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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS Feed'Elvis' is Coming to AirVenture
Erickson Aircrane making first-ever visit

Elvis helps fight the recent Victoria Fires in Australia.

Elvis drops fire retardant in Malibu, California.

An aircraft type never seen before at AirVenture Oshkosh, an Erickson S-64F Aircrane Helitanker, will appear throughout the weeklong event, July 27-August 2. The heavy-duty, twin-engined rotorcraft, which many feel is the best aerial firefighting platform available, is scheduled to arrive mid-day opening day, Monday, July 27, and be displayed throughout the week on AeroShell Square. The aircraft hopes to make several water drop demonstrations during the week before departing on Sunday, August 2.

The particular helicopter that will appear in Oshkosh, nicknamed "Elvis," has gained "hero" status for its superior firefighting capabilities, most notably during catastrophic Australian bushfires in 2000-2001.

"Elvis was stationed at Essedon Airport in Melbourne since 1998," explained Dennis Hubbard, Erickson's Aircrane incident response program manager, as well as the company's history man. "When fires broke out in 2000-2001 in the Sydney area and burned thousands of homes, it was the biggest machine in the air and received lots of media attention. Elvis became a national symbol and helped save more than 1,500 homes."

Elvis' single, well-placed 2,000-gallon water drop was credited with giving 14 firefighters trapped on a fiery mountaintop an escape path, saving their lives. "Ever since then, the Aussies have demanded that Elvis appear, and it led the way with five other Aircranes in the recent (December 2008-January 2009) Victoria Fires," Hubbard said.

Dave Barnett is the chief pilot who will fly Elvis to Oshkosh. "Lots of horsepower, a real brute," he said in describing its flying qualities. "There's no better flying firefighting platform. I've flown a lot of aircraft and this is simply the perfect firefighting tool."

AirVenture attendees will have an opportunity to see Elvis in action during several water drop demos during the week. Details will be released as soon as confirmed. The tank holds 2,650 gallons of water or retardant, and a recent study by the U.S. Forest Service shows it's the most economical firefighting platform on a price-per-gallon basis, costing 10-15 percent of other aerial platforms. Two innovative snorkel attachments for the Helitanker take 45 seconds or less to fill up from any freshwater or saltwater source at least 18 inches deep.

Elvis will be on display on AirVenture's main showcase, AeroShell Square, and Erickson staff will be on hand to answer questions.

The aircraft derives from Igor Sikorsky's last design and was originally built for the military (CH-54). Erickson Aircrane purchased the type certificate and manufacturing rights in 1992 and began refurbishing military aircraft. There are currently between 35 and 40 Aircranes in service, all converted military CH 54B models. The company, which employs close to 700 people, is headquartered in Central Point, Oregon. There are 83 "very experienced" pilots authorized to fly Aircranes, said H. E. "Mac" McClaren, vice president of aerial services.

"It's been a dream of mine to attend Oshkosh one day," Barnett said. "And when coming here was first mentioned, we were pretty much unanimously in favor of it."

S-64F (Elvis) Specifications
Crew: 2 (pilot, co-pilot)
Payload: 25,000 lb (9,072 kg)
Length: 70 ft 3 in (fuselage); 88 ft 9 in rotortip to rotortip
Rotor diameter: 72 ft
Height: 25 ft 5 in
Empty weight: 20,500 lbs
Max takeoff weight: 47,000 lbs
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-5A turboshaft engines, each generating 4,800 shp (shaft horsepower)
Fuel capacity 1,356 U.S. gallons
Maximum speed: 104 kts
Cruise speed: 91 knots (105 mph)
Range: 292 miles
Service ceiling: 14,000 ft
The tank holds 2,650 gallons of water or retardant

How Elvis Got its Name
There are two theories describing how Elvis, the star of the Aircrane fleet, got its name, according to Dennis Hubbard of Erickson Aircrane.
"The first, not-so-interesting version is simply because the airframe was formerly property of the Tennessee Army National Guard and came from Memphis," he explained. But the other version - and the one most told by the folks at Erickson - goes something like this.

"The chief pilot at the time (1993) ferried the aircraft from Memphis to Central Point (Oregon)," Hubbard said. "He said it 'shook, rattled and rolled' like, well, Elvis."

"Shake, Rattle and Roll" was made famous by Bill Haley and the Comets, so the moniker Elvis came about regarding Elvis Presley's onstage gyrations.

Besides, it sounds a lot better than Haley.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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