Pilot killed in air tanker crash in Chile

The aircraft was a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT), an Air Tractor 802A.

Latercera is reporting that an air tanker crashed in Chile Wednesday, December 28 killing the pilot identified as Ricardo García-Verde Osuna, 47.

Photo by ARAUCOTV

The Google translation is very rough, but it appears that the aircraft went down about 15 kilometers from the town of Santa Juana after working on a wildfire in the Bío Bío region.

According to El Día the pilot had not reported any problems with the aircraft.

The air tanker was operated by FAASA, a company that has been in business for over 50 years.

We send out our sincere condolences to Mr. Garcia-Verde’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Military helicopters activated for wildfires in Switzerland

Above: A military Super Puma takes off with a water bucket to drop water on a fire in southern Switzerland. Photo by Niklaus Watchman.

A month without precipitation in southern Switzerland has led to several wildfires breaking out on the south side of the Alps. Three military Super Puma helicopters are assisting the firefighters on the ground.

Below is an excerpt from an article at blick.ch, translated by Google:

Among the ten armored pilots who flew lighter packs yesterday in the Leventina and Misox with five large heliots, Major Thomas Hügli (35), the commander of the air transport division 6, is also on duty , Insofar as there was no need for work or special assignments. BLICK spoke to him while his heli was being fueled in Soazza GR.

When did your working day start yesterday?
Meeting point was at 7 am in the Operation Center on the military airfield in Alpnach and Dübendorf. After the briefing on the telephone conference, guided by the air transport center in Dübendorf, we first had to pick up our hangar heli in Meiringen.

They fight the larger of the two forest fires on the southern side of the Alps. Is it a dangerous use?
Dangerous but not challenging. The aggravating circumstances include the poor view through the dense smoke. It is difficult to locate the discharge point. In addition strong wind with gusts up to 80 km / h. There are very restless flights.

And then you are not the only heli.
Yes exactly. There are three Super Pumas of the army and up to three private helicopters in action. You have to keep an eye on the others. And communicate and coordinate through radio.

A stubborn fire, a strong wind and lots of traffic: Is not that a frustrating job?
But on the contrary. It provides satisfaction to be useful here and to help the canton and the population. We are there for such missions, they legitimize our work.

They drive a seven-ton machine and throw two tons of water per rotation. Do you feel like a hero?
Not at all. But as a helper. Like 200 other people here and elsewhere.

Actually, the army pilots would be off duty during the holidays. However, they have made themselves available for this emergency operation. What does your family say?
We might have gone to the Engadine today. But my wife and my two daughters (6 and 9) have a lot of understanding for this assignment and find it good that I am with my crew and the crews from Dübendorf in the lot set.

More information about the fires is at Wildfire Today.

Forest Service intends to buy new air tanker

The specifications appear to match Lockheed Martin’s new LM-100J.

The U.S. Forest Service is advertising for the purchase of at least one new aircraft that will be used as an air tanker. A solicitation issued November 18, 2016 indicates that the agency intends to buy between one and seven “new production commercial aircraft to operate primarily as airtankers”. This procurement would spend the $65 million appropriated by Congress in December, 2014 “for the purpose of acquiring aircraft for the next-generation airtanker fleet to enhance firefighting mobility, effectiveness, efficiency, and safety…”.

As far as we know this will be the first time, in recent decades anyway, that a U.S. land management agency has purchased a NEW air tanker.

The seven HC-130H’s that the USFS is acquiring from the Coast Guard will be operated and maintained by contractors after they are converted to air tankers.

Coulson operates two C-130 type aircraft as air tankers, a C-130Q and an L-100-30 (382G), with the latter being an earlier demilitarized stretched variant of the C-130. As this is written they are both working on firefighting contracts in Australia during their summer bushfire season.

LM-100J
LM-100J. The image shows it equipped with a pressurized MAFFS retardant system, but the USFS aircraft will have a more conventional gravity-powered system. Lockheed modified a photo of a MAFFS air tanker that was taken by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Federico April 22, 2013 during the annual MAFFS training near Fairplay, Colorado.

There is speculation that the $65 million appropriation was targeted to buy a new variant of Lockheed Martin’s C-130J, the LM-100J, a demilitarized version of the C-130J.

