Video and photos of the 747 dropping

Since the Evergreen 747 Supertanker may be coming back into our lives it might be a good time to refresh our memories of what it can do with 20,000 gallons.

These two photos was taken by a firefighter in Mexico in 2011. (UPDATE: Walt said in a comment June 20 the two photos below are from an  “unpressurized ‘clean out’ (jettison)”. Videos of T979 dropping on fires show appropriate drop altitudes. One of the pilots on the clean-out jettison was a highly regarded 16-year initial attack airtanker pilot that would have mutinied if a drop on a fire was done at that AGL altitude.”)

747 dropping on a fire
747 dropping on a fire in Mexico, April 14, 2011 (click to enlarge)
747 in Mexico, April 14, 2011
747 in Mexico, April 14, 2011 (click to enlarge)

The first video, below, is a KABC-TV News segment from May 31st, 2006 covering the 747 Supertanker demo in San Bernardino, CA. The video also includes some stock footage of the aircraft dropping during the Interagency AirTanker Board tests.

The second video below shows the 747 dropping water at Central Ciudad Real in Spain, July 21, 2009.

And next we have the 747 dropping on the Crown Fire at Anaverde, which I believe is near Palmdale, California, July 31, 2010.

And finally, below, a water dropping demo at McClellan in California, June 11, 2009.

Evergreen to get CWN contract for 747

We will classify this as Breaking News. Evergreen has not had a Call When Needed (CWN) contract for their 20,000-gallon 747 Supertanker for a while, but they will get a new three-year CWN contract beginning July 1, 2013.

When the company had a CWN contract before, the aircraft was very rarely used, making it difficult for the company to justify maintaining the ship and the flight crew in a ready to go state. It will be interesting to see if it sits, or actually drops retardant on fires.

Maybe the U.S. Forest Service, the agency that awarded the contract, is looking for a stop-gap, to fill the void until the all seven “next generation” air tankers that recently received exclusive use contracts become fully certified. Only one of the seven is, the DC-10.

The CWN contract for 10 Tanker’s second DC-10, Tanker 910, will also be renewed for three years on July 1. It was activated Friday morning and flew to Albuquerque.

The other DC-10, Tanker 911, recently got a five-year exclusive use contract. It has been busy for the last two weeks dropping on fires in California, New Mexico, and Colorado

(UPDATE June 15, 2013)

Thanks to John, we have the numbers in the contracts:

  • Evergreen 747 – Daily Rate $75,000 + Flight Rate $12,000
  • 10 Tanker DC-10 – Daily Rate $51,522 + Flight Rate $7,668

More details about the prices in the contract awards.

(UPDATE at 2:25 p.m. MT, June 17, 2013)

I was wondering why the contract for the 747 does not start until July 1. Today I found on an aircraft forum what might be the answer — in February, 2012, the Supertanker was photographed in the desert missing two engines.

(UPDATED info HERE, August 22, 2013)

 

Second DC-10 activated

DC-10, Tanker 911, dropping on Black Forest Fire
DC-10, Tanker 911, dropping on Black Forest Fire, June 12, 2013, Photo by Army National Guard 2nd Lt Skye A Robinson

A second DC-10 air tanker has been activated. 10 Tanker Air Carrier received a call Thursday night asking the company to have Tanker 910 in Albuquerque by noon on Friday. It is scheduled to depart Southern California Logistics Airport (KVCV) at 10:00AM MDT and should arrive at Albuquerque at about 11:10 MDT.

The company’s other DC-10, Tanker 911, began working on a five-year exclusive use contract two weeks ago and in recent days has been dropping on fires in California, New Mexico, and Colorado. Wednesday and Thursday it assisted firefighters on the Royal Gorge and Black Forest Fires and was reloading at Pueblo, Colorado. Tanker 910 is working on a Call When Needed contract.

During one period last year both of the DC-10s were active at the same time, working for a while out of McClellan airport near Sacramento, California, and Boise, Idaho.

