In recent weeks, Erickson S-64 helicopter pilots have been fighting fires on the burning hillsides in Greece, eight miles north of Elefsina. While working in tandem with the Greek Air Force to fight the fires on Sunday, June 26th, two Air Cranes were among the first responders to aid a downed Greek Air Force airplane, a Canadair CL-215 waterbomber, that had crash-landed on a hillside.
Seeing the smoke rising from the fuselage, two Erickson Air Crane helicopters responded: N164AC, piloted by Don McLeod and Jeff Brenhaug; and N957AC, piloted by Jeff Shelton and Mike Strasser. Erickson teams dropped water on the downed fixed-wing Canadair aircraft. More than a dozen light coverage water drops were made over the burning plane, allowing the downed pilots to escape and reach the safety of a nearby road. A full report on the incident can be read at Skies Magazine here.
A ceremony was held on Tuesday, July 5th in appreciation of the efforts of the Erickson crew members, conducted at the Ministry of Public Order in Athens, which is the department responsible for Civil Protection to include the Hellenic Fire Department. The gathering was attended by the General Secretary for the Ministry of Public Order, the General Secretary of Civil Protection, the Chief of the Air Force, the Chief of the Hellenic Fire Brigade and the Chief of Police.
Awards were presented by Mr. Nikos Toskas, the Deputy Minister of Civil Protection, who expressed his deepest gratitude to the Erickson crew who had clearly reacted to an emergency situation in a professional and highly efficient manner, resulting in the likely prevention of loss of life. He recognized the skill and judgment taken to do so and also our long history of working in Greece. The Chief of the Air Force, Mr. Christos Vaitsis also commended the crews for their airmanship and reflected on our performance and how well we cooperate with their various squadrons throughout the fire season. More images and a video of the ceremony can be found at the Greek Ministry’s website here.