Newfoundland-Labrador orders two CL-415 air tankers

Newfoundland Labrador CL-215
File photo of a Newfoundland Labrador CL-415 at Goose Bay. Photo by Sarah Moller.

Bombardier Aerospace announced today that it has signed a firm purchase agreement with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for two Bombardier CL-415 amphibious air tankers. The transaction is valued at approximately $73.7 million US, based on list price, and includes various product enhancements. Deliveries of the aircraft will begin during the second quarter of 2014 and will continue in 2015.

With the two new aircraft, the province will have four CL-415s and one CL 215.

Canada is home to nearly 60 CL-215s and 415s – the largest national fleet of its kind in the world. There are 165 of the aircraft in service worldwide.

State Senator organizes air tanker demonstration

A Colorado state senator who is also a candidate for county Sheriff hosted a demonstration for an air tanker yesterday. Senator Steve King, who has been very outspoken about the need for the state to have their own aerial firefighting resources, invited Coulson to display their C-130Q air tanker at the Centennial airport on the southeast side of Denver. The aircraft, which has a contract with the U.S. Forest Service, conducted a drop near the runway after flying in from their base in Sacramento.

The video below details some of the sophisticated imaging and mapping capabilities of Coulson’s Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, including identifying targets and a data link for transferring them to the C-130.

Interior of the S-76
Interior of the S-76. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Another report on the air tanker demonstration that has better shots of the C-130 drop can be found at KWGN.

Photos at Coulson’s hangar at McClellan

T-131, Sikorsky S-76, and Coulson's hauler
Coulson’s T-131, Sikorsky S-76, and hauler

We took these photos at Coulson’s hangar at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, March 21, 2014 after the Aerial Firefighting conference (except for one photo that was taken a couple of days earlier). We appreciate the fact that Wayne and Britt Coulson feel confident to talk about and show others their firefighting operation.

T-131
T-131, a C-130Q.
Caption this. T-131.
Any suggestions for a caption for this photo?
T-131 being pushed out of the hangar
T-131 being pushed out of the hangar
Stickers in the tool box, Coulson
Stickers in the tool box of one of the Coulson mechanics. These guys are not JUST mechanics, pilots, and crewmembers. Many of them are passionate about fire aviation.

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Photos of aircraft at Aerial Firefighting conference

CAL FIRE OV-10
CAL FIRE OV-10

We took these photos last week, March 20, at the Aerial Firefighting conference in Sacramento. There were about 90 minutes set aside for displays of firefighting aircraft at McClellan Air Force base, as well as live demonstrations of water and water pellet drops from a helicopter, and the use of the AirTEP Airborne Tactical Extraction Platform marketed by Aerial Machine Tool. We have photos of Coulson’s C-130Q in another article.

CAL FIRE T-83, an S2T
CAL FIRE T-83, an S2T
Croman S-61 dropping water
Croman S-61 dropping water
Croman S-61 with modified tank for water pellets
Croman S-61 with modified tank for water pellets

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Colorado: bill introduced to provide firefighting aircraft

Two state senators in Colorado have introduced a bill in the legislature, Senate Bill 164, that would authorize the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (CFAC) to acquire helicopters and air tankers for the newly created agency.

For the 2014 fire season the bill authorizes the acquisition by lease or contract of up to three helicopters, and in 2015 up to four “large aircraft”, presumably fixed wing air tankers. If they obtain three helicopters, one must be capable of “command and control” and another would be a Type 1 heavy ship that would have rappel ability and could carry up to 18 passengers. The air tankers must be capable of night flying operations.

The bill was introduced by President of the Senate Morgan Carroll and Senator Steve King on March 21, 11 days before the CFAC Director Paul Cooke is due to release a report on April Fools Day that would recommend the direction the new agency should take.

The bill that created the CFAC last year did not appropriate funds to operate the agency or acquire aircraft. The new bill just introduced does not yet specify a monetary amount, but it will be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a fiscal note attachment and then sent to the Joint Budget Committee for recommendations on funding.

If the final version of the bill includes funding, getting it past Governor John Hickenlooper could be a challenge. He was quoted by the Durango Herald as expressing the belief that farmers and ranchers should be the first line of defense in fighting wildfires. However, the fact that one of the cosponsors of the bill is the President of the Senate is a sign that it has a chance of passing the legislature, and perhaps even overriding a veto.

Air Spray looks toward the end of the year for their BAe-146 tankers

Air Spray executives
Ravi Saip and Paul Lane, in front of one of their Electras at Chico, California, that is under a CWN contract with CAL FIRE.

The folks at Air Spray continue to work on the two BAe-146 aircraft that they are converting into air tankers. I found myself at the Chico, California airport yesterday and stopped by their hangar and talked with Ravi Saip (Director of Maintenance/General Manager) and Paul Lane (Vice President and Chief Financial Officer). The tanks they will install will employ some of the same principles as the gravity-based Aero Union RADS I tanks. They are being built now by Air Spray’s staff, which includes some former Aero Union employees. Mr. Saip also worked for Aero Union before they went out of business.

I looked inside one of the BAe-146s and observed some of the work that has been completed, including the gutting of the flight deck and the former passenger area. Before they install the tank in the interior they will cut a hole in the belly through which the retardant will exit.

They hope to have most of the work done by the end of the summer, then they will begin the testing, tweaking, improving, and certification phases.

They don’t have a contract for the BAe-146s, but are hopeful that they will find work for the air tankers after they are ready to fight fire.

Tom Harbour talks about air tankers

On Wednesday Tom Harbour was kind enough to make time in his busy schedule at the Aerial Firefighting Conference at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California to give us an update on the air tanker program. He talked about the status of the C-130Hs that were recently transferred from the Coast Guard and commented on Buffalo Airways’ purchase of a P3 air tanker formerly owned by Aero Union.

DynCorp and Coulson announce cooperative venture

Tonight at the Aerial Fighting Conference DynCorp and Coulson are announcing a strategic alliance. They intend to work together to bid on aerial fighting contracts and will provide those services if selected.

Coulson has operated air tankers and helicopters in North America and Australia for years, and DynCorp currently has a contract to provide maintenance and pilots for CAL FIRE’s S2T air tankers and maintenance for their helicopters.