San Diego will borrow a scooping air tanker

Above: Aero Spray’s Tanker 210 makes a demonstration drop in San Diego County on June 22. Screen grab from San Diego Fire-Rescue’s video.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department will have the free use of an amphibious Air Tractor 802F Fire Boss single engine air tanker for about six weeks this summer. They worked out a deal with Aero Spray to have the aircraft available through the end of July. (The Aero Spray company should not be confused with Aero-Flite, Aero Tech, or Air Spray — all are different outfits.)

Over the last 15 to 20 years the city of San Diego and the County of San Diego have both been criticized for fighting wildland fire on the cheap. In 2008 Wildfire Today covered the last time the City contracted for scooping air tankers, when they actually paid for two Bombardier CL-415 Superscoopers and a lead plane for three months. The City has at least two Type 2 helicopters with belly tanks for dropping water on fires. According to the department’s web site, they are also used for:

…hoist-air rescue, short-haul air rescue, shoreline rescue, helicopter swiftwater rescue, night vision goggle operations, patient transport, vehicle rescue, large animal rescue, fire mapping, infrared detection, disaster assessment, and have the ability to assist in high-rise fire incidents.

Joanna Clark, with Aero Spray’s communication firm, told us that three lakes have been approved as scooping sites, Lower Otay Lake, Sweetwater Reservoir, and Lake Hodges. 

The Aero Spray Fire Boss can carry up to 800 gallons of water it scoops from a lake. It has a thermal infrared system to assist the pilot in targeting hot spots. Jamie Sargent from the company said half of their nine Fire Bosses have blending systems for mixing gel into the water to increase its effectiveness.

The arrangement between the City and Aero Spray was announced June 22 at Lower Otay Lake where a Fire Boss made demonstration drops for the media, as seen in the video below.

Tanker 116 sees action at Phoenix

Above: Air Tanker 116, an HC-130H, sprays retardant on a fire near Phoenix, June 22, 2017. Fox 20 Phoenix.

Tanker 116 saw some action today, dropping on a fire near Phoenix that closed Interstate 17. Fox 10 got a pretty fair shot of the drop, but unfortunately the camera operator, perhaps not experienced in covering air tankers, followed the aircraft very closely all the way through the drop so it was difficult to tell which of the two parallel retardant drops was made by T-116. Yes, there were two drops parallel to each other. One looked like it was very wide but the coverage on the ground was very thin. The other was much more narrow and and had better coverage.

The video below shows the drop, and I found it at 2:40:45, but when I first saw it, it was at a different time stamp. The video should begin a few seconds before that point, but it you don’t see it there, check a couple of minutes on each side.

The image below shows the two parallel drops. It is difficult to tell from the video which one was made by the HC-130H.

retardant drops
The two parallel drops can be seen at the lower-right. Screen grab from the Fox 10 video.
The news people in the audio have some problems with aircraft ID in that video and at another spot in the same video. At about 2:22:15, there is a second drop and you will hear the news people identifying a lead plane as a Single Engine Air Tanker and what is either an RJ85 or a BAe-146 as a DC-10.

About 2 to 3 minutes after that second drop, a third drop (at 2:25:45) is similar to the second one, and is possibly the same but from a different angle. I am fairly certain this third drop is an RJ85, since you can see the pregnant bulge on the belly.

The very lengthy video goes back to a fire near Los Angeles several times. The image below, a screenshot, show a retardant drop that affected several homes.

retardant drop houses Los Angeles
Retardant gets dropped on homes at fire near Los Angeles. Fox 20 Phoenix.
T-116 is using, not a conventional gravity retardant tank, but a pressurized Modular Airborne FireFighting System rig that is normally only used in military aircraft that have been temporarily drafted into an air tanker role by loading a MAFFS unit in the cargo hold. The compressed air that blows the retardant out of the 3,000-gallon tank sprays it out of a nozzle, breaking the thickened retardant into very small droplets. T-116 and six other HC-130H’s are in the process of being transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service. If the process is complete by the end of this decade as the agency expects, all seven will have conventional gravity-powered retardant delivery systems and will be operated and maintained by contractors, but owned by the USFS.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom and Brian.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Reports of an air tanker crash in Portugal appear to be false

(Published at 4:55 p.m MDT June 20, 2017)

Reports from numerous media outlets that an air tanker crashed in Portugal on Tuesday appear to be false.

A spokesman for Portugal’s Civil Protection Agency says none of the aircraft fighting the wildfires in the country are missing, in spite of the fact that Portugal’s Air Accident Office said it had received a call from the Civil Protection Agency notifying it of a plane crash.

The origin of the erroneous information may have come from a reporter for Antena 1 radio who said he heard an explosion about 10 miles away from the Pedrogao Grande area which has been hit by devastating wildfires in recent days. He said a local woman told him she saw a plane crash in a fireball on Tuesday. There have also been reports of propane tanks exploding in the fires.

