Avionics Upgrade for U.S. Forest Service: Sherpa Aircraft

Field Aerospace
Oklahoma City, OK
1- 403-219-3400

Field Aerospace recently completed an avionics upgrade for the US Forest Service on the sixth of 10 SD3-60 Sherpa aircraft 17 days ahead of schedule, with 100 percent quality compliance.

Implementing efficiencies and lessons learned from the previous Sherpa flight deck integrations shaved off 17 days from the planned integration schedule, garnering kudos from the US Forest Service. The forest service found no quality issues during the acceptance inspection and said they are pleased with the modification. They flew the Sherpa from Oklahoma City to Rapid City, SD, for refueling, then to its home base in Missoula, MT.

The Sherpa is a twin-engine transport aircraft, similar to the C-23A, but with cabin windows, stronger landing-gear, inward-opening paratroop doors at the rear of the fuselage and an air-operable two-section cargo ramp. The US Forest Service received 15 SD3-60 Sherpa (C-23B variant) aircraft from the US Army in early 2014 to use as smokejumpers and to transport cargo, paracargo, and firefighters. One of the unique features of the Sherpa is a rear door that can open while in flight for paracargo and jumpers.

Field Aerospace obtained the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for this avionics upgrade, which modernizes the aging smokejumper’s flight deck and improves its mission capabilities, in September 2018. Field Aerospace developed and integrated the modernized flight deck, conducted FAA-witnessed ground and flight tests, and completed the STC certification. Field’s FAA-authorized Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) issued the STC for the first Sherpa.

Field’s modification integrates an intuitive, modernized avionics suite with a Garmin G950 system. The new flight deck includes new features and safety-enhancing capabilities, such as a glass cockpit, weather radar, digital audio system, VHF-FM tactical radio, large-screen Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT), Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out, Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS), Mode S extended squitter, and Localizer Performance (LPV). The enhanced Sherpa aircraft support wild land fire operations, including smokejumper, passenger, and cargo missions.

Field Aerospace expects the next four Sherpa modernizations to follow the compressed modification schedule as well. The next aircraft is currently in work at Field’s Oklahoma City facility. Field Aerospace previously completed five Sherpa upgrades, four as part of the original base contract and one for the current option contract. Three additional aircraft will be modified, for a total of 10 on the base and option contracts.

Field Aerospace offers modification services, maintenance, and support for military and commercial aircraft; Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) modifications for special-mission and maritime applications; and aerospace parts manufacturing and subassembly services.

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