Helicopter photographer Kevin Takumi shows the perfect technique for filming an air tanker drop. He zooms in close at first on Air Tanker 910, a DC-10, then at the completion of the drop zooms out so you can see where the retardant lands.
In these videos by Terry Nelsen, Erickson’s MD-87 air tankers are seen dropping water on the Rankin Fire in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota September 13, 2017. Both Tankers 101 and 103 were used on the fires in the area.
One of the firefighters told us that after the Rankin Fire had been burning for a while an MD-87 en route to drop water on the fire in the park was diverted to a new fire just starting, the Beaver Fire between Wind Cave NP and Pringle, South Dakota
Wind Cave NP has a policy that the Park Superintendent can on a case by case basis decide if retardant will be banned on individual wildfires. In the case of the Rankin Fire, he decided he did not want retardant used, so the air tankers were using plain water.
Fire engines are allowed to drive off the road to suppress fires in Wind Cave National Park but in some cases retardant is banned.
It is specified in their Supplemental Type Certificate.
There have been several questions and comments from the readers on this website about why Erickson Aero Tanker’s MD-87 air tankers drop retardant with the landing gear down. The most commonly accepted explanation was to reduce airspeed, especially when making a downhill drop. This was why some older air tankers, like the DC-7 according to “Johnny”, kept the gear down.
But Erickson’s MD-87’s are required by the FAA to lower the gear while dropping — in fact it is specified in their Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) issued by the FAA. The reason is the prevention of stalling.
Earlier this year Ericson petitioned the FAA for an exemption from this requirement, and requested a “Flaps 40/Landing Gear Up” configuration while dropping, but on June 28, 2017 that exemption was denied.
Below is an excerpt from the decision which was signed by Michael Kaszycki of the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service:
I deny Erickson Aero Tanker, LLC’s, petition for an exemption from 14 CFR 25.201(b)(1), that would have allowed aerial firefighting retardant drops in a configuration that does not fully meet the stall characteristics requirements on the modified DC-9-87 (MD-87) airplanes.
Incident Commander Todd Hoover provided information about the Beaver Fire east of Pringle, South Dakota, September 14, 2017. We asked him about how aircraft were used, and we also have video and still photos of firefighters, air tankers, and helicopters.
The fire has burned approximately 400 acres between Wind Cave National Park and Pringle, South Dakota. On Friday, September 15, it was slowed by rain in the area.
The photo above is spectacular. It is a close-up of one of the most recently converted air tankers, an MD-87, dropping on the fire.
This is how he described getting the shot:
I was waiting for this and it broke out [of the] heavy smoke and this is the one full image I shot. Was on the back side of the fire with a Canon 7D and a 70-200 f2.8 on the camera cranked all the way down to 70mm.
The photo below of a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter on the Beaver Fire is also courtesy of Mr. Ryan.
Above: N137BH, a Siskorsly 70A or “Firehawk”, flies to refill its water bucket after dropping on the Rankin Fire September 13, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
(Originally published at 12:08 a.m. MDT September 14, 2017)
A handful of aircraft were working to fires in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota on Wednesday, two MD-87 air tankers, and two helicopters, a Bell 407 and a Sikorsky 70A “Firehawk”.
The Rankin Fire in Wind Cave National Park has burned about 1,192 acres while the Beaver Fire just outside the park on the Black Hills National Forest covered approximately 140 acres just a few hours after it was reported
(Click on a photo below to see larger versions. The caption is at the top.)
It was taken by Leroy Leggit with a Nikon D810. He shot it at 1/800, F 5.6, using a 70-200mm lens at 150mm.
He said he took the photo from the top of a hill looking down at the aircraft.
He told us:
I didn’t know anything about the 747 supertanker until it appeared to my right (at eye level) headed straight toward the fire… what an amazing and unexpected sight… I looked online and saw that it had only been in service for a few days.
The Palmer Fire was reported at 1:33 p.m. MDT September 2, 2017. It is nearly officially contained according to CAL FIRE after burning 3,874 acres.
This was the second fire the aircraft was used on after receiving certification and a contract from CAL FIRE. The 747 was dispatched from McClellan Air Field near Sacramento. According to FlightAware it cruised south at over 600 mph at times before dropping on the fire about an hour later, then reloaded at McClellan and completed a second sortie, dropping almost 19,000 gallons again, splitting the load into two drops.
(UPDATED at 10:07 a.m. MDT September 5, 2017)
After Johnny commented that videos are available, we checked and found these. The first one appears to be the same drop seen in the photo above.