747 SuperTanker activated on CAL FIRE CWN contract

In the file photo above, Air Tanker 944, a 747-400, drops near structures on the Palmer Fire south of Yucaipa, California at 4:25 p.m. PDT September 2, 2017. Photo by Leroy Leggitt, used with permission.

CAL FIRE activated the 747 SuperTanker today, July 7, on a Call When Needed  (CWN) contract after it was carded by the agency. The aircraft has been hung up in the annual recertification process this year due to a required software addition. The approval, or carding, is temporary, pending resolution of the data software issue which helps track systems on the air tanker. The issue is not related to the actual retardant delivery system.

In addition to the CWN contract with CAL FIRE, GlobalSupertanker also has contracts with the states of Colorado and Oregon.

As this is written at  6:50 p.m. PDT July 7, Tanker 944 had just received a launch order and is en route to the Klamathon Fire on the Oregon/California state line.

Two additional MAFFS air tankers activated

Two more C-130 Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) have been activated, joining the two that were mobilized July 2.

These aircraft are coming from the Air National Guard bases at Cheyenne and Reno. The first two were from the Air Force Reserve base in Colorado Springs.

For now they are based at Colorado Springs where a temporary retardant base has been installed.

The concept behind the MAFFS is to have surge capacity. The units can be activated when ongoing wildfires reduce the ability of the 13 large air tankers on federal exclusive use contracts, or the 11 on call when needed contracts, to respond to new initial attack and extended attack fires.

Governors have the authority to activate their National Guard MAFFS as needed. The National Interagency Fire Center can also activate them.

The U.S. Forest Service owns eight of the MAAFS systems that can be slipped inside a military C-130 in a matter of hours. One of them is being used in a Coast Guard C-130 that one day may or may not be transferred to the USFS to be converted into an air tanker with a permanent retardant system. The Administration has expressed a desire to kill the program that would have transferred seven Coast Guard HC-130H’s to the USFS to help rebuild the atrophied fleet of large air tankers.

A MAFFS unit installed inside a C-130. Boise, ID April 20, 2018(

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.
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Air tankers at Medford fighting the Klamathon Fire

Above: T-93 departs Medford, Oregon for the Klamathon Fire in California. All photos by Tim Crippin July 5, 2018.

Tim Crippin took these photos July 5 of eight air tankers that were fighting the Klamathon Fire and reloading at Medford, Oregon.

As of Friday morning the fire just across the state line in California had burned approximately 8,000 acres and multiple structures. A civilian who has not yet been identified died in the fire.

air tanker Medford Klamthon Fire
air tanker Medford Klamthon Fire

Continue reading “Air tankers at Medford fighting the Klamathon Fire”

Colorado signs contract with GlobalSupertanker

Above: the 747 SuperTanker takes off at McClellan at dawn on March 24, 2016 after attending the Aerial Firefighting Conference. Photo By Bill Gabbert.

Today officials in Colorado announced that the state has signed a contract with Global Supertanker for the use of the company’s 747 air tanker. The agreement is a Call When Needed arrangement, which means the aircraft will only be activated on an as-needed basis.

The 747 is in Sacramento this week going through the annual recertification and “carding” process with the U.S. Forest Service. When that is complete it would again be available on a CWN contract with the state of California. If they desired, the USFS could utilize it through interagency agreements with the state. The SuperTanker was used in 2017 by CAL FIRE on several fires.

The carding process is delayed this year because the SuperTanker needs a USFS required software addition. The SuperTanker team is working with Latitude Technologies(a USFS vendor) and the USFS to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible. In addition to the CWN contracts with California and now Colorado, GlobalSupertanker also has one with the county just south of Denver, Douglas County.

Firefighters in both California and Colorado have been very busy in recent weeks fighting  huge fires. It is unknown if the 747 would be immediately activated when the software addition is complete.

Global SuperTanker’s B747-400, The Spirit of John Muir, incorporates a patented system capable of delivering single or multiple payload drops aggregating 19,200 gallons of water, fire retardant, or suppressant. With a flying speed of 600 mph, the air tanker can reach any part of the globe in 20 hours or less or nearly any part of the U.S. in less than three hours.

On February 1, 2017 during a deployment in Chile the aircraft set what could be a world record for liquid dropped in a single day by a land-based air tanker at 138,400 gallons. The video below shows it pulling into the reload pit at Santiago after its seventh and final sortie that day, making 11 drops on fires near Concepcion, Navidad, and Matanzas.

Temporary VLAT retardant base established at Colorado Springs

Above: MAFFS #2 reloads at the new temporary retardant base at the Colorado Springs Airport. Screen grab from the video below.

A new temporary fire retardant base has been set up at the Colorado Springs Airport. A spokesperson for the airport told us that it can handle Very Large Air Tankers such as the DC-10 and 747. In the video below one of the DC-10’s can be seen in the background.

This is part of a joint effort between the Colorado Springs Airport, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Fort Carson to provide a reload facility in the area.

Two MAFFS aircraft activated

MAFFS activatedToday two C-130 MAFFS aircraft from the Air Force Reserve base in Colorado, the 302nd Airlift Wing, were activated after receiving a request from the National Interagency Fire Center. Sorties by MAFFS 2 and MAFFS 5 started today on the Spring Creek Fire in south-central Colorado.

The Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that convert a military aircraft into an air tanker can be installed in a C-130 in a matter of hours. The units hold up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant that is forced out of the tanks by compressed air.

The MAFFS program consists of eight units located at four military bases in the western United States — Channel Islands, Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Reno. All are Air National Guard bases except for the Air Force Reserve Wing at Colorado Springs. Each base has two of systems except for the new kid on the block, Reno — one of their two MAFFS is being used by a C-130 that was originally expected to be transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service.

The concept behind the MAFFS is to have surge capacity. The units can be activated when ongoing wildfires reduce the ability of the 13 large air tankers on federal exclusive use contracts, or the 11 on call when needed contract, to respond to new initial attack and extended attack fires.

Governors have the authority to activate their National Guard MAFFS as needed. The National Interagency Fire Center can also activate them.

MAFFS 8 and 9 at annual training in Cheyenne in 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.


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.