PJ Helicopters in Northern California is often contracted to inspect power lines and monitor for fires. A key element to this operation? A fleet of Kenworth trucks.
The California-based lift service owns a fleet of 32 helicopters in total. When it deploys one of its 8 Sikorsky UH-60A Utility Hawks, the strongest model in its fleet, PJ Helicopters pairs it with a Kenworth T880 straight truck fitted with a fuel tank to refuel in the field. The T880s are equipped with PACCAR MX-13 engines, offering 510 hp, and 13-speed Eaton Fuller transmissions.
Since the helicopters most often operate in the forest or in off-road locations, the company needed a truck that could travel through tough conditions while offering a high payload of fuel.
“We never know what conditions we might face on forest roads,” said Ted Rawlings, fleet operations manager. “Oftentimes we have to climb a steep grade, sometimes through mud. With 510 horsepower, we have power in reserve for those situations that may require it. In this business, it’s key to have a dependable truck that will get you where you need to be. You can’t leave a helicopter stranded without fuel.”
Ready Through Wildfires
During fire season, the Utility Hawks are equipped with 780-gallon buckets, which are dipped into lakes, ponds, or rivers. They are able to travel quickly, and reach remote locations more easily than a truck.
But the Utility Hawk can burn through its 300-gallon fuel tank in as little as two hours. Two of the company’s Kenworth T880 straight trucks are fitted with 4,000-gallons tanks for fuel, and one T880 tractor hauls a semi-trailer that can carry about 7,300 gallons of fuel. In addition, two tractors haul shorter custom tanks that can carry 6,500 gallons of fuel and are easier to maneuver through forest service gates and tight roads.
Days in the field can be long. Four of the six T880s are spec’ed with 40-inch flat-top sleepers and one is equipped with a 52-inch mid-roof sleeper for crew members in need of luggage storage or a power nap.
Versatile for a Variety of Tasks
In addition to the T880 fuel trucks, the company utilizes two Kenworth T370s: a water truck used for dust abatement, and another truck that hauls clean (purified) water that is devoid of many minerals. This water is transferred from the T370 to a helicopter, which is used when pressure washing insulators on high-tension power lines.
“Clean water isn’t conductive, so we stay safe while cleaning insulators,” Rawling said.
Though fire season and utility work make up a large portion of PJ Helicopters’ operation, the company also works on logging, transportation, agriculture, and water services.