Infrared aircraft detects single-tree wildfire

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control posted this video which apparently shows one of the state’s Multi-Mission Aircraft using infrared sensors to detect a single-tree fire. In the brief period of normal (not infrared imagery) there is very little visible smoke.

Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft”
One of Colorado’s two Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-Mission Aircraft” at McClellan Air Field March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Report released about the 2014 crash of an AT-802 in British Columbia

On July 14, 2016 the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada released the Investigation Report about the crash of a Conair Air Tractor AT-802A that occurred August 14, 2014. The crash took place as the air tanker was attempting to lift off after scooping water on Chantslar Lake in British Columbia. The pilot incurred minor injuries and the aircraft sank.

AT-802F
File photo of an Air Tractor 802-F. Air Tractor photo.

The investigators concluded that a wing stalled either independently or in combination with an encounter with a wing-tip vortex generated by another aircraft.

Below is the TSB’s Summary of the incident:

An Air Tractor AT-802A on amphibious floats (registration C-GXNX, serial number AT- 802A-0530), operating as Tanker 685, was carrying out wildfire management operations during daylight near Chantslar Lake, British Columbia. Three similar aircraft were working as a group with Tanker 685, which was second in line on a touch-and-go to scoop water from Chantslar Lake. Upon liftoff, control was lost and the aircraft’s right wing struck the water. The aircraft water-looped, and the floats and their support structure separated from the fuselage. The aircraft remained upright and slowly sank.

The pilot received minor injuries, egressed from the cockpit, and inflated the personal flotation device being worn. The third aircraft in the formation jettisoned its hopper load as it continued its takeoff and remained in the circuit. The fourth aircraft jettisoned its hopper load, rejected its takeoff, and taxied to pick up the accident pilot. There was sufficient impact force to activate the on-board 406- megahertz emergency locator transmitter, but the search-and-rescue satellite system did not detect a signal from the emergency locator transmitter until the wreckage was being recovered 6 days later.

The TSB’s findings, in part:

1. A wing stalled either independently or in combination with an encounter with a wing-tip vortex generated by the lead aircraft. This caused a loss of control moments after liftoff, and resulted in the right-hand wing tip contacting the water and in a subsequent water-loop.

2. The operator’s standard takeoff procedures did not specify a liftoff speed for scooping operations. Lifting off below the published power-off stall speed contributed to a loss of control at an altitude insufficient to permit a recovery.

3. The takeoff condition, with the aircraft heavy, its speed below the published power-off stall speed, and a high angle-of-attack contributed to the loss of control.

4. An understaffed management structure during organizational changes likely led to excessive workload for existing managers. This contributed to risks, contained within the standard operating procedures, not being addressed through the operator’s safety management system, resulting in continued aircraft operations below published minimum airspeed limitations.

The report states that Conair hired a safety manager and a company check pilot for the Fire Boss fleet before the 2015 spring training season started. And, Conair adopted a risk mitigation plan for 2015–2016, applicable to the company’s AT-802 fleet. The plan addresses issues mentioned in the TSB report, plus an additional issue identified in-house.

The year following the August 14, 2014 crash on Chantslar Lake there were three incidents that we are aware of that involved Conair AT-802’s:

Sky Aviation’s CH-46 on the Lava Mountain Fire

Sky Aviation purchased four CH-46 helicopters in 2015.

Sky Aviation CH-46E
Sky Aviation’s CH-46E at the Lava Mountain Fire

Alyssa Gaulke of Sky Aviation sent us some photos of one of their CH-46E that is assigned on the Lava Mountain Fire 17 air miles northwest of Dubois, Wyoming — and we found more at their Facebook page.

This CH-46E is one of four that the Worland, Wyoming-based company acquired last year.

Sky Aviation CH-46E
Sky Aviation’s CH-46E at the Lava Mountain Fire
Sky Aviation CH-46E
Sky Aviation’s CH-46E. A screen grab from a video on the company’s Facebook page posted about a month ago.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Alyssa.

USFS DC-3 listed on auction site

The auction closes July 22 at 11 a.m. CDT

DC-3 USFS
DC-3 in a hangar at McClellan March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The last DC-3 formerly owned by the U.S. Forest Service is listed for sale on the General Services Administration auction website. Built in 1944, it retired from smokejumper duty in December of 2015.

Here is the description of the aircraft at the GSA website:

Douglas DC-3T, 1944 S/N 33567, N115U. 18800.9 hours aircraft TT. P&W PT6A-67R engines, Left 2367.7 SMOH, Right 5831. SMOH HC-B5MA-3 propellers 543.0 SPOH This is an “As is where is” sale. Attached Equipment List Further details on invitation for bid DOUGLAS DC-3T 1232TD612400011

The last bid was $1,000, but the reserve has not been met. It is currently at McClellan Air Field in California.

