In May 2006, a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane stopped at Wickenburg for fuel on its way to Tucson. Three of Wickenburgâ€™s four resident helicopter owners — including me — were on hand, attracted to the helicopter like bees to honey.
The helicopter, painted bright orange and carrying a crew of three and firefighting equipment, landed at Wickenburg Municipal Airport just after 10 AM on a Sunday morning. It had flown directly to Wickenburg from its last refueling stop at Bullhead City on the Colorado River near Laughlin, NV.
The crew took some time to chat with onlookers and provide information about the rare helicopter. At the time, Tanker 733, as this helicopter was designated for firefighting, was one of only three Skycranes operating in the United States. All other Skycranes were abroad on other missions.
According to the crew, the Skycrane, which weighs over 20,000 pounds, can lift over 25,000 pounds. Its firefighting equipment enables it to suck several thousand gallons of water from a water source at least 18 inches deep in less than a minute. The water is then mixed on board with fire retardant chemicals and sprayed with precision over fires. The helicopter burns approximately 500 gallons of fuel per hour â€” and you thought your SUV was a gas hog!