A businessman in Santa Maria, California, who has long been interested in the Russian-made Be-200 scooping air tanker, is pursuing still another avenue to use the aircraft in the United States.
David Baskett is the director of Santa Maria’s airport, president of TTE International, and is associated with International Emergency Services (IES). Campaigning for years to import the 3,000-gallon Be-200 air tanker, in 2010 he 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.
Now he says he is working with the Beriev Aircraft Company (that makes the aircraft), Global Seaplanes, and Airbus to manufacture the aircraft in Santa Maria. He hopes that the air tanker will receive FAA certification.
Several years ago some U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganrog, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 could be approved by the Interagency AirTanker Board (IAB). 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.
This is not the first announcement that the Be-200 would be manufactured in the United States. In 2014 USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) said they signed a collaboration agreement with IES to produce the Be-200 in Colorado. USAFAC co-founder Chris Olson told the Colorado Wildfire Matters Review Committee that the company was in discussions with international financiers to back the initiative’s $500 million proposition.
USAFAC at the same time was proposing to convert the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt into an air tanker.