The Colorado company that proposes to convert the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt into an air tanker announced on September 26 that they signed an agreement to produce the until now Russian-built amphibious water-scooping Beriev Be-200 in the United States. USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) said they signed a collaboration agreement with California-based International Emergency Services, Inc. (IES) to develop a U.S.-built Beriev Be-200 in Colorado.
USAFAC co-founder Chris Olson made the announcement before the Colorado Wildfire Matters Review Committee saying the company was in discussions with international financiers to back the initiative’s $500 million proposition.
David Baskett of IES has been campaigning for years to import the 3,000-gallon Be-200 air tanker, and in 2010 arranged for one of the aircraft to visit the United States. It was on display at Santa Maria, California and made a demonstration water drop. Mr. Baskett said then that his plan was to purchase 10 of the aircraft and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States.
A couple of years ago some U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganro, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 met the criteria established by the Interagency Air Tanker Board (IATB). At the time, we heard unofficial reports that it met the criteria for water-scooping air tankers, but tests were not completed for dropping fire retardant.
There are quite a few videos of Be-200s dropping water, but the four-second one below is my favorite.
USAFAC has made a splash recently with proposals about the A-10 and now the Be-200. The company, which first registered its web domain on August 9, 2014, has ambitious goals. It will be interesting to see if their talk translates into something flyable.
Before we created Fire Aviation, we wrote several stories about the Be-200 at Wildfire Today. Here is a link to articles there tagged Be-200.