Tanker 910 visited Rapid City and other locations in April. Photos of the Rapid City visit are at Wildfire Today.

Both DC-10s, classified as Very Large Air Tankers, always carry 11,600 gallons of fire retardant, while most large Large Air Tankers carry between 2,000 and 3,000 gallons.

Military aircraft on the Black Forest Fire

The military has been supplying numerous photos and some videos of their firefighting activities on the Black Forest Fire. Helicopters from the Colorado National Guard and Fort Carson as well as C-130 MAFFS air tankers are assisting firefighters on the ground. Here are one photo of aircraft taken on June 12 by military personnel. The DC-10 is not military, but is working under a contract with the U. S. Forest Service. Other photos of the military aircraft are on Wildfire Today.

Blackhawk
Blackhawk, June 12, 2013, Photo by Air Force Capt. Darin Overstreet

MAFFS #2 drops on the Black Forest Fire

The video shows one of the Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers from Peterson Air Force Base dropping on the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs June 12. The actual drop (spray?) begins at about the two-minute mark.

Report: MAFFS at Peterson AFB activated

MAFFS test, Cheyenne, WY
MAFFS test, Cheyenne, WY, May 6, 2012 US Air National Guard photo by Tech Sgt Patricia Findley

(UPDATE at 10:30 a.m. MT, June 12, 2013)

It has been confirmed that the two MAFFS C-130s at Peterson Air Force Base have been activated. Wednesday morning the U.S. Forest Service issued a news release. Below is an excerpt:

…The MAFFS will be provided by the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.  They will be based in Colorado Springs, Colorado and will begin flying wildfire suppression missions as soon as safe and effective operations can be established.

“We are experiencing an uptick in wildfire activity  and we are mobilizing MAFFS to ensure that we have adequate air tanker capability as we confront explosive wildfire conditions in Colorado, New Mexico, and elsewhere in the West,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.  “Maintaining adequate aerial firefighting capability is critical to provide support to, and enhance the safety of, the firefighters on the ground who are working so hard to suppress wildfires that are threatening lives, homes, infrastructure, and valuable natural and cultural resources.”

Many of the residents in Colorado, New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Oregon would agree that yes, there has indeed been an “uptick” in fire activity.

This was an unusually quick activation of MAFFS. Usually fires destroy large numbers of acres and/or homes for several days before the C-130s get cranked up. However, only two of the eight MAFFS were activated.

Today there are 15 large uncontained fires listed on the Situation Report, including three in Colorado. On June 23, 2012, the day the Waldo Canyon fire started west of Colorado Springs, there were eight large fires burning in Colorado and 16 uncontained large fires in the country. On June 26 when the Waldo Canyon Fire moved into Colorado Springs burning 347 homes and killing two people, there were 29 uncontained large fires burning in the United States.

In 2012 four MAFFS were activated on June 24, and four more, including the two at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, on June 29, three days after 347 homes were destroyed about seven miles from Peterson.

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(Originally published at 11:06 p.m. MT, June 11, 2013)

In a briefing about the 7,500-acre Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Terry Maketa, the El Paso County Sheriff, said Colorado’s Governor, John Hickenlooper, has activated the two Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers at Peterson Air Force Base. The Sheriff said the aircraft should be available by mid-morning Wednesday.

Those aircraft are operated by the 302nd Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, rather than the state national guard like the other three units that have MAFFS, so it would be unusual for a governor to have the authority to activate them without going through the National Interagency Fire Center.

On Tuesday three major wildfires broke out in Colorado. Strong winds of over 30 mph at Grand Junction kept two SEATs from being able to take off to assist with the fires. However, high wind speeds at the fires may have made the air tankers ineffective even if they could have gotten off the ground.

Should very large air tankers be used on 7-acre fires?

