Air tankers positioned at Boise

Tanker 162

Tanker 162 at Boise. NIFC photo.

The National Interagency Fire Center posted these photos on their Facebook page today, with the following text:

What’s Happening at NIFC these days? There are 4 heavy airtankers awaiting assignment, along with 2 SEATS. These pics are of one of the Next Gen Airtankers. In the foreground is the hose on wheels that fills these guys up with retardant!

The air tanker shown above is Aero Flite’s Tanker 162, an RJ85. It does not have an exclusive use contract, but is one of the 22 air tankers that were recently awarded Call When Needed contracts.

NIFC does not say in which aircraft the interior photo below was taken, but we’re guessing it was the RJ85, Tanker 162. They also don’t say when the photos were taken or by whom.

Interior of an air tanker

Interior of an air tanker at Boise. NIFC photo.


Tokoyo FD to establish helicopter unit for fighting high-rise fires

The Tokyo Fire Department will launch a helicopter-based unit called Air Hyper Rescue to battle fires in high-rise buildings, the Japan Times reported on June 29,2015.

From Aviation Today:

[T]he Air Hyper Rescue unit would be established by April 2016, and would use a helicopter with a 660-gallon water tank and water cannons capable of discharging approximately 160 gallons per minute horizontally. The helicopter also would be capable of carrying a 10-person rescue gondola.

When I first started reading about this I assumed they would be using an Erickson Air-Crane which has already been developed and can carry about four times as much water.

These videos show the Erickson concept.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to @jetcitystar.


Fuel truck added at Burns Airport will help mitigate fuel outages

Burns Airport fuel truck

A 6,000 gallon fuel tanker obtained from military surplus arrives at the Burns, Oregon. Photo by Burns Municipal Airport.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Capital Press:


“During fire season last summer in southeast Oregon, the Burns Municipal Airport ran out of fuel for firefighting airplanes nine times.

With drought expected to bring an even worse wildfire danger this year, airport Manager Jeff Cotton, community members and the Bureau of Land Management, which manages much of range and forestland in the region, began looking for ways to avoid similar shortages and response delays. Having to halt flights until fuel was delivered interrupted the firefighting effort.

Cotton and the others learned a military surplus tanker truck was available at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and federal General Services Administration approved the airport’s request. The tanker was free, and the BLM paid for two drivers and a low-boy hauling rig to go get it.

The tanker, a 1995 Volvo with only 300 miles on it, holds 6,000 gallons of fuel. Cotton said the rolling cache gives the airport about three days worth of fuel for the air tankers. He’d like more, but he’s glad to have it.

Cotton said he hopes to obtain another tanker truck next fall or spring.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.”


Air Force hauls firefighting supplies to assist firefighting efforts in Alaska

Fire Supplies transported on Air Force plane

The U.S. Air Force joined the massive firefighting effort currently underway in Alaska on Sunday by helping to expedite an enormous load of firefighting supplies to Alaska from the Defense Logistics Agency to replenish the warehouse at the Alaska Fire Service. The bulk of the shipment, which weighed more than 127,000 pounds, was flown to Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks in a C-5M Galaxy transport plane from the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base northeast of San Francisco.

The Defense Logistics Agency is the normal supply source for the federal wildland fire supply system and firefighting supplies are normally trucked to Alaska from the Lower 48. However, given the urgency of the situation, the U.S. Air Force offered to ferry the supplies to Alaska. The shipment included pumps, chainsaws, water handling equipment, prepackaged meals, fire clothing and assorted other kinds of durable and consumable supplies that are in demand due to the high fire activity in Alaska.

Air force plane hauling fire supplies

Eielson AFB southeast of Fairbanks was used as the delivery point because the Galaxy requires a longer runway than is available at Fort Wainwright just east of Fairbanks. Personnel from the Alaska Fire Service and Eielson Air Force Base then loaded the supplies onto flatbed tractor-trailers for transport to the Alaska Fire Service warehouse on Fort Wainwright.

Some of the supplies were transported to Alaska on previously scheduled USAF DC-10 flights.

