747 Supertanker update

Above: A screen grab from the 747 Supertanker video, “Mountain Flying”.

Global SuperTanker bought the retardant system and the intellectual property formerly owned by Evergreen, the organization that first put it in a 747-100 air tanker. It now resides in a 747-400 operated by Global SuperTanker which in recent weeks has been going through some of the final stages of installation, testing, and crew training.

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Initial new hire training run at Keller Butte in North central Washington state. Global SuperTanker photo.
On June 17 the aircraft traveled to Moses Lake, Washington to conduct crew training in mountainous terrain on the Colville Indian Reservation near Moses Lake, Washington. Training flights were under the direction of experienced Lead Plane pilot Jamie Tackman flying a King Air 90, and were recorded by video cameras located on the Keller Butte fire lookout tower and in a helicopter orbiting overhead. Tanker 944, along with the Lead Plane, made seven round trips to the training area, completing a mix of “show me” and low level dry runs plus various full load and segmented water drops.

Three FAA inspectors from Denver and Seattle observed the flights.

T-944  training drop
T-944 makes a training drop on Keller Butte . Global SuperTanker photo.
Jim Wheeler, President and CEO of Global SuperTanker Services, said they do not know if the aircraft will have to go through the retardant drop testing in which the liquid is caught in hundreds of cups placed on on the ground. The retardant system is basically the same that was used in Version 1.0 operated by Evergreen, which was previously approved by the Interagency Airtanker Board (IAB).  The Board wants some additional data from static drops that will be conducted soon, then a decision will be made about what other data or testing they will need, if any.

Global SuperTanker Services is now preparing the aircraft, ground crew and their facilities for inspections by the FAA, CAL FIRE, U.S. Forest Service, Interagency Airtanker Board, and other state or regional fire agencies interested in CWN (Call When Needed) contracts for the 2016 fire season.

The company has produced videos showcasing the rebirth of the 747 air tanker, Tanker 944. Here are two of them. We’ll have more tomorrow. 

The first one appears to have been filmed during the training at the Colville Indian Reservation.

Two USFS HC-130H air tankers to be operational by September

Above: Tanker 118, an HC-130H, on the Lowell Fire, July 25, 2015. Photo by Matthew Rhodes.

If the schedule goes according to plan there will be two U.S. Forest Service HC-130H air tankers operational at McClellan Air Field by September, 2016.

In July of 2015 Tanker 118, Aircraft number 1721, showed up at McClellan and became available for fighting fires.

It is one of seven that are in the process of being transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the USFS. Much work has to be done before the transformation is complete, including installing an internal retardant tank (which has not been done on any of the aircraft yet), removal of unneeded military and Coast Guard equipment, programmed depot maintenance, painting, and most of them need to have the wing boxes replaced.

The U.S. Air Force is responsible for getting all of this work done, and with their own money. With that in mind, and considering other Air Force priorities must be taken into consideration, the expectation is that all seven aircraft will be fully converted and available for firefighting operations for the 2020 fire season.

Since the retardant systems have not been a installed, last year Tanker 118 used one of the eight Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems assigned to military C-130s that can install the slip-in system in a matter of hours if an air tanker surge capacity is needed. That is the plan this year too. It is unknown if another MAFFS will be installed in the second HC-130H this summer, or if that aircraft will only be used for training.

The two HC-130Hs at McClellan this year will be Tanker 116 (aircraft number 1708), and Tanker 118 (aircraft number 1721).

T 116 is currently undergoing programmed depot maintenance, demilitarization, and painting with the U.S. Air Force. Estimated completion date and delivery to McClellan is August, 2016.

T 118 is undergoing programmed depot maintenance and painting with the U.S. Coast Guard. It is expected at McClellan in September, 2016.

Tanker 161 on the Crow Peak Fire

On Monday at 4:56 p.m. we shot this photo of Tanker 161, an RJ85, dropping on the Crow Peak Fire southwest of Spearfish, South Dakota. From a distance we saw several air tanker drops by P2V and RJ85 tankers, but only got decent photos of Tanker 161.

At  one point on Monday there were four air tankers working out of Rapid City Tanker Base. By the end of the day one had been sent to a fire near Billings, one was relocated somewhere else, and another was down for maintenance.

Bombardier sells their air tanker business

Aero-Flite air tanker T-260, CL-415,
Aero-Flite’s T-260, A CL-415, at McClellan, March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Bombardier has agreed to sell their air tanker manufacturing business to Viking Air Ltd.

The transaction will see Viking acquire the Type Certificates (manufacturing rights) for all variants of Bombardier’s amphibious aircraft, and assume responsibility for product support, parts and service for the fleet of 170 air tankers in service with 21 operators in 11 countries around the world.

Below is an excerpt from an article at CTV News:

…Victoria-based Viking manufactures the Twin Otter as well as spare parts for several planes originally made by de Havilland. It also has manufacturing rights for all out-of-production de Havilland aircraft, including the DASH-7 regional airliner, a predecessor to Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop.

Viking employs just under 90 people in Calgary and more than 330 at its headquarters and facilities in Victoria. The company said it expects to add up to 40 people to its workforce in Victoria and Calgary with the new program.

Bombardier said Monday it plans to transfer 50 employees from the amphibious aircraft program based in North Bay, Ont., to other parts of its business.