Landing gear of Air Tanker 910
Landing gear of Air Tanker 910, a DC-10, at Rapid City, April 23, 2013. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

A video we embedded in an article on June 7 shows one of the DC-10 very large air tankers making a precision drop using what appeared to be a small fraction of it’s 11,600 gallon capacity, on what was described as a 7-acre fire below Pinal Peak near Globe, Arizona. It generated a fair amount of discussion in the comments, mostly positive, except for one from “Don” who called it “overkill”. “DiggerT” provided a thoughtful response to Don, and I also added my two cents in a comment.

We don’t know why the DC-10 was selected to drop on the fire near Pinal Peak. Maybe it had been dropping on another fire in the area, or perhaps it was the only air tanker available. At any rate, in the video the radio traffic from the lead or air attack plane indicated that he was extremely pleased with the results of the drop.

I am pasting below what I wrote in the comment because it includes a few details about the pricing structure for the seven next generation air tankers that we have not previously covered:

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“Don, are you aware that the hourly flight rate for the DC-10 on this new exclusive use contract is by far lower than the other six aircraft that were selected for contracts? The nearest competitor is $2,054 per hour more expensive than the DC-10, and the DC-10 is a little more than half the hourly rate for Minden’s BAe-146.

But keep in mind the contract is complex, and the DC-10’s pricing structure, in order to compare apples to apples, is based on delivering 3,000 gallons, approximately the same as the other six aircraft — according to information I received from someone who is very familiar with the contracting process for next generation air tankers. There are additional specifics to cover the DC-10 dropping more than 3,000 gallons.

But as you can see in the bid details, the Total Cost Estimate for the first year, which apparently takes this into account, has the DC-10’s total cost approximately in the same ball park as the others, which are, in millions, $36.4, $36.4, $38.9, $39.5, and $41.3. The DC-10’s was $43.2. But keep in mind that the DC-10 delivers about three to four times more retardant than the maximum capacity of the other next gen air tankers , and six times more than Tanker 40, a BAe-146, if T40 is reloading at Silver City Airtanker Base on a 90 degree day.

And, I have to agree with DiggerT. If there is any potential for a wildland fire to become large it should be attacked with overwhelming force, rather than attempting to fire fire on the cheap. This can save money, property, and lives.

A year ago I wrote my “Prescription for keeping new fires from becoming megafires“:

Rapid initial attack with overwhelming force using both ground and air resources, arriving within the first 10 to 30 minutes when possible.”

BAe-146 Frequently Asked Questions

I ran across an interesting document on the Southwest Coordination Center’s web site in the Aviation section titled BAe-146 Next Generation Airtanker Frequently Asked Questions. It is dated November 13, 2012 and in four and a half pages talks a lot about the BAe-146, but also refers frequently and generally to next generation air tankers. The entire document is HERE. Below is an example of one of the FAQs.

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“Q. Why do you overfly some airtanker bases?

Next Generation Aircraft will have the capability of traveling at 450 plus MPH. This speed advantage will make it possible for an aircraft to fly to another airtanker base that has longer runways and faster fueling services. This will result in delivering the largest load of retardant and, many times, quicker turnaround times for the firefighters on the ground.

We need to view this more as gallons delivered to the ground. Because of the speed of these jet airtankers, distances between airtanker bases and the fire mean very little. The airtanker bases at large airports have longer runways, meaning the airtanker can haul more retardant. Example: T-40 can haul 2850 gallons of retardant from Mesa-Gateway Airtanker Base even though it is very hot there. The field elevation is very low and has a long runways(12,000 feet). T-40 flying from Silver City Airtanker Base can only haul 1900 gallons because the field elevation is close to 6,000 feet and 90 degrees with a 7,000-foot runway. The difference in time delivered may only be 5 minutes.

This information is discussed with either the Lead Plane, Air Attack or Incident Commander before this decision is made. The Pilot in Command will divert based on unsafe conditions of any airtanker base which may include but not be limited to weather.

Air Attack or Lead/ASM should pass this information to the dispatch office. In the event the closest airtanker base is being overflown, the dispatch office shall notify SWCC.”