Neptune Aviation arranged for Tanker 41, a BAe-146, to fly over the University of Montana at Missoula yesterday during the lunch hour. Many of the attendees at the Large Fire Conference came outside to enjoy the display.
Keith Mitchell was kind enough to send us these photos that he took at Palmer, Alaska yesterday, May 21. He said a good summary of the current fires in the state can be found HERE. Another source is HERE.
…It goes without saying that flying close to wildfires can be dangerous – which is why safety always takes priority, and teamwork is important. Each airtanker group is led by an air attack officer (or ‘AAO’ for short), flying in the lead plane (called a “birddog”). The AAO acts as the ‘eye in the sky’ for the group and firefighters on the ground. Usually first on the scene, they will assess the wildfire, come up with a plan of attack, and then lead the airtankers in the team to the target.
To help ensure our airtankers can get to where they’re needed as quickly as possible, we have 14 support bases in strategic locations around the province. We have nine airtanker groups, each of which can move to any base – making it easy for our planes to refuel, reload and be ready for the next wildfire…
We have not seen the U.S. Forest Service bragging about their aerial firefighting resources much since the fleet was eviscerated after 2002 to about eight last year. But since they added five jet-powered air tankers to the fleet in the last week, they felt confident to produce a graphic promoting the aircraft. Above is a portion of the graphic; you can see the entire document at the USFS website.
Three more of Neptune’s BAe-146 air tankers are being brought into the current fleet. Tom Harbour, Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service, confirmed today at the Large Fire Conference in Missoula that two BAe-146s came on in the last few days and a third will be on board by June 1.
The three aircraft are being added to Neptune’s “legacy” air tanker contract using the “additional equipment” provision.
These three air tankers are being added to the fleet along with the two additional DC-10s that were announced last week. 10 Tanker Air Carrier had one DC-10 already working on a next-gen contract and a second was converted last week from a call when needed contract to exclusive use, using the additional equipment provision on their contract. 10 Tanker is converting a third DC-10 that will also be on the next gen exclusive use contract when it is complete this summer.
When Marines are involved in a fire fight, it usually means bullets, not flames, are in the air. There have been at least 22 military aircraft available for fighting the wildfires in southern California over the last five days, from Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar. The latter has an official Twitter account where we found these photos:
Today the South Dakota National Guard Aviation Unit conducted their annual fire certification at Angostura Lake and the Hot Springs Airport. It was coordinated by the South Dakota Wildland Fire Division so that the National Guard Black Hawk helicopters can assist in suppressing wildland fires.
Crews were tested on fire aviation procedures which included dipping buckets attached to helicopters at a water source and accurately dropping the water on a target.
The helicopters used were Blackhawks and a Lakota. It was quite windy during the exercise, increasing the level of difficulty for the crews.