Park Police helicopter crew receives awards for actions in DC Navy Yard shootings

Park Police awards

Left to right: ALEA President Kurt Frisz; Pilot Sergeant Kenneth Burchell; Rescue Technician Sergeant David Tolson; and Airbus Helicopters Law Enforcement Market Sales Manager Ed Van Winkle. (Airbus Helicopters sponsors the Gus Crawford Award). Photo provided by Ryan Mason – Airborne Productions, courtesy of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association.

On Friday, July 18th, United States Park Police Pilot Sergeant Kenneth Burchell and Rescue Technician Sergeant David Tolson received the Airborne Law Enforcement Association’s Captain ‘Gus’ Crawford Memorial Aircrew of the Year Award for 2014.

The award acknowledges a pilot and/or crewmember(s) whose flying efforts and proficiency characterize ALEA’s motto, “To Serve and Protect from the Air.”

[The U.S. Park Police is a division within the National Park Service.]

For the nomination period of April 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014, the United States Park Police were nominated twice for flying efforts during the Navy Yard shooting on September 16, 2013.

On that date, a lone gunman entered Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC, and began shooting people, creating an active shooter incident. As calls for help were received, multiple law enforcement agencies responded.

United States Park Police helicopter Eagle I, crewed by Burchell and Tolson, was asked to assist by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department. The Navy Yard is located directly across the Anacostia River from their hangar, also known as “the Eagle’s Nest.” Tolson in turn asked for additional aircraft due to the possibility of a mass casualty incident.

Due to the proximity of the Washington Navy Yard to Washington/Reagan National Airport, Eagle I notified Washington Tower, which in turn diverted air traffic from the immediate area and designated Eagle I as “air bos,” for aircraft coordination in the Navy Yard area.

On this tragic day, the crew of Eagle I initially assisted with aerial reconnaissance and perimeter control, simultaneously performing air traffic control. The crew then switched roles for the deployment of SWAT personnel and reconfigured for the extraction of a critically injured woman, which resulted in a medevac transport.

The crew returned to bring in another SWAT officer and extract the final three survivors. In the final phase, they returned to reconnaissance and perimeter control. Air operations terminated with a total of 5.5 hours flight time. All of these operations were conducted with an active shooter below them.

For these acts, the Airborne Law Enforcement Association awarded Burchell and Tolson the 2014 Captain “Gus” Crawford Memorial Air Crew of the Year Award. Officer/Rescue Technician Michael Abate was also presented an ALEA Presidential Citation for his roles in the incident.

(From the NPS Morning Report)


Our original report about the Park Police flight activities during the shooting incident.

More information about the National Park Service’s Park Police fleet of helicopters.


MAFFS air tanker experiences a hard landing

MAFFS 3 hard landing

The MAFFS 3 air tanker experienced a hard landing at Hill Air Force Base on August 17. There were no injuries. Photo supplied by the Air Force, originally from Fox 13.

One of the military Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers experienced a hard landing Sunday. The crew detected a potential malfunction with the nose landing gear and executed an emergency landing at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah. Upon landing at 2:53 MDT, there was a small fire and the aircraft, designated as MAFFS 3, sustained damage, but there were no injuries, according to the United States Northern Command.

The Fox 13 TV station in Salt Lake City reported that the air tanker was scheduled to “refuel and resupply” at Ogden when the problem was first detected.

Greg Brubaker sent us the photo below. He said he noticed the aircraft was flying in the area for over an hour and he observed that the nose gear was not visible.

MAFFS 3 nose gear problem

MAFFS 3 circling in the Ogden area before it landed with a nose gear problem. Photo by Greg Brubaker.

In the photo, the doors that cover the nose gear appear to be partially, but not fully open. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

On July 19, two MAFFS C-130s, MAFFS 1 and 3, from the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard in Cheyenne were activated to assist with the firefighting effort and have been deployed ever since, working out of Boise and other bases while rotating fresh crews in and out.

There have been three other hard landing incidents involving privately owned contract air tankers with failed landing gear or brakes since 2010. No injuries were reported in these accidents:

  1. 2010, June 26: Neptune’s Tanker 44, a P2V, experienced a hydraulic failure upon landing, had no brakes, and went off the runway at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (JeffCo) in Colorado.
  2. 2012, June 3: One of the main landing gears did not lower and lock on Minden’s Tanker 55, a P2V. The aircraft landed at Minden, Nevada and slid off the runway.
  3. 2014, June 15: Minden’s Tanker 48, a P2V, experienced a hydraulic failure, resulting in the nose gear collapsing while it landed at Fresno, California.

On July 1, 2012 a MAFFS C-130 air tanker, MAFFS #7 operated by the North Carolina National Guard crashed. The accident occurred July 1, 2012 as the aircraft was attempting to drop retardant on the White Draw Fire near Edgemont, South Dakota. There were four fatalities.

MAFFS at Helena

File photo of MAFFS 1 and 3 at Helena Regional Airport August 3, 2014. Photo by Jeff Wadekamper.


