This incredibly skilled helicopter pilot is able to drop an entire payload of water on a single burning tree with pinpoint accuracy.
What you are looking at is the Erickson S-64 Aircrane, previously known as the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane before Erickson bought the design from them. You’ve probably seen this particular helicopter design in all sorts of movies, from Swordfish to… um… Swordfish. It might’ve just been that movie. But it was a great movie, so the example stands.
Anyhow, besides, being used to transport busses full of kidnapping victims, the S-64 is also a highly capable water bomber. It can be fitted with a 2,650 gallon (10,000 liters) tank that can hold either water or fire retardant chemicals which it can then toss on wildfires--something that California and the Pacific Northwest really appreciates around this time of year.
They’re also choppers with a lot of character. Each one is given a nickname once they're manufactured, with some more colorful examples being “The Incredible Hulk” or “Gypsy Lady”. One Skycrane called “Olga” was used to bring the very top-most parts of the CN Tower during its construction.
This particular Skycrane, number 744, is called “Elvis.” Elvis has been all over North America, from California to Canada, and Elvis’ pilot is apparently extremely accurate.
In a post to Reddit, someone shared a gif of Elvis taking its entire payload and dropping it all on a single burning stand of trees at extremely high speed. Just before it drops its payload, Elvis pulls up just enough to bleed off a little speed, but not too much. As revealed by another Redditor, firefighters can’t simply hover over the flame when dropping their payloads--the heat could damage the chopper and possibly even cause a crash. In order to put these put, the pilot has to provide the water a little momentum by coming in fast and then dumping it all at the same time.
But getting all 2,650 gallons to land on a single tree requires such incredible skill that one wonders if there’s some fancy technology at play. There isn’t--there’s no targeting system for water bombing. It’s all done with the pilot’s eyes and instincts.
With the wildfires currently burning in British Columbia, we’re very glad to have such skilled pilots fighting these fires.