It is possible that the lady saw an aircraft and the unrelated explosion, which appeared to be associated with the plane.

 

Tanker 10 assumes a place of honor at Missoula Airport

Neptune’s Tanker 10 set up at it’s new home at the entrance of Missoula Airport. Neptune photo.

Today Neptune Aviation moved their retired Tanker 10, a P2V, to a place of honor at the Missoula International Airport.

Tanker 10 is a firefighting tanker that we retired,” Neptune spokesperson Kevin Condit said. “It will now be the gate guard at the Missoula International Airport. Neptune and the Missoula aviation community have a very long history, and with the Smokejumpers and the Forest Service in Missoula, they asked Neptune Aviation if Tanker 10 could be the gate guard.”

Neptune's Tanker 10 entrance Missoula airport
Neptune’s Tanker 10 in the process of being moved to the entrance of Missoula Airport. Neptune photo.

The retiree was towed by a tug today from Neptune’s ramp to a spot at the airport entrance.

The staff at Neptune has been preparing the aircraft for several months, refurbishing it, removing the reusable avionics, giving it a new paint job, and making it animal and wind resistant.

It was built in 1957 and served in the U.S. Navy with other P2V’s as a maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The P2V’s were eventually replaced by the Lockheed P-3 Orion.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Steve.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Photos of CAL FIRE S-2’s at Medford

Above: Tanker 95 departs from Medford. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Tim Crippin sent us these photos of CAL FIRE air tankers 94 and 95 loading and departing out of Medford, Oregon on June 18 while the tankers were working the Bogus Fire near Copco Lake in Northern California.

Thanks Tim!

Tanker 94 Medford
Tanker 95 reloads at Medford. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Coulson signs agreement with Argentina for analysis of firefighting aircraft

Coulson C-130 air tankers
Coulson’s three C-130 air tankers.

(Updated at 3:05 p.m. MDT June 20, 2017)

Coulson Aviation has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Argentina that will enable the country “to analyse and, eventually, develop as a whole, an air combat division” for suppressing wildfires.

The Secretary for Logistics and Military Coordination for Emergencies, Walter Ceballos, made the announcement on his Facebook page on June 15.

In the photos above, Wayne Coulson, the CEO and President of Coulson Aviation, is wearing a white shirt and a light blue tie. Mr. Ceballos is next to him in the brown suit.

Google’s automatic translation of the text in the above post:

I am grateful to the CANADA CCC programme which allowed the ministry of defence to be linked to Coulson Aviation, a specialized company and certified in air fire operations. We signed a memorandum of understanding to analyse and, eventually, develop as a whole, an air combat division, with the FAA’s hr and operational operations to serve the national plan to fight fire.

We checked with Britt Coulson, Vice President of Aviation, who explained that the company “is in the final stages of negotiations with Argentina to [provide] a turnkey fleet of command and control, fixed wing, and rotary wing assets” as well as a full training program. If the agreement is consummated, the aircraft would be on contract, owned and operated by Coulson.

Mr. Ceballos is also interested in the Russian-made amphibious Be-200 air tanker and has pinned the following at the top of his Twitter account:

Twitter’s automatic translation of the above text:

Visit to Beriev to evaluate B200 (Multiflight Amphibious Plane).

In addition to having three operational C-130-type air tankers and a fourth one on the way, Coulson has purchased six 737-300’s from Southwest Airlines and intends to convert at least some of them into air tankers. One has been painted and has started the conversion process.

Coulson 737 air tanker
One of Coulson’s 737’s — the first one to be painted and to start the air tanker conversion process.

New South Wales expects to continue to use DC-10 and C-130 air tankers

Above: A DC-10 drops on a fire in Australia. New South Wales Rural Fire Service photo.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service apparently thinks their two year trial of two air tankers, a DC-10 and a C-130, was a success, and expect to keep using them for several more years.

The state of Victoria also has been using air tankers from North America during their down under summer for the last two years, an RJ85 and another C-130. Both states have been using single engine air tankers and helicopters for a long time to aid firefighters battling bush fires.

Using infrared to detect gaps in retardant coverage

One of Colorado’s Multi-Mission Aircraft shot this infrared video of an air tanker making a drop on the 500-acre Hunter Fire southwest of Meeker, Colorado about five days ago. Heat from the fire shows up as white and water or retardant drops are dark grey or black. It appears that the air tanker is attempting to fill in a gap in a retardant line, but as you can see, incomplete coverage remains.

The air tanker is very hard to see — it’s just a little dot, but it becomes obvious when the retardant is released. This shows the value of an air attack ship having infrared capabilities; the crew can direct aircraft to fill in gaps in retardant lines, in addition to mapping the fire perimeter.

Single Engine Air Tankers are a very important tool in the firefighter’s tool box, but this also shows the value of large and very large air tankers. A much longer drop means fewer gaps to worry about.