The aircraft would be manufactured in Santa Maria, California.
A businessman in Santa Maria, California, who has long been interested in the Russian-made Be-200 scooping air tanker, is pursuing still another avenue to use the aircraft in the United States.
David Baskett is the director of Santa Maria’s airport, president of TTE International, and is associated with International Emergency Services (IES). Campaigning for years to import the 3,000-gallon Be-200 air tanker, in 2010 he arranged for one of the aircraft to visit the United States. It was on display at Santa Maria, California and made a demonstration water drop. Mr. Baskett said then that his plan was to purchase 10 of the aircraft and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States.
Now he says he is working with the Beriev Aircraft Company (that makes the aircraft), Global Seaplanes, and Airbus to manufacture the aircraft in Santa Maria. He hopes that the air tanker will receive FAA certification.
Several years ago some U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganrog, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 could be approved by the Interagency AirTanker Board (IAB). At the time, we heard unofficial reports that it met the criteria for water-scooping air tankers, but tests were not completed for dropping fire retardant.
A Be-200ES struck a tree August 14 while fighting a fire in Portugal but thankfully was able to land safely at Leiria. The jet-powered amphibious water scooper sustained major damage to a pontoon, the right wing leading edge, and the right side wing flaps. There were no reports of injuries to the crew. Other photos of the damage can be seen here.
This is not the first time a Russian Be-200 hit a tree in Portugal. A similar accident occurred July 6, 2006 when the aircraft was leased to the Portuguese government as a trial to evaluate its effectiveness. After scooping water on a lake the left wing hit a tree.
From the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manhã at the time:
…While hitting the top of the trees, leaves and some wood entered the left engine, which didn’t blow up, but that had to be turned off and the pilot was forced to release fuel for safety reasons. The release of the fuel started small wildfires across the area, reaching some houses, which were quickly extinguished by firefighters and helitack units of the GNR’s Intervention, Protection and Rescue Group.
The airplane was able to do an emergency landing at the Monte Real Air Base.
Until this month, Be-200 air tankers had not been used in Portugal since the 2006 incident. Maybe they’ll wait another 10 years before they try again.
A Russian news service is reporting that the two Be-200 Russian-made amphibious scooping air tankers have been effective in Portugal. Quoting the Russian Emergencies Ministry, Sputnik News wrote:
“Overall, two Emergencies Ministry aircraft carried out 37 discharges of water, the total mass of which amounted to 444 tonnes, tackling fire in four spots and saving four settlements and two national parks,” the statement reads.
“The Russian Emergencies Ministry’s airgroup, consisting of two Be-200ES aircraft, continues to work on extinguishing large forest fires in Portugal. On August 15, [Russian pilots] extinguished two fires covering a total area of 500 hectares [over 1,200 acres],” the statement reads.
It is possible the effectiveness of the aircraft is exaggerated. Air tankers do not “extinguish” fires. Under ideal conditions they can slow them down, allowing firefighters on the ground to move in closer and put them out.
Above: A Be-200ES rolls out for the public while another makes a demonstration water drop.
On Monday, May 30 the Beriev Aircraft Company rolled out the first Be-200ES firefighting aircraft produced at their Taganrog manufacturing facility. The versions introduced to the public yesterday have been “modernized”, according to the information from the company, with a reinforced airframe and upgraded avionics.
They expect to flight test and deliver two aircraft this year from the Taganrog factory, and by 2017 hope to produce four annually for the next five years. Orders have been placed by Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations for six Be-200ES aircraft to serve as air tankers, while the Russian Ministry of Defense ordered one Be-200ES capable of fighting fires and another four of the Be-200PS version that would serve other purposes.
Beriev has been manufacturing the Be-200 since 2003. The aircraft can land or take off on water or land, and the firefighting version can scoop water to refill its tanks. It can be converted to haul passengers or serve as a search and rescue aircraft, landing on water to retrieve victims if necessary.
Engines: two high-mounted turbo jet, D-436DTP
Max cruise speed: 700 km/h, 435 mph
Economic cruise speed: 560 km/h, 349 mph
Operational altitude: 8,000 m, 26,000 feet
Water tanks, maximum capacity: 12,000 liters, 3,170 gallons
Minimum speed while dropping: 200-250 km/h, 124-155 mph
Minimum drop height: 50 meters, 164 feet
Maximum wave height while scooping water: 1.2 m, 4 feet
During their 10-week wildfire siege in September and October of 2015 the government of Indonesia leased two Russian-made Be-200 amphibious air tankers. Apparently they were pleased with how the aircraft performed because the government expects to purchase four of the air tankers.
The Defence Blog reports that officials plan to use the 3,000-gallon Be-200s not only for slowing the spread of wildfires, but also for cloud seeding.
USAFAC co-founder Chris Olson made the announcement before the Colorado Wildfire Matters Review Committee saying the company was in discussions with international financiers to back the initiative’s $500 million proposition.
David Baskett of IES has been campaigning for years to import the 3,000-gallon Be-200 air tanker, and in 2010 arranged for one of the aircraft to visit the United States. It was on display at Santa Maria, California and made a demonstration water drop. Mr. Baskett said then that his plan was to purchase 10 of the aircraft and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States.
A couple of years ago some U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganrog, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 met the criteria established by the Interagency AirTanker Board (IAB). At the time, we heard unofficial reports that it met the criteria for water-scooping air tankers, but tests were not completed for dropping fire retardant.
There are quite a few videos of Be-200s dropping water, but the four-second one below is my favorite.
USAFAC has made a splash recently with proposals about the A-10 and now the Be-200. The company, which first registered its web domain on August 9, 2014, has ambitious goals. It will be interesting to see if their talk translates into something flyable.