Coulson air tanker begins its down under bushfire season

Coulson’s Air Tanker 132, known as “Thor” in Australia, began its bushfire season contract with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service at Sydney September 1. Shortly after being introduced to the media it was dispatched to a fire.

Another of their C-130’s, Tanker 131, will be heading down there later this year. It will be based in the state of Victoria.

New South Wales expects to continue to use DC-10 and C-130 air tankers

Above: A DC-10 drops on a fire in Australia. New South Wales Rural Fire Service photo.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service apparently thinks their two year trial of two air tankers, a DC-10 and a C-130, was a success, and expect to keep using them for several more years.

The state of Victoria also has been using air tankers from North America during their down under summer for the last two years, an RJ85 and another C-130. Both states have been using single engine air tankers and helicopters for a long time to aid firefighters battling bush fires.

Tanker 391’s missions during the Australian summer

While Conair’s Tanker 391, an RJ85, was in Australia during their 2016-2017 summer, it delivered more than 450,000 liters (119,000 gallons) of retardant, foam and gel onto fires in Victoria and New South Wales for Vic Emergency, Forest Fire Management Victoria, CFA (Country Fire Authority), NSW Rural Fire Service, and other agencies. The aircraft has now returned to Canada.

(Above Graphic by RJ85 Australia)

The photo below won 3rd prize in the Professional category in the 12th Annual Dahl Mountain Photo Competition in Rapid City in which there were 215 entries. The photo shows an RJ85 air tanker making a retardant drop on the Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota June 27, 2016. The image below may show the price “starting at $0.00”. That of course is not correct. Click on it to get more information.

Art Prints

Slow motion video of air tanker drops

This video has excellent footage of air tanker 131, a C-130Q (Bomber 390 in Australia) and Bomber 391, an RJ85, dropping water during the air show at Avalon, Victoria in Australia during the weekend of March 4. Both of Coulson’s C-130’s have since returned to North America.

It appears from the Facebook post below that the RJ85’s contract down under may also be drawing to a close.

Inquest finds inadequate inspection contributed to fatal air tanker crash

A coroner’s inquest found that an inadequate inspection contributed to the crash of an air tanker in New South Wales, Australia.

Dromader M-18 air tanker
File photo of Dromader M-18. Photo by Ted Quackenbush.

David Black, 43, died when his M18 Dromader single engine air tanker crashed while fighting a fire at Wirritin in Budawang National Park, 40 kilometers west of Ulladulla, October 24, 2013 when a wing snapped off the aircraft as it was approaching the fire. The crash started another bushfire which, along with high winds, hampered efforts to reach the pilot.

Below is an excerpt from an article at 9news:

[The aircraft] was tested and inspected just over two months earlier by two companies, Aviation NDT and Beal Aircraft Maintenance, but [Deputy State Coroner Derek] Lee said the work was inadequately done.

He wrote in his findings that testing by Aviation NDT used an unauthorised method and did not comply with the mandatory requirements of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Further, the plane’s wings were not removed during a visual inspection by Beal Aircraft Maintenance, meaning that corrosion and cracking on one of the left wing’s attachment lugs was not detected.

By the time Mr Black crashed in October, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that cracking on the inner surface of the lug had reached a critical length of 10.4 millimetres and at least 32 secondary micro cracks were also identified.

The engineer behind the visual inspection, Donald Beal, told the inquest the manufacturer’s service bulletin did not mandate removal of the wings, so he didn’t see any need to remove them.

Mr Beal also said there was ambiguity about what visual inspections actually involved, Mr Lee recalled in his findings.

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

Tanker 131 at Avalon Air Show

Coulson’s Air Tanker 131, known as Bomber 390 in Australia, was present last weekend at the Australian International Airshow in Avalon, Victoria. Britt Coulson sent us these photos.

Their company has had two of their C-130 type air tankers working in Australia during their down under summer. I asked Mr. Coulson when they were going to return and he said both of them need maintenance before being carded by the U.S. Forest Service.

