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Bell Jet Ranger 206B is a great utility helicopter

- and thanks to steadfast pilots can be used to fight fires

All over the world in dry climates, particularly in places like the Pacific states of the USA, the southern and eastern states of Australia, and southern Europe, the threat of major grass and/or bush fires is an ever present danger during the summer months. In all of these places you'll often find dedicated, local, helicopter pilots who are always willing to put their personal safety in second place when they're called on to help fight fires.

A Bell 206B of Marlborough Helicopters Ltd in Blenheim (New Zealand) fills up a monsoon bucket in a near-by vineyard irrigation pond while fighting a serious grass fire.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

Originally developed in 1967 to be used by the United States Army, the Bell YOH-4 as it was called at that stage, failed to be accepted by the army's Light Observation Helicopter program. Bell was confident that the design was good, so they slightly redesigned the aircraft and marketed it commercially, with great success, as the Bell 206A JetRanger. This redesign also meant that further down the track (in 1969) the US Army did accept the type as suitable for military service, and it became known by the military as the Bell OH-58 Kiowa.

The 206 is a family of two-bladed, single- or twin-engined helicopters, some of which are still being built by Bell Helicopter at its Mirabel, Quebec plant today (2016). To date over 7,300 examples of the JetRanger in all it's many variants have been built, and they've found a variety of roles all around the world. Many are used by news media organisations in North America, while several such as those owned by H. Ross Perot Jnr, Australian businessman Dick Smith, and Ron Bower have been used for record-breaking round-the-world helicopter flights.

This video shows the Marlborough Helicopters Ltd Jet Ranger filling its monsoon bucket from a truck, and from a vineyard irrigation dam during a fire fighting sortie. Long grass along a river bed had been ignited (apparently by an arsonist) and several local choppers needed to be called in to fight the blaze.

Local helicopter companies and their pilots regularly help fight fires in the Marlborough (NZ) district during the summer, and the local populace greatly appreciates the time and effort that these folks put in to saving homes and property. Well done Marlborough Helicopters, and thanks for your hard work.

The next time you run into a helicopter pilot, ask him or her if they're ever involved in air ambulance, rescue and/or fire fighting roles, and if they are, make sure that you show your appreciation. These folks often go way beyond the bounds of their duty when flying these types of missions, and they all deserve our respect and thanks.

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