Above: file photo of a CL-415 “Super Scooper”. This one photographed at McClellan Air Field is operated by AeroFlite, rather than the province of Quebec like the two aircraft that will be in Los Angeles County.
The annual migration of two water-scooping air tankers from Quebec to Los Angeles County has begun. Two CL-415’s were due to arrive in Los Angeles Saturday and will be operational on Monday out of Van Nuys Airport (map).
For the last 23 wildfire seasons Los Angeles County has leased at least two water-scoopers for a portion of the second half of the calendar year. The timing is based on the assumption that the most devastating wildfires occur during the last quarter or so of the year when strong Santa Ana winds are common. Usually they come on board around the first of September and depart in November or December, but the length of the assignment can be extended if necessary.
In July of this year the County Board of Supervisors awarded a five-year contract to Quebec’s government to lease at least two of the air tankers during the southern California fire season.
In 2015 the two CL-415’s were augmented by two additional scoopers on October 9 after the county Board of Supervisors decided they were necessary because of the ongoing drought. The four aircraft that year were not needed as much as they are in an average year.
The two aircraft leased in 2013 were kept in the county well into January and were heavily used on the Colby Fire near Glendora January 16, 2014. The video below shows Tanker 241 scooping at Santa Fe Dam during the firefight.
Los Angeles County usually leases a Helitanker during the fall, an Erickson Air-Crane S-64F that can hold 2,650 gallons of water or retardant.
These leased aircraft join the Department’s own fleet of eight or nine helicopters to assist firefighters on the ground.