Tanker 131 air show demonstration drop
Tanker 131 making a demonstration drop at the Avalon air show.

T-132 will be departing March 11th; at that time it will have been on contract with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service for a total of 186 Days.

T-131 will leave Australia on March 14th and will have been on contract with Victoria’s Country Fire Authority for a total of 91 Days. It will be on exclusive use contract with the USFS.

Continue reading “Tanker 131 at Avalon Air Show”

Contract possibilities for U.S. air tankers in the southern hemisphere

Above: Neptune’s Tanker 03 parked near several portable water tanks at Concepción, Chile February 4, 2017. Neptune Aviation photo.

Air tankers in the United States and Canada usually spend four to seven months each year parked, not turning a wheel, prop, or turbine. While they sit idle, there can be wildfires raging in South America and Australia, where their fire seasons are opposite of the those in the northern hemisphere. Of course the air tanker operators know this and in some cases are pursuing those opportunities.

Three companies have a total of four air tankers on the second year of a two-year “trial” contract in Australia — Conair, 10 Tanker, and Coulson. Word on the street ramp is that Victoria and New South Wales will issue more contracts for large air tankers before the 2017-2018 summer fire season arrives in September or October.

The first time use of large and very large air tankers in Chile over the last 30 days may have opened another market, as the 747, BAe-146, and a Russian IL-76 all demonstrated that they can be effective even without a supporting air tanker infrastructure in the country.

When we saw an article on a Chilean website inferring that their government had reached an agreement with Global Supertanker to facilitate the use of the 747 Supertanker in the country, it got our attention. Wondering if it was fake news, we checked with Jim Wheeler the CEO and President of the company, who told us that while they have been in talks with government officials, nothing yet is final or signed, and used the term “pending contract”. One of the objectives of an agreement, if reached, would be to ensure a fairly fast arrival after being mobilized. Following wheels up at Colorado Springs, the home base of the aircraft, it can fly non-stop to Santiago in 10 hours.

Clouding the issue in Chile is the contracting and political climate. In recent weeks high-ranking government officials there have issued conflicting statements about the effectiveness of the air tankers, at times saying they are valuable and at other times the opposite. All of this has to be analyzed knowing some background information about aerial firefighting in Chile.

Most of the firefighting aircraft that have been used for years in Chile, the single engine air tankers (SEATs) and helicopters, have been made available through contracts with private companies based in Europe. Officials from two of the companies were accused in Spain of contract collusion and international bribery among other crimes, according to a report by Ahora Noticias, a Chilean publication. In light of those problems, there has been pressure in Chile to investigate their contracting procedures for aircraft.

The publication interviewed a consultant in disaster management, Rodrigo Reveco, who implied that a cozy relationship between the companies and the Chilean non-profit organization that has a hand in managing emergency operations, may help explain why there was a reluctance to bring in aerial firefighting assets from other companies evan as the disastrous wildfire conditions worsened in December.

With this issue fermenting in the background, it can be difficult to predict the future of large, expensive firefighting aircraft in the country.

 

Retardant stops wildfire in New South Wales

Above: The Carwoola Fire in New South Wales, Australia. Photo by NSW Rural Fire Service.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service sent out this Tweet February 17 (U.S. time):

NSW RFS Carwoola Fire

The photo at the top of this article is an enlargement of the one in the tweet. It is interesting to see how the fire in some areas apparently burned into the retardant and stopped. However when this photo was taken it may have been creeping through a gap in the retardant. But since the RFS wrote that the fire was effectively stopped, the aircraft probably continued working on the fire after this photo was taken.

Four large and very large air tankers from North America have been on contract in New South Wales and Victoria during their down under summer — two C-130’s, an RJ85, and a DC-10. Australia also has numerous helicopters and single engine air tankers.

The map below shows lightning strikes and fires in NSW.