Kishugu Aviation’s stalwart and pride: the UH-1H “Huey”

22 Mar, 2018 | Kishugu Aviation

At Kishugu Aviation, the air wing of Kishugu Holdings, we partner with our clients to take care of anything and everything to do with flying. We are best known for providing aerial support to the South African Government’s Department of Environmental Affairs’ Expanded Public Works Programme, the Working on Fire (WOF) Programme.

Our wildfire firefighting aircraft includes the Cessna 100 and 200 series aircraft, Air Tractor 802s and, our pride and joy, the Bell 206 and Bell 205/UH-1H series. These two-bladed semi-rigid seesaw bonded machines earned the nickname, Huey.

There is no more recognisable sound when fighting wildfires than that of the whumping rotor blades of the Huey’s. Operating between 100 – 300 ft above ground level, the Huey is the preferred machine for wildfire firefighting, capable of dropping an impressive 15,000 litres an hour.

“A Huey can carry up to 1,000 litres in its Bambi bucket and can do rapid turnarounds. On average it can manage a drop every four-minute, depending on the distance to a suitable water source,” CEO of Kishugu Aviation, Johan Heine, says proudly. “Doing drops every two minutes is common and equates to a difficult-to-beat 15,000 litres an hour to suppress a fire – and this is from just one helicopter with one pilot.”

What makes the Huey an even more impressive firefighting aircraft, is its ability to alter strategies quickly to adapt to the situation to tackle the fire effectively.

Today, it is recorded that an impressive number of Huey’s are still in operation, particularly in the USA and South Africa. At the 2017 Huey Owners and Operators Conference held at the HAI HELI Expo in Virginia, USA, it was confirmed that over 3,600 Huey’s are still currently in operation across the world, of which 20% are used in firefighting operations. For this reason, Kishugu Aviation has 14 Huey’s in its fleet to fight fires across South Africa.


“The Huey is an unsophisticated helicopter. It is a real workhorse. It is pilot-friendly; the pilot can concentrate on the job instead of flying with eyes inside the cockpit. It is the best helicopter in its class for the job. From a pilot’s point of view, it’s a real helicopter”, concludes Henning de Beer, Line Captain for Helicopters at Kishugu Aviation.

Kishugu Aviation not only uses its Huey’s for firefighting but also for more delicate aerial work, which recently included:

  • Airlifting 12 White Rhinos from South Africa to the Okavango Delta as part of a cross-border initiative by conservationists.
  • The delicate aerial placement of a new catwalk, straddling Disa Gorge in the Table Mountain Chain.
  • Supporting the refurbishment by airlifting materials for the Sea Point Cape Town-Lighthouse.

Kishugu Aviation provides a wide range of specialist aircraft and highly skilled pilots to clients who require the services of a professional, independent aviation company. And the UH-1H “Huey” will most definitely form part of the future of Kishugu Aviation.