeted marketing campaigns aimed at reaching civilian and military Black Hawk operators. 

This targeted global marketing led to their first sales of the Helitak FT4500 Black Hawk tank into the US market and this is where Seaview Aviation comes into the picture.  

When a number of Seaview Aviation customers purchased Helitak tanks for their Black Hawks in early 2021, the Seaview team assisted with the initial electrical installations, tank calibration and commissioning of the tanks. 

Helitak CEO and Chief Engineer Jason Schellaars said he was impressed at how quickly the Seaview team were able to demonstrate a great understanding of the Helitak tank configuration, benefitting their mutual clients by facilitating seamless installation. 

“We are confident that Seaview will add value to our customer’s experience when installing and using the Helitak retractable fire tank and as such, they have been trained in the initial electrical installation and commissioning of new tanks and will be on-call to help our US-based clients with maintenance and parts supply,” Mr Schellaars said. 

“Importantly the Seaview team will be able to supply the Helitak range of innovative tanks directly to their customer base which will help with distribution.” 

President of Seaview Aviation Stephen Cranswick said, “We are a hands-on operation and that extends from the first consultation through to the delivery of the final product. Forming trustworthy partnerships that can grow alongside and complement our client operations is critical. 

“Partnering with Helitak makes a lot of sense to us. We are both committed to delivering workable solutions to our customers through innovation and advanced technologies. Together, we will be able to meet the demands and expectations of our clients in an efficient, seamless manner, meaning they can get on with their job of putting out life threatening bushfires with minimal interruption,” Mr Cranswick said. 

The FT4500 Black Hawk Fire Tank received US FAA certification after passing rigorous flight-testing and trials with High Performance Helicopters in California from 2018 to 2020. 

High Performance Helicopters President Brad Bauder described the tank as a game changer in the aerial firefighting space. 

Helitak first captured the attention of the public in 2009, when the initial Helitak Fire Tank took out the winning design and People’s Choice awards on the ABC’s New Inventors program. 

Ninety-two per cent of all components involved in the construction of their tanks come from within a 50km radius of their Noosaville facility. 

The company currently employs more than 25 staff. 

The company’s technology has been used in fighting major fires in the United States, Greece and Australia. 

Unfortunately, global warming is leading to longer, harsher droughts and a dramatic increase in forest fires, including the 2019-20 Australian Bushfires in which 33 people lost their lives. 

Last updated 14 Jun, 2022
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