National Park Service pilot honored in Alaska

He shares his story of transporting in his plane a grizzly bear — that was not as well tranquilized as hoped.

Lynn Ellis, National Park Service Pilot
Lynn Ellis, National Park Service Pilot.

This week the Alaska Air Carriers Association is honoring as a living legend, Lynn Ellis, who flies for the National Park Service.

If you are having trouble viewing the video here, you can see it on YouTube.

Firefighting aircraft migrate south of the equator

Four large North American air tankers will be in Australia during their 2017-2018 summer.

Again for the Australian bushfire season four large air tankers are migrating from North America to assist the firefighters down under. During the 2017-2018 summer there will be one DC-10 from 10 Tanker Air Carrier, one RJ85 from Conair/Field Air, and two C-130’s from Coulson — plus a couple of Coulson S-61 Type 1 helicopters.

The contracts for the aircraft have different mandatory availability periods. One of the C-130’s has been there for a while.  For the last couple of Australian summers Conair and Field Air collaborated to bring an RJ85 from Canada to Australia, and they will have one there again. Jeff Berry of Conair said it will ferry there in late November for their contract that begins in mid-December. In 2014-2015 it worked until March, 2015.

The video below was not shot in Australia, however, it’s interesting seeing seeing an RJ85 airliner converted into an air tanker.

Lockheed markets a new air tanker

Above: Cover of Lockheed Martin’s brochure for the LM-100J air tanker.

(Originally published at 12:30 p.m. MDT October 28, 2017)

At the Tangent Link Aerial Firefighting Conference in France last week Lockheed Martin distributed a brochure introducing what could be an addition to large air tanker fleets — the company’s new LM-100J outfitted with an internal retardant delivery system (RDS) capable of carrying more than 3,500 gallons. The updated civilian variant of the C-130J began rolling off the assembly line in Marietta, Georgia in May and on October 19 the second one took to the air. The U.S. Forest Service recently posted a photo of an LM-100J taken in Puerto Rico that was apparently hauling hurricane recovery supplies.

The LM-100J brochure says the aircraft can support Coulson’s RADS XL system or Blue Aerospace’s MAFFS 2. The diagram in the brochure shows Coulson’s RDS.

The aircraft has not yet flown with a retardant system, in spite of the photo on the brochure. Britt Coulson told us Lockheed obtained a photo of their Tanker 131 dropping, copied the retardant, then pasted it onto an image of the LM-100J.

LM-100J air tanke
Lockheed Martin’s brochure for the LM-100J air tanker.

Night flying helicopter drops water on structure fire near World Series game

Two fires broke out Wednesday night near Dodgers Stadium, a brush fire and one in a condominium.

Above: A helicopter dropped water on a fire in a condominium near Dodgers Stadium Wednesday night. Screen grab from CBS LA video.

(Originally posted at 2:53 p.m. MDT October 26, 2017)

Two fires broke out Wednesday night during the World Series game on opposite sides of Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. First was a grass fire reported at 7:35 p.m. in the 1800 block of Academy Road. A night-flying helicopter assisted firefighters on the ground by dropping water on the blaze that burned about two acres.

The helicopter was then diverted to a fire on the third-floor balcony of a three-story condominium in the 1000 block of Everett Place where it made two water drops. Los Angeles City Department Assistant Chief Tim Ernst called it, “A quick knockdown”.

There was a report that the owner of the condo could see the fire from the baseball game.

A tour through the 747’s retardant delivery system

The air tanker holds about 19,000 gallons of retardant or water to aid firefighters on the ground suppressing wildland fires.

Above: Some of the tanks inside the 747 Supertanker while the system was basically in place but not fully installed and operational. McClellan Air Field, March 22, 2016.

(Originally published at 12:05 p.m. October 24, 2017)

Craig notified us about this video which is a very interesting guided tour through the retardant delivery system of the 747 SuperTanker. I learned that the equipment is more complex that I realized. For example, just the compressed air, the AIR, that forces the liquid out of the tanks weighs 2,700 pounds.

The videography is very shaky and the camera is not always pointed in the appropriate direction, but if you can hear SuperTanker pilot Marcos Valdez’s narration, it is very informative. The video was uploaded June 24, 2016.

As the camera enters the plane, Marcos is on the right and lead plane pilot Jamie Tackman is on the left. Jamie spent some time with us during the crew’s deployment to Chile in January providing insight on flying lead planes in general, and operating in front of the 747 in particular — very informative.

Here is another video that shows the installation of the tank system. While it is roll-on/roll-off, it obviously takes a while.

747 Supertanker tanks
Part of the retardant delivery system on the 747 Supertanker, March 22, 2016 at McClellan Air Field.
747 Palmer Fire supertanker
Air Tanker 944, a 747-400, drops near structures on the Palmer Fire south of Yucaipa, California at 4:25 p.m. PDT September 2, 2017. Photo by Leroy Leggitt, used with permission.

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

LM-100J spotted in Puerto Rico

Lockheed Martin’s brand new updated civilian variant of the C-130 was recently spotted in Puerto Rico, apparently transporting hurricane relief supplies and equipment. The photo above of the LM-100J was posted on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s Facebook page October 23 along with an article about an Incident Management Team’s assignment (see below).

One reason this could be of interest to the fire aviation community is that last year the Forest Service advertised for the purchase of at least one new aircraft that would be used as an air tanker. The solicitation issued November 18, 2016 indicated that the agency intended to buy between one and seven “new production commercial aircraft to operate primarily as airtankers”. This procurement would spend the $65 million appropriated by Congress in December, 2014 “for the purpose of acquiring aircraft for the next-generation airtanker fleet to enhance firefighting mobility, effectiveness, efficiency, and safety…”. A quick review of the specifications showed that they might fit the LM-100J which is rumored to cost around $65 million.

However, the FS canceled the solicitation in June of this year. When we asked why, FS spokesperson Jennifer Jones said the only information available was:

The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing its requirements for the airtanker.

The aircraft in Puerto Rico looks very much like the artist’s conception published a couple of years ago by Lockheed Martin.

LM-100J. Image from Lockheed.

The first test flight of the new LM-100J occurred May 25 over Georgia and Alabama.

“I was proud to fly the first flight of our LM-100J. It performed flawlessly, as is typical of our military C‑130J new production aircraft,” said Wayne Roberts, chief test pilot for the LM-100J Program. “This new model will perform many commercial roles in the decades to come, like humanitarian service following natural disasters and others like nuclear accident response, oil spill containment, and firefighting.

The second LM-100J produced flew last week for the first time, on October 19.

The aircraft is an updated version of the L-100 cargo aircraft, produced by Lockheed Martin from 1964 to 1992.

If I was a little bit cynical, I would wonder if Lockheed Martin made the aircraft available for the Puerto Rico flight, in part, hoping it would be photographed. A little publicity for a new model of aircraft does not hurt.

McClellan breaks their own record for retardant

See it in time-lapse video.

On Wednesday October 11 a new record was set for the number of gallons loaded into air tankers in one day at the air tanker base at McClellan Air Field near Sacramento — 311,000 gallons. But the next day, October 12, they blew that record out of the water, pumping 387,655 gallons.

With seven large fires burning within 40 to 80 miles of McClellan Air Field near Sacramento, the air tanker base there has been extremely busy for the last week with 12 air tankers working out of the facility at times.

Click on the Instagram image below to see a fascinating time-lapse video of aircraft activity at the base.

The numbers below are statewide in California.

Fire retardant dropped by firefighting aircraft california
Fire retardant dropped by firefighting aircraft in California October 9-13, 2017.