After almost four years, much work still needs to be done on the Coast Guard/USFS HC-130’s

Above: Tanker 118 at McClellan Air Field, May 3, 2017. Photo by John Vogel.

This is the first photo we have seen showing U.S. Forest Service Air Tanker 118 with its latest paint job. The USFS plan is to have two of the HC-130H’s at McClellan Air Field at Sacramento (the other is T-116) while the additional five are going through heavy maintenance and retardant tank installation.  One is to be actively used as an air tanker while the second is for training, or filling in while the other is down for routine maintenance. As far as I know they are sharing just one of the slip-in MAFFS II retardant delivery units that convert a C-130 into an air tanker. It only takes a few hours to install one of the systems.

The photo below shows T-118 in 2015. Both versions show the crude looking “118” on the tail that detracts from the otherwise very acceptable new paint design. That scheme, approved in 2014, also used the crude font for the number. In addition to flying with the Coast Guard, aircraft #1721 also served with the Air Force and the Navy.

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Tanker 118, an HC-130H, at McClellan Airport. Photo by Jon Wright, July 25, 2015.

The Air Force, responsible for converting the Coast Guard HC-130H’s into air tankers, has been dithering for years about installing the permanent internal gravity-powered retardant delivery systems in the seven aircraft that are being transferred to the USFS. Most of the ships also need program depot maintenance including new wing boxes. That process began in 2013 when Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act directing that the Air Force arrange to take care of all of the maintenance and conversion work needed on the planes. Unfortunately, Congress did not give the Air Force a required completion date.

It is interesting that private companies like Aero-Flite, 10 Tanker, Neptune, and Coulson can turn an aircraft into an air tanker in less than a year, but the work on these HC-130H’s is not expected to be complete until the end of this decade, about seven years after it started. And not a single one is finished, four years after it began.

These aircraft that the Coast Guard was happy to unload, are not getting any younger while the Air Force vacillates.  Adding another seven years while they are going through the conversions means that Tankers 116 and 118 will be 36 and 32 years old, respectively, in 2020.

Photos of five air tankers at McClellan, August 5, 2017

Above: Tanker 105 at McClellan Air Field, August 5, 2017. It is a good view of the external tank, or pod, that was fabricated and installed below the retardant tank doors, which lowered the release point by 46 inches. The intent was to keep the flow of the retardant away from the engines. Photo by John Vogel.

(Originally published at 6:04 p.m. MDT August 5, 2017)

John Vogel shot these excellent photos on August 5 of air tankers at McClellan Air Field near Sacramento.

Thanks John!

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Tanker 911 at McClellan Air Field, August 5, 2017. Photo by John Vogel.
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Tanker 62 at McClellan Air Field, August 5, 2017. Photo by John Vogel.
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Tanker 133, Coulson’s most recent air tanker conversion, at McClellan Air Field, August 5, 2017. Photo by John Vogel.
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Tanker 944 at McClellan Air Field, August 5, 2017. On August 4 the company moved the aircraft out of Colorado Springs to avoid a hailstorm. They hope to get it carded by CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service. Photo by John Vogel.

A variety of C-130 air tankers at Medford

On June 30 there was a variety of C-130 air tankers working out of Medford, Oregon, and Tim Crippin was able to capture them on celluloid an SD card. It kind of boggles the mind to see three C-130 air tankers at the same air tanker base, all operated by completely different organizations.

There was one privately owned tanker, Coulson’s T-132, and two government-owned. T-116 will eventually, one of these days, way down the road, perhaps, be officially transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service. And MAFFS 5 is from the Colorado Springs Air Force Reserve base.

Two other MAFFS C-130’s are also activated — one each from Air National Guard units at Cheyenne and Reno.

Tanker 116 Medford Oregon
Tanker 116 at Medford, Oregon, June 30, 2017. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Coulson T-132 Medford Oregon
Tanker 132 at Medford, Oregon, June 30, 2017. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Helena Air Tanker Base has been busy

(Originally published at 9:33 a.m. MDT July 31, 2017)

Jeff Wadekamper, the Airport Director at the Helena Regional Airport, sent us this picture, and said, “Last weekend we had 7 tankers here (2 Neptune BAE 146’s, 2 Neptune P2V’s, 2 SEATS, and the DC-10 #912)”.

In this photo taken July 23 we can see two BAe-146’s (Tankers 02 and 15), one P2V (T-44), a DC-10 (T-912), and a Single Engine Air Tanker.

Thanks Jeff!

Two DC-10’s at Medford

Above: Air Tankers 910 departs from Medford, July 28, 2017, en route to the Lake Fire in northeast California. Photo by Tim Crippin.

(Originally published at 6:43 p.m. MDT July 30, 2017.)

Tim Crippin shot these photos of two DC-10 air tankers, T-910 and T-911, at Medford July 28. He said they were working the Lake Fire, part of the Modoc July Complex of fires in northeast California.

Air Tankers 910 911 Medford
Air Tankers 910 and 911 at Medford, July 28, 2017. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Thanks Tim!

Scoopers at Redding

(Originally published at 6:27 p.m. MDT July 30, 2017.)

Ethan, who took this photo at Redding July 30, 2017, said it is the first time he has seen CL-415 water-scooping air tankers at Redding.

Left to right we see Aero-Flite tankers 263, (unknown in the center), and 261 on the right.

Thanks Ethan!

France to replace their S-2 air tankers with Q400’s

Above: Bombardier Q400MR — Bombardier Photo.

(Originally published at 3:52 p.m. MDT July 29, 2017.)

France’s Securite Civile (Department of Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness) is replacing their ageing turbine-powered S-2 air tankers with Bombardier Q400-MR’s. The bids for the contract were advertised in 2016 and this week Gérard Collomb, Minister of the Interior, announced that they will place an order for six of the Multi-role aircraft that can carry up to 2,600 US gallons of water or retardant.

For several years Securite Civile has been pondering what to do about replacing their S-2’s that are approaching their structural life limit of 25,000 hours, according to the agency. Their plans announced last year were to retire the nine S-2’s between 2018 and 2022 which would require a two-year extension of the type certificate. The goal was to acquire aircraft that could carry more water or retardant, would reduce operating costs, and would be multi-role. The Q400 MR (the MR stands for “Multi-Role) can haul cargo or passengers in addition to operating in the firefighting realm.

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Bombardier Q400MR dropping retardant. Bombardier photo.

France considered the CL-415 water-scooping amphibious tanker formerly made by Bombardier, but it is no longer in production with the program being sold to Viking Air Limited in 2016. Viking is considering manufacturing them again, but for now they are providing service and support for the CL-215’s and CL-415’s operating around the world.

Securite Civile has operated two Q-400 air tankers since 2005, so retiring the S-2’s and acquiring more Q-400’s will reduce the complexity of the maintenance and operation of their fleet.

In addition to the 9 S-2’s and 2 Q-400’s, France also has 11 or 12 CL-415’s and 40 helicopters.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Isaac.
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