These photos were taken Sunday, June 28, by BLM Alaska Fire Service public information officer Sam Harrel.

Fire supplies on ramp


The 2015 large air tanker lineup for US Forest Service


Air Tankers June 2015

All 13 of the large and very large fixed wing air tankers that have been on standard exclusive use contracts since last year have started their Mandatory Availability Period and are on duty.  The last two, MD-87s operated by Aero Air, began in the first half of June and should end in mid-December. All 13 air tankers except for three are scheduled to work 160 days. The exceptions are two P2Vs, on duty for 180 days each, and another P2V which is planned for 140 days. All of the P2Vs are operated by Neptune Aviation.

The handful of air tankers that were brought on as “additional equipment” on contracts in 2014 will not be working under the same arrangement this year — the “additional equipment” concept is no longer being used by the Department of Agriculture. Those extra aircraft will have to be employed under new contracts for each air tanker or come on under the Call When Needed contracts that were awarded earlier this month.

The U.S. Forest Service is attempting to issue exclusive use contracts for “up to seven” more next-generation air tankers. The agency hoped to have them working by May 30, but the process came to a screeching halt a couple of months ago.

Two companies, Coulson Aviation and Erickson Aero Tanker, filed protests about this latest round of potential contracts. The protests were lodged with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the agency with the responsibility of deciding whether the protests have merit, which they are required to do by July 9 for Coulson’s protest and July 17 for Erickson’s. Both companies later amended their original complaints, which complicates the procedure for the GAO, so it is unlikely that anything will be decided much before those mid-July due dates.

Tanker 118 HC-130H

The Coast Guard HC-130H that will become Tanker 118. Undated photo by the Coast Guard.

A 14th air tanker is expected to be ready to fight fire by the end of July, according to Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service. That aircraft is Tanker 118, one of the seven HC-130Hs owned by the Coast Guard that are in the process of undergoing major maintenance and conversion to air tankers.

T-118, Government Owned/Contractor Operated, has been at McClellan Airport for a couple of weeks and is being used, with a lead plane, for training flight crews. It does not have a conventional gravity-based retardant tank, yet, but will be using one of the eight Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that use compressed air to force 3,000 gallons of retardant out of the internal slip-in tank. Eventually it and the other six HC-130Hs will have a gravity tank, using the same basic concept employed by all of the Contractor Owned/Contractor Operated large air tankers.

The hourly and daily rates for the HC-130H are estimated at this early stage of deployment of the aircraft, Jones told us.

“The rates are expected to decrease after the program is stood up and the expenses can be spread across multiple aircraft”, she said. “Costs incorporate many aspects of the program, including hangar facilities, U.S. Coast Guard engineering and airworthiness support, maintenance and pilot contracts, and MAFFS maintenance.”

Tanker 118 does not have a tail number yet, since it is still owned by the Coast Guard. Later, possibly this year, it will depart McClellan to finish the conversion to an air tanker, getting the gravity retardant tank and a new paint job– after which the title can be transferred to the USFS.

A second HC-130H will arrive at McClellan in a few months and this year will be used only for training. The other five HC-130Hs will gradually enter the USFS air tanker fleet over the next several years.


Two drones reported near Sterling Fire on Thursday

Sterling Fire drone

Sterling Fire, June 25, 2015. InciWeb photo.

Two drones temporarily halted air tanker operations Thursday on the Sterling Fire burning in the foothills north of San Bernardino, California, but operations soon resumed. The first drone was interfering with fire operations and that pilot has not been found. Another drone was reported by a concerned citizen and it was located. After reviewing the footage from the second aircraft it was determined that it was not interfering with fire operations.

The Sterling Fire. which has burned 100 acres north of San Bernardino, was reported about 6:30 p.m., on June 25. It spread north from the end of Sterling Avenue in San Bernardino into the San Bernardino National Forest. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

On June 24 a hobby drone flown over the Lake Fire east of San Bernardino, California caused a safety problem, requiring all firefighting aircraft to be grounded, according to CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Daniel Berlant. There has been no report that the pilot has been identified. The LA Times also has an article about that incident.