The Montreal-based company hasn’t produced an amphibious plane since December 2015…

Canadair began manufacturing the amphibious CL-215 air tanker in 1967 and in 1986 sold the manufacturing rights for the aircraft to Bombardier. In 1993 Bombardier introduced the upgraded CL-415, replacing the piston engines with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF turboprops as well as introducing an updated cockpit and aerodynamics enhancements.

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

Israel sends air tankers to Cyprus to assist with outbreak of wildfires

Above: three Israeli single engine air tankers have arrived in Cyprus to assist firefighters. Photo by Israel Foreign Ministry.

The government of Israel sent three single engine air tankers (SEATs) and a support aircraft to assist Cyprus in suppressing large fires near Paphos and Evrychou. Cyprus has also asked Greece for assistance.

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said at his Sunday Cabinet meeting:

Several years ago, during the massive [2010] Carmel fire, I contacted the President of Cyprus, he was the first I turned to, and the Prime Minister of Greece, that they should send firefighting aircraft. They had one such aircraft. They took it out of its hangar and sent it here. Last night I ordered that three of our firefighting aircraft, out of our fleet of 13 or 14, be sent to help them, and the planes are now in Cyprus. This is part of the regional arrangement we have made with Cyprus and Greece about emergency assistance. I am pleased that we are able to extend this assistance.

Related articles:

Helicopter operations at the Cedar Fire

Above: Helitanker 718 is on final at Show Low Airport and will land at the heavy helicopter area next to a Columbia Boeing Vertol, while JR Helicopter’s AStar is checked over by it’s mechanic. Members of the BLM’s Twin Falls Helitack chat near their medium Bell’s parking spot.

Helicopter Expresses Bell 205 departs the helibase area at the Show Low, AZ airport to the Cedar Fire, burning south of town on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
Helicopter Express’ Bell 205 departs the helibase area at the Show Low, AZ airport to the Cedar Fire, burning south of town on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

Tom Story sent us these captioned photos of operations at the helibase for the Cedar Fire south of Show Low, Arizona. More information about the 9,600-acre fire is at Wildfire Today.

Challenged by a pretty good breeze and lack of decent writing surface Angie Tom of Twin Falls Helitack runs the deck operations from the passenger seat of Durango Helitack's vehicle.
Challenged by a pretty good breeze and lack of decent writing surface Angie Tom of Twin Falls Helitack runs the deck operations from the passenger seat of Durango Helitack’s vehicle.
JR Helicopters AStar was staffed by Sandia Helitack while Idaho Helicopters Bell 205A was Twin Falls Helitack's ship.
JR Helicopters’ AStar was staffed by Sandia Helitack while Idaho Helicopters Bell 205A was Twin Falls Helitack’s ship.
The passenger side window of Durango Helitack's vehicle was pressed into service as a writing surface, showing a diagram of the helibase deck at Show Low, AZ airport for helicopters staged for IA and in support of the Cedar Fire on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
The passenger side window of Durango Helitack’s vehicle was pressed into service as a writing surface, showing a diagram of the helibase deck at Show Low, AZ airport for helicopters staged for IA and in support of the Cedar Fire on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

Air tankers drop on the Sherpa Fire

The Sherpa Fire has burned about 1,200 acres in Santa Barbara County in southern California.

And, let’s not forget the ground-based firefighters:

Introduction to the Redmond Tanker Base

Above: a 47-second video showing the aircraft at the Redmond Tanker Base on June 13, 2016.

Clouds were hovering just above the ridges bordering the valley around the Redmond, Oregon airport when I was there on Monday, June 13. There was a chance of rain across the entire Pacific Northwest and there were no orders for the four large air tankers staged at the Redmond Air Tanker Base.

Eric Graff, who has been the base manager for the last 12 years, said they had been busy in recent days sending tankers to fires in Oregon and northern California. They had pumped 165,000 gallons of fire retardant into tankers so far this fire season.

Eric Graff
Base Manager Eric Graff (left) and timekeeper Cynthia Buehner at the Redmond Air Tanker Base.

Working with Mr. Graff on Monday was Cynthia Buehner, in her third season as timekeeper for the base, and summer seasonal, Marissa Kraweczak, whose previous experience before this year was on the Zigzag Hotshots.

Also at the base was the normal contingent of pilots and mechanics for the four tankers that were on the ramp — three Aeroflite RJ85s, and one Neptune Aviation P2V. One lead plane was also on scene.

Pilatus PC12 lead plane
Aeroflite’s Pilatus PC12 (right) and a lead plane (left) at Redmond, Oregon. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

I asked Mr. Graff if dispatchers proactively tried to group aircraft from the same company together at a tanker base, and he said no, it was not intentional. Aeroflite recognized that they had three of their tankers and crews at Redmond and called a meeting, with executives flying in on the company’s Pilatus PC12. The state of Colorado recently purchased two PC12s to use as intelligence gathering and communications platforms, calling them “multi-mission aircraft”.

Other fire-related operations at the Redmond Airport include the Redmond Smokejumpers, the Northwest Fire Training Center, the Redmond Hotshots, and the Regional Air Group which supplies pilots for the jumpers and lead planes.

Tanker 163
Tanker 163 at Medford, June 13, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
tanker 44
Tanker 44 at Medford, June 13, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
tanker 162
Tanker 162 at Medford, June 13, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
tanker 161
Tanker 161 at Medford, June 13, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
tanker 44 tanker 161
Tanker 44, in the foreground, and Tanker 161 at Medford, June 13, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.