Coast Guard/Forest Service air tanker is back in the air

Michael Piper got these photos of Air Tanker 118 apparently off the television as one of the HC-130H air tankers was working the County Fire west of Sacramento. Click on the photos a couple of times to see larger versions.

After Congress authorized $130 million to transfer seven U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service to be converted to air tankers, much work was done to bring maintenance up to date, replace wing boxes, and issue contracts to private companies for regular maintenance and operation. But a few months ago the current administration announced they plan to abandon the project.

This may be the last year we see any of them fighting fire. Then I guess they’ll go to the boneyard in good shape, some with new wing boxes. There’s a rumor that CAL FIRE is considering  upgrading from their 1,200-gallon S-2T air tankers to a version of the C-130 which carries at least 3,000 gallons. Maybe they will get their hands on them.

Over the last three years one has been seen occasionally over fires, using a borrowed MAFFS slip-in tank system. As far as I know, no permanent retardant systems have been installed in any of the seven HC-130H aircraft.

Air Tanker 116 HC-130H retardant
File photo of Air Tanker 116, an HC-130H, spraying retardant on a fire near Phoenix, June 22, 2017. Fox 20 Phoenix.

11 thoughts on “Coast Guard/Forest Service air tanker is back in the air”

    1. Technically it doesn’t have an “N” number, as it is still a military aircraft. As far as I can tell, it’s not painted on the airplane.

  1. Yeah the USFS got N numbers in the 1xxZ series for all of them and the T-xxx number to match. Heard CalFire was going to try to grab at least 4 that had all the maintenance completed…pretty good deal! The Coulson tank system is excellent, ready to go if they’d give CalFire a reasonable bid, I’d think.

  2. W the new inspection requirements for the C130 I think we’ll see less of them. CalFire may rethink the Herc. May be the reason Coulson had to give two of their leased Hercs back.
    What a great tanker though.

    1. C-130 great Tanker : Absolutely. But only with a Rads Tank … Tactical airplane designed for Tactical flying. Fire Fighting is very Tactical. Good fit obviously.
      Lockheed wants to sell new Hercs so… That would be a great choice but the price gets in the way.

      This industry was built on surplus/cheap airplanes to buy and modify. Period. B-24, P-2, Dc-4, 6, 7’s, and now MD-87, B-737, BAe 146, DC-10, B-747.
      Too bad no aircraft manufacturer wants to build a 2000 Gallons Initial Attack tanker!
      Initial Attack is still the best tactic.

    2. USCG engineering was way ahead of the curve regarding severity factors and inspections, they will not affect USFS C-130 Air-Tanker operations.

    1. The photos on the page are of two different aircraft, Tanker 116 at the bottom of the page and 118 at the top of the page. Both have been active, one at a time, off and on over the last couple of years.

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