The 72-year old aircraft, first operated by the Royal Air Force, was manufactured as World War II was winding down. The radial piston engines were replaced 25 years ago with turbines by Basler, extending its life while providing more reliability and less maintenance. The aircraft’s sister, Jump-42, another DC-3, retired in November, 2012.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Danny.

Neptune’s air tankers are much busier than last year

According to an article at KXIF, this year the air tankers operated by Neptune Aviation have flown twice as many hours compared to the same time last year.

The company has 12 tankers under contract, six P2V’s and six BAe-146’s, plus two of each that can be cycled in as maintenance is required.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

…The company’s “P2V” prop tankers, and “next gen” jets have already flown more than 1,000 hours, starting with the first firefighting assignments in the Southeast US back in February.

“Three or four years ago we had six contracts for the P2s and the jets weren’t flying. So this year we’ve got six of the jets and six of the P2s under contract,” Neptune Aviation CEO Ron Hooper said. “They’re all out very busy. And we’ve got two of each as our maintenance aircraft. We can cycle the aircraft in and out as maintenance is required.” …

California man arrested for flying drone over the Trailhead Fire

The drone forced the grounding of firefighting aircraft.

Officers with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection arrested a Placer County man Friday who allegedly interfered with firefighting operations recently on the Trailhead Fire by flying a drone over the fire, forcing fire managers to ground aircraft rather than risk a collision.

Information posted on social media helped lead law enforcement officers to Eric Wamser, 57, of Foresthill. He was arrested Friday afternoon, booked into the Placer County jail in Auburn and charged with interfering with firefighting operations. This is the first arrest by CAL FIRE law enforcement of a drone operator for interfering with firefighting.

Chief of CAL FIRE Ken Pimlott sent out a Tweet Friday night saying, “We will seek to prosecute those who put the public and our firefighters in peril with irresponsible use of drones.”

Mr. Wamser’s alleged actions delayed aerial firefighting on a fire burning in the steep canyon along the Middle Fork of the American River near Todd Valley. The Trailhead Fire started June 28 and is now 98 percent contained, according to CAL FIRE. It burned more than 5,600 acres and forced hundreds of residents of Placer and El Dorado counties to evacuate.

“The Trailhead Fire was burning in such a remote area that our aircraft were critical to stopping the fire,” said Chief George Morris III, CAL FIRE’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer unit chief. “Every minute we couldn’t fly our aircraft because of this drone, the fire was able to grow and do more damage.”

Coulson had both Martin Mars aircraft in the water this week

Coulson has been working on both of their Martin Mars aircraft, the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars. At one point this week both of them were floating in Sproat Lake adjacent to the Coulson facility for the flying boats.

Philippine Mars
The Philippine Mars on Sproat Lake this week. Alberni Valley News photo by Susan Quinn. See numerous other Mars photos at their website.

The company has repainted the Philipine Mars. It no longer has the red and white air tanker colors and now resembles its original military paint scheme. Coulson is still pursuing a plan to sell or trade the aircraft.

The Hawaii Mars is scheduled to make its first trip to the Oshkosh air show July 25 through July 30.

If you like the sound of four 18-cylinder big-ass radial engines, turn up the sound for this video.

Utah legislature approves bill to allow authorities to disable drones near wildfires

The governor is expected to sign the bill.

Lawmakers in Utah have passed a bill that would allow authorities to disable drones that are flying close to wildfires. While the legislation would allow the aircraft to be shot down, it is more likely that they would be disabled by electronic devices that would jam the radio signal or force them to land. Violators could be fined up to $15,000 or be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Below is an excerpt from an article at the Star Tribune:

…Bill sponsor Sen. Evan Vickers told The Associated Press that the state highway patrol and National Guard already have the technology.

“The redneck in me is just to shoot the damn thing,” Vickers told lawmakers, adding that it was much more “humane” to jam the drone’s signal.

He said the technology allows officials to target a specific drone and can be used without hurting other nearby aircraft or technology.

[Senator Vickers said] before the vote that the costs of fighting a small wildfire burning about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City would have been several million dollars if five drone flights hadn’t interfered.

“Now we’re way past, north of $10 million because we had to ground aircraft all because of a drone,” Herbert said.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating drones flying near the fire, which is burning on a rocky ridge above the town of Pine Valley, but no arrests have been made or suspects identified. The sheriff’s office has offered a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest…