2017 was a busy year for air tankers

In spite of that, the numbers of air tankers and helicopters are being slashed

CL-415, air tanker

Above: A water-scooping air tanker, a CL-415, at Sacramento, March 12, 2018.

In our notes from the Aerial Firefighting conference HERE and HERE, we included information about how some air tankers were busier than usual in 2017:

  • Ron Hooper, CEO of Neptune Aviation, said their air tankers in 2016 averaged 180 hours while working on wildfires. In 2017 that increased to 276 hours each.
  • Rick Hatton of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said each of their three DC-10s averaged about 300 hours on fires in 2017, which is more than usual.
  • Shawna Legarza, the USFS Director of Fire and Aviation, said the two Aero-Flite CL-415 scooping air tankers that were on exclusive use (EU) USFS contracts in 2017 each had over 400 hours of fire flight time.

After we reported the information above, Jason Robinson, the Chief CL-415 pilot for Aero-Flite contacted us to supply more details. He generally  confirmed the numbers reported  by Ms. Legarza and said their two EU and two CWN CL-415’s averaged 410 hours each. In July and August alone the four scoopers flew 1,036 hours. The company brought in extra staffing to provide seven-day coverage and manage pilot fatigue. He said that in 2017, 12 Canadian CL-415’s and CL-215’s worked in California and Montana.

Mr. Robinson said they have operated CL-415’s in Alaska for up to 12 hours a day by double-crewing the aircraft.

Due to a reduction in the federal firefighting budget by the Administration and Congress, there will be no scoopers on the EU list this year. Some are still on a CWN contract, but they may or may not be available if the USFS Calls them When Needed. The large air tankers are being cut from 20 to 13 while the large Type 1 helicopters have been reduced from 34 to 28.

One thought on “2017 was a busy year for air tankers”

  1. WOW. The CL-415 or big version of USCG HU-16E is one crazy looking machine. Haven’t Googled the History yet but my guess it had recips at one time. Is it a qualified single engine ship if needed? Keep up the interresting stuff! …. can you keep a secret? One fire we were asked by residents to stop using the 1 mile long lake water because they noticed the Lake getting low. If I remember that day, 2 Cranes/ two 1000 gallon buckets x ten drops a piece. We are Lovers not Fighters so the fire burned on. “Bubba” CH54B Skycrane F/E CTARNG (Bucket Qualified)

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