CAL FIRE adds a DC-10 to their air tanker fleet

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection added a DC-10 air tanker to their fleet on June 27.

Below is a screen shot from the 10 Tanker Air Carrier website.

10 tanker

All three of the company’s DC-10s have been busy in California and Arizona in recent days.

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

MAFFS air tanker visits Andrews Air Force Base

Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units can install a Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) in a C-130 in a few hours when a surge capacity of air tankers is needed. But rarely do you see a MAFFS aircraft in the eastern United States.

I was surprised when I ran across the photo below of a MAFFS air tanker at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C.

The 302nd Airlift Wing (Air Force Reserve) at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs sent one of their C-130s outfitted with a MAFFS unit to the Air Force Reserve Command’s ‪‎C-130 Special Mission‬ fly-in at JB Andrews on Wednesday.

MAFFS at Andrews

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

FAA emails drone users, warning about flying near wildfires

This article first appeared on Wildfire Today.

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Several times in the last 10 days drones flying near wildfires have required that firefighting aircraft cease operations, sometimes for hours at a time.

Yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration sent a mass email to individuals who have registered their drones with the agency, warning them that “drone operators who interfere with wildfire suppression efforts are subject to civil penalties of up to $27,500 and possible criminal prosecution”.

FAA email drone warning
FAA emailed drone warning, June 29, 2016.

747 Supertanker videos, part 2

Yesterday we showed you a couple of videos produced by Global Supertanker, the company that resurrected the 747 air tanker first created by Evergreen. Here are two more featuring the new Tanker 944. I was surprised how interesting it was to see a HUGE aircraft being painted and having the retardant delivery system installed.

747 Supertanker update

Above: A screen grab from the 747 Supertanker video, “Mountain Flying”.

Global SuperTanker bought the retardant system and the intellectual property formerly owned by Evergreen, the organization that first put it in a 747-100 air tanker. It now resides in a 747-400 operated by Global SuperTanker which in recent weeks has been going through some of the final stages of installation, testing, and crew training.

T-944 training drop
Initial new hire training run at Keller Butte in North central Washington state. Global SuperTanker photo.

On June 17 the aircraft traveled to Moses Lake, Washington to conduct crew training in mountainous terrain on the Colville Indian Reservation near Moses Lake, Washington. Training flights were under the direction of experienced Lead Plane pilot Jamie Tackman flying a King Air 90, and were recorded by video cameras located on the Keller Butte fire lookout tower and in a helicopter orbiting overhead. Tanker 944, along with the Lead Plane, made seven round trips to the training area, completing a mix of “show me” and low level dry runs plus various full load and segmented water drops.

Three FAA inspectors from Denver and Seattle observed the flights.

T-944 training drop
T-944 makes a training drop on Keller Butte . Global SuperTanker photo.

Jim Wheeler, President and CEO of Global SuperTanker Services, said they do not know if the aircraft will have to go through the retardant drop testing in which the liquid is caught in hundreds of cups placed on the ground. The retardant system is basically the same that was used in Version 1.0 operated by Evergreen, which was previously approved by the Interagency Airtanker Board (IAB).  The Board wants some additional data from static drops that will be conducted soon, then a decision will be made about what other data or testing they will need, if any.

Global SuperTanker Services is now preparing the aircraft, ground crew and their facilities for inspections by the FAA, CAL FIRE, U.S. Forest Service, Interagency Airtanker Board, and other state or regional fire agencies interested in CWN (Call When Needed) contracts for the 2016 fire season.

The company has produced videos showcasing the rebirth of the 747 air tanker, Tanker 944. Here are two of them. We’ll have more tomorrow. 

The first one appears to have been filmed during the training at the Colville Indian Reservation.

Two USFS HC-130H air tankers to be operational by September

Above: Tanker 118, an HC-130H, on the Lowell Fire, July 25, 2015. Photo by Matthew Rhodes.

If the schedule goes according to plan there will be two U.S. Forest Service HC-130H air tankers operational at McClellan Air Field by September, 2016.

In July of 2015 Tanker 118, Aircraft number 1721, showed up at McClellan and became available for fighting fires.

It is one of seven that are in the process of being transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the USFS. Much work has to be done before the transformation is complete, including installing an internal retardant tank (which has not been done on any of the aircraft yet), removal of unneeded military and Coast Guard equipment, programmed depot maintenance, painting, and most of them need to have the wing boxes replaced.

The U.S. Air Force is responsible for getting all of this work done, and with their own money. With that in mind, and considering other Air Force priorities must be taken into consideration, the expectation is that all seven aircraft will be fully converted and available for firefighting operations for the 2020 fire season.

Since the retardant systems have not been a installed, last year Tanker 118 used one of the eight Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems assigned to military C-130s that can install the slip-in system in a matter of hours if an air tanker surge capacity is needed. That is the plan this year too. It is unknown if another MAFFS will be installed in the second HC-130H this summer, or if that aircraft will only be used for training.

The two HC-130Hs at McClellan this year will be Tanker 116 (aircraft number 1708), and Tanker 118 (aircraft number 1721).

T 116 is currently undergoing programmed depot maintenance, demilitarization, and painting with the U.S. Air Force. Estimated completion date and delivery to McClellan is August, 2016.

T 118 is undergoing programmed depot maintenance and painting with the U.S. Coast Guard. It is expected at McClellan in September, 2016.

Tanker 161 on the Crow Peak Fire

On Monday at 4:56 p.m. we shot this photo of Tanker 161, an RJ85, dropping on the Crow Peak Fire southwest of Spearfish, South Dakota. From a distance we saw several air tanker drops by P2V and RJ85 tankers, but only got decent photos of Tanker 161.

At  one point on Monday there were four air tankers working out of Rapid City Tanker Base. By the end of the day one had been sent to a fire near Billings, one was relocated somewhere else, and another was down for maintenance.

Bombardier sells their air tanker business

Aero-Flite air tanker T-260, CL-415,
Aero-Flite’s T-260, A CL-415, at McClellan, March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Bombardier has agreed to sell their air tanker manufacturing business to Viking Air Ltd.

The transaction will see Viking acquire the Type Certificates (manufacturing rights) for all variants of Bombardier’s amphibious aircraft, and assume responsibility for product support, parts and service for the fleet of 170 air tankers in service with 21 operators in 11 countries around the world.

Below is an excerpt from an article at CTV News:

…Victoria-based Viking manufactures the Twin Otter as well as spare parts for several planes originally made by de Havilland. It also has manufacturing rights for all out-of-production de Havilland aircraft, including the DASH-7 regional airliner, a predecessor to Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop.

Viking employs just under 90 people in Calgary and more than 330 at its headquarters and facilities in Victoria. The company said it expects to add up to 40 people to its workforce in Victoria and Calgary with the new program.

Bombardier said Monday it plans to transfer 50 employees from the amphibious aircraft program based in North Bay, Ont., to other parts of its business.

The Montreal-based company hasn’t produced an amphibious plane since December 2015…

Canadair began manufacturing the amphibious CL-215 air tanker in 1967 and in 1986 sold the manufacturing rights for the aircraft to Bombardier. In 1993 Bombardier introduced the upgraded CL-415, replacing the piston engines with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF turboprops as well as introducing an updated cockpit and aerodynamics enhancements.

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