Above: File photo of Air Tanker 260, a CL-415, scooping water at Castaic Lake December 6, 2017. Photo by Robert Schwemmer.
(Originally published at 6:40 p.m. PDT August 10, 2018)
Two water scooping air tankers are being used on the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest northwest of Lake Elsinore, California. After seeing Cathy Gregg’s tweet about the scoopers we checked Flight Radar 24 and spotted two of the CL-415’s, Tanker 261 (N392AC) and Tanker 260 (N389AC).
— Cathy Gregg (@CayucosCathy) August 10, 2018
At about 6 p.m. local time both aircraft appeared to be headed to San Bernardino Airport. I don’t know which lake they are scooping out of but if it is Lake Elsinore, about a mile from the fire at its closest point, they could have some very short turnaround times dropping up to 1,600 gallons at a time. The Martin Mars, even though it was based at Elsinore, didn’t scoop water there — it got it from another lake in Riverside County; was it Perris or Diamond Valley?
The exclusive use contracts that the U.S. Forest Service had for four CL-415’s were cancelled for this fiscal year which began in October, 2017. But they remained on Call When Needed Contracts, at a substantially higher daily and hourly rate. It is easy to blame the USFS for this decision since they issue the contracts, but the most likely guilty parties are our Representatives, Senators, and President, who did not supply adequate funding to maintain the same numbers of air tankers (large, very large, and multi-engine scoopers) that we had in FY 2017.