In Fiscal Year 2015 the Defense Department paid $88.9 million for each C-130J. The stripped down LM-130J is expected to sell for about $65 million. Lockheed is planning test flights of the new aircraft in the first half of 2017 with deliveries beginning the following year. Portions of the plane are being made in Marietta, Georgia; Meridian, Mississippi; Clarksburg, West Virginia; and India.

After the appropriations bill passed in 2014, Jason Gagnon, a spokesperson for Representative Ken Calvert of California, said that Representative Calvert, who is Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, advocated for the inclusion of the provision. The final negotiations were done by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky.

Mr. Gagnon said the funds will be spent to purchase air tankers, “a C-130 to be specific”. Representative Calvert, Mr. Gagnon said,

…supports the expansion of the airtanker fleet since there is a significant need… This provision is just a step in that direction as more aircraft will be needed… While the Forest Service has been unable to get a request to purchase new aircraft for its fleet, there’s been support within the Forest Service to modernize its fleet by purchasing new aircraft rather than continuing to rely on older aircraft passed along by other federal agencies. This idea has been around for a few years now as the Service has struggled with the costs of maintaining an old fleet. Mr. Calvert made it a priority in the bill and got it across the finish line.

Some important specifications in the USFS solicitation match those of the LM-100J, including max normal takeoff weight, capable of operating from unimproved airfields, payload, cruise speed, multiple turbine engines, and a door that incorporates stairs.

Vendors can choose to equip the aircraft with two options:

  • A gravity powered retardant delivery system that would hold at least 3,000 gallons, and,
  • A pallet-based seating system for 40 passengers that can be installed or removed in less than 2 hours.

The Coulson company has the contract to install retardant delivery systems in the seven HC-130H aircraft the USFS is acquiring from the Coast Guard. It is likely those will be similar to the two systems already in use in Coulson’s two C-130 type aircraft.

Mark Rey who oversaw the Forest Service as the former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, has been a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin since he left the federal government through that proverbial revolving door. The company hired him to lobby the federal government to buy the company’s “firefighting equipment”. Since 2009 Mr. Rey has been paid at least $522,000 by Lockheed Martin according to Open Secrets.

Tom Harbour
Tom Harbour

Tom Harbour, the former National Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service who retired at the end of last year has mentioned several times his affinity for the C-130 platform as an air tanker. In what we called his “exit interview”, he talked about it at 9:27 in the video, saying:

I like the 130-J and I told folks before and I’ll tell folks after, I like that 130J.

But he said he had no plans to work for Lockheed Martin after his retirement.

An introduction to Victoria’s aerial firefighting fleet

48 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are on the roster during this down under summer in Victoria.

This summer in Victoria, Australia, the state has arranged for 48 firefighting aircraft to be available. In this video a spokesperson for Victoria Emergency lays out the details. Helpfully, there are subtitles to translate Australian to North American English. 😉

Time-lapse: building an RJ85 air tanker

This was posted on Facebook by RJ85 Australia, who wrote:

How long does it take to build an RJ air tanker? A little more than 45 seconds, but here is the short version. This is a time lapse of the air tanker conversion of our most recent RJ85 – now up to 8 x RJ’s in the fleet!

And speaking of the RJ85, here’s a video of the first drop it made this summer in Australia.

Video from a drone over site of the fireworks explosion in Mexico

Yesterday a series of explosions at a fireworks market in Tultepec, a city about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Mexico City, killed 32 people. The city bills itself as the country’s fireworks capital. The market consisted of approximately 80 small structures from which vendors sold fireworks.

The video above of the scene after most of the explosions had run their course illustrates how a drone could enhance the situational awareness of firefighters.

CNN reports there was a similar disaster at the site 11 years ago:

After the 2005 blast, officials separated stalls at the market in an effort to prevent fires from spreading. Local government officials last week described it as “the safest market in Latin America.” In a statement, Mexican Pyrotechnics Institute Director Juan Ignacio Rodarte Cordero said the market had “perfectly designed stalls with enough space so that there is no chain reaction fire in case of a spark.”

Tultepec fireworks market
Tultepec fireworks market in 2015. Screenshot from Youtube video.
Tultepec fireworks market
Tultepec fireworks market in 2015. Screenshot from Youtube video.