Coulson signs agreement with Argentina for analysis of firefighting aircraft

Coulson C-130 air tankers
Coulson’s three C-130 air tankers.

(Updated at 3:05 p.m. MDT June 20, 2017)

Coulson Aviation has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Argentina that will enable the country “to analyse and, eventually, develop as a whole, an air combat division” for suppressing wildfires.

The Secretary for Logistics and Military Coordination for Emergencies, Walter Ceballos, made the announcement on his Facebook page on June 15.

In the photos above, Wayne Coulson, the CEO and President of Coulson Aviation, is wearing a white shirt and a light blue tie. Mr. Ceballos is next to him in the brown suit.

Google’s automatic translation of the text in the above post:

I am grateful to the CANADA CCC programme which allowed the ministry of defence to be linked to Coulson Aviation, a specialized company and certified in air fire operations. We signed a memorandum of understanding to analyse and, eventually, develop as a whole, an air combat division, with the FAA’s hr and operational operations to serve the national plan to fight fire.

We checked with Britt Coulson, Vice President of Aviation, who explained that the company “is in the final stages of negotiations with Argentina to [provide] a turnkey fleet of command and control, fixed wing, and rotary wing assets” as well as a full training program. If the agreement is consummated, the aircraft would be on contract, owned and operated by Coulson.

Mr. Ceballos is also interested in the Russian-made amphibious Be-200 air tanker and has pinned the following at the top of his Twitter account:

Twitter’s automatic translation of the above text:

Visit to Beriev to evaluate B200 (Multiflight Amphibious Plane).

In addition to having three operational C-130-type air tankers and a fourth one on the way, Coulson has purchased six 737-300’s from Southwest Airlines and intends to convert at least some of them into air tankers. One has been painted and has started the conversion process.

Coulson 737 air tanker
One of Coulson’s 737’s — the first one to be painted and to start the air tanker conversion process.

Agreement sought to manufacture Be-200 air tankers in California

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.

Be-200ES
A Be-200ES rolls out for the public while another makes a demonstration water drop. May 30, 2016 at the Beriev factory in Taganrog, Russia.

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.

This is not the first announcement that the Be-200 would be manufactured in the United States. In 2014 USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) said they signed a collaboration agreement with IES to produce the Be-200 in Colorado. USAFAC co-founder Chris Olson told the Colorado Wildfire Matters Review Committee that the company was in discussions with international financiers to back the initiative’s $500 million proposition.

USAFAC at the same time was proposing to convert the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt into an air tanker.

Be-200ES strikes tree, lands safely

Be-1200ES wing damage tree strike
This is reportedly damage to the wing of a Be-200ES after striking a tree while fighting a wildfire in Portugal.

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.

Since last week two Be-200ES air tankers have been on loan to Portugal by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations after a rash of numerous fires in the country and on Madeira Island.

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.

Be-200 scooping air tankers reportedly effective working in Portugal

Be-200ES
File photo of a Be-200ES rolling out of the factory.

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.

And:

“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.

First modernized Be-200 amphibious air tankers rolled 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.

Specifications:

  • 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

Be-200ES Be-200ES

Be-200ES Be-200ES

All photos by Fotografersha.

Indonesia to buy four Be-200 amphibious air tankers

Be-200 Indonesia
According to @RusEmbPeru, the Russian-made Be- 200 airtankers saved an eighteenth century mosque on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in October, 2015.

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.

Photos of the Be-200 air tankers in Indonesia

Be-200 Indonesia
According to @RusEmbPeru, the Russian-made Be- 200 airtankers saved an eighteenth century mosque on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

We found these photos on Twitter of the Russian-made Be-200 amphibious scooping air tankers that have been deployed to assist with the wildfires in Indonesia. Two of them arrived in the country October 21, 2015.

Be-200 Indonesia
A Be-200 air tanker at Palembang, Indonesia. Photo via @BNPB_Indonesia.
Be-200 Indonesia
A Be-200 air tanker arrived at Sultan Mahmud Airport Baddarudin, Palembang , South Sumatra, October 21, 2015. Photo via @antaranews.

 

Two Russian-made Be-200 air tankers deployed to Indonesia

BE-200
BE-200. Credit: Beriev.

Two Russian-made Be-200 amphibious air tankers have arrived in Indonesia to assist with the siege of wildfires plaguing the country and causing severe air quality problems.

According to Sputnik News the two air tankers will be in the country for at least 30 days.

After also being deployed to Indosia, Coulson’s Tanker 132, (an L-382G civilian version of Lockheed’s C-130) has returned to New South Wales to continue their firefighting contract.

The twin jet powered Be-200 can scoop up to 3,300 gallons of water and cruise at 348 mph at 26,000 feet. It has a ferry range of 2,051 miles with a one-hour reserve.

Over the last several years there has been talk of leasing or buying the Be-200 to be used in the United States, and even assembling them in Colorado, but so far it has just been that — talk. A major hurdle would be obtaining certifications from the FAA.

Be-200
Be-200. Credit: Beriev.

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