NIFC warns that drones could cause serious injury or death to firefighters

The National Interagency Fire Center released a statement on Friday about unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, saying they could cause “serious injury or death to firefighters”. And, the devices could “have midair collisions with airtankers, helicopters, and other aircraft engaged in wildfire suppression missions”.

Drones have come within or near the Temporary Flight Restrictions in place over wildfires three times this year, NIFC reported.

Here is the complete press release:



BOISE, IDAHO — Federal, state, and local wildfire managers are cautioning individuals and organizations that unauthorized operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), often referred to as “drones,” within or near wildfires threatens the safety of both aerial and ground firefighters and hampers their ability to protect lives, property, and valuable natural and cultural resources.

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) are typically put in place during wildfires that require most aircraft, manned or unmanned, other than those engaged in wildfire suppression operations to obtain permission from fire managers to enter specified airspace. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of the Interior and other wildland fire management agencies consider UAS, including those used by hobbyists and recreationists, to be aircraft and therefore subject to TFRs. This year, there have been at least three instances of a UAS being flown within or near a wildfire TFR without appropriate authorization.

Regardless of whether a TFR is implemented, individuals and organizations should not fly UAS over wildfires without prior permission from fire managers. Unauthorized UAS flights could cause serious injury or death to firefighters on the ground. They could also have midair collisions with airtankers, helicopters, and other aircraft engaged in wildfire suppression missions.

“We understand and appreciate the interest of UAS pilots in obtaining video and other data by flying over wildfires,” said Aitor Bidaburu, Chair of the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho. “It would be a real tragedy if a UAS pilot were to cause an accident that resulted in serious injuries or deaths of firefighters.”

Unauthorized UAS flights within or near wildfires could lead fire managers to suspend aerial wildfire suppression efforts until the UAS has left the TFR airspace and they are confident it won’t return. This could decrease the effectiveness of wildfire suppression operations, allowing wildfires to grow larger, and in some cases, unduly threaten lives and property.

UAS operations by individuals and organizations must be authorized by the FAA or comply with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336 of P.L. 112-95). Information is available online at Individuals who are determined to have interfered with wildfire suppression efforts may be subject to civil penalties and potentially criminal prosecution.”


SEAT sinks in British Columbia lake

An Air Tractor 802 Fireboss crashed and and sank Thursday while scooping water on Chantslar Lake in British Columbia, Canada about 30 kilometers west of Puntzi Mountain. Jeff Berry of Conair said the pilot was able to exit the Single Engine Air Tanker, but was held overnight in a hospital in William’s Lake and released Friday morning.

The Fireboss was brand new. Recovery operations are underway at the lake.


Coulson to convert a second air tanker

Lynden Air Cargo L-382

This Lynden Air Cargo L-382 photographed in Sydney, Australia is similar to the one procured by Coulson Aviation. Photo by Russavia.

Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc. of Oregon announced today that they have acquired a second aircraft which they will convert into an air tanker. Formerly operated for a number of years by Alaska-based Lynden Air Cargo, the Lockheed L-382G is the civilian version of a C-130E.

Wayne Coulson, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, said they will install a 4,800 USG Coulson RADS XXL tank into the aircraft beginning in November of this year.

Coulson Aviation has been operating Tanker 131, a C-130Q which is similar to a C-130H, since August of 2013. The tank in T-131 can hold almost 4,000 gallons; their average load this year has been 3,700 gallons.

Mr. Coulson said:

It is our understanding that the USFS will have a “Next Generation II” Air tanker bid opportunity in the fourth quarter of 2014, and we want to be ready to participate in the bid process. Our current C-130Q firefighting aircraft has been performing extremely well, and both the aircraft and the 4,000 USG RADS XL tanking system have exceeded expectations.




Moses Lake tanker base sets new record for quantity of retardant

The air tanker base at Moses Lake, Washington has been extremely this summer. They have set a new record for the number of gallons of retardant pumped in a season and the month of August is not even over yet. So far they have put 1.9 million gallons of the mud in aircraft, shattering the previous record of 1.4 million that stood since 2001.


Tanker 161

RJ-85, tanker 161

The National Interagency Fire Center posted this photo of Aero Flite’s RJ-85, Tanker 161, on the agency’s Facebook page. They did not specify where it was taken, when, or the name of the photographer.

Tanker 161 and its sister, Tanker 160, became fully carded and operational a couple of weeks ago.

Aero Flite chose the external retardant tank option, rather than an internal tank. Other air tanker companies retrofitting the BAe-146, which is similar, have found the infrastructure inside the aircraft’s belly challenging to work around or move when installing an internal tank.


Portable retardant plant at the Beaver Fire

Portable retardant plant

Portable retardant plant along the Klamath River on the Beaver Fire.

On Tuesday when I was at the Beaver Fire northwest of Yreka, California a Sikorsky Air-Crane was reloading with retardant from tanks at a portable retardant plant along the Klamath river.

Helitanker 743 reloads with retardant

Helitanker 743 reloads with retardant

Helitanker 743 reloads with retardant More information and photos about the Beaver Fire.