Africa’s first Black Hawk to fight blazes in the Lowveld

History was made when Africa’s first ever Black Hawk arrived in Mbombela last week, making it only the second one in history to enter civilian service outside the United States.
Mark Jackson, owner of locally based company Leading Edge Aviation at Nelspruit Airfield, took delivery of a Sikorsky UH-60A or “Black Hawk” after it was safely delivered by Van Wettens Breakdown Services.
Jackson, who flies for Kishugu Aviation and is one of the most-skilled Huey and aerial firefighting pilots in the country, was beaming with excitement as his new helicopter was safely set down from the truck onto South African soil.

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The process of acquiring this US Army Special Forces aircraft began in August 2016, when Mark bought the Black Hawk and started the long process of importing it to South Africa.
Jackson’s son, Pieter, and fellow pilot Tosh Ross, underwent specialised flight training in Montana, USA last year to learn to fly this machine.
Their instructor will now visit Nelspruit Airfield in December to continue the training with Mark.
Kishugu Aviation will make use of the specialised skilled pilots and aircraft to ensure aerial firefighting is done even more effectively in South Africa.
The Black Hawk arrived at Durban Port on October 1, where it was carefully loaded by Van Wettens. Then started the long journey through rain and mist. It finally arrived safely at its new home on Friday.
The Black Hawk has a very modern design to it, with many new safety features, and it is still being produced in the US.

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This 1980 Black Hawk will now be assembled and painted at Leading Edge Aviation. It is planned to become a member of the Working on Fire aerial firefighting fleet.
Mark said he will be painting the Black Hawk in the colours of Working on Fire to tie in with the rest of the aerial fleet.
“The Black Hawk will complement our firefighting fleet, such as the Hueys, that we are currently using in firefighting operations. The Black Hawk can reach speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour and lift three tons of water per drop, where the Huey’s are currently doing one ton,” concluded Jackson.

Stefan de Villiers

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