Helitanker Numbering??

This thread is in regards to Helitanker number and how the new system of using the last 3 of the tail # is leading to duplicate IDs in fires.

Those dupe N numbers are 715HT and 795HT. For contract ships they like to use the last three so “five hotel tango” Both are CH54’s, and both I believe have the same livery, so audibly and visually that’s definitely a duplicate. Oops


@apx8000, Your explanation makes perfect sense. I just heard them call “795HT,” so going to five with them might be their workaround. Reminds me of ATC having dup flights numbers but different companies and having to really pay attention and repeat. Higher workload during a stressful time…


Other regions do not use helicopter call signs like region 5 does.
The other regions pushed for the end of the Helitanker numbering, which I always thought was short sighted. Instead they go by the last 3 of their N number now.

Many aircraft operators like to use the same 2 letters at the end of their N-number, it is like a personalized plate in a sense. The FAA has specific requirements for tail numbers though.

For example
Heliqwest’s end in HQ,
Construction Helicopters uses CH

This is pretty common in the commercial aviation space, from United Airlines to small operators.

Some of the helitankers had actually changed their N number to match their assigned Helitanker number. N715HT was Helitanker 715 etc.

The problem arises that using the last 3 you end up with multiple aircraft with very similar I’d not the exact same 3 number identifier now. This happened today in a fire. N795HT and N715HT, both would be 5HT.

I’ve seen this the last few years and it is eventually going to be a safety problem.


The controlling agency, in this case AA, in the normal world ATC, will make it clear to both aircraft there is a similar tail number on frequency. They will use the full numbers instead of the last three. Or use color if they are drastically different in color.