Air tanker struck by lightning

Occurred after takeoff from Williams Lake, BC

One of Air Spray’s L-188 air tankers, Tanker 481, was struck by lightning after taking off from the airport at Williams Lake, British Columbia. Thankfully, there were no reported injuries to the two-person crew or the aircraft.

The amazing photo was taken by Amanda Beddington.

Here is a link to a photo of T-481 sitting safely on the ground.

Report released about the 2014 crash of an AT-802 in British Columbia

On July 14, 2016 the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada released the Investigation Report about the crash of a Conair Air Tractor AT-802A that occurred August 14, 2014. The crash took place as the air tanker was attempting to lift off after scooping water on Chantslar Lake in British Columbia. The pilot incurred minor injuries and the aircraft sank.

AT-802F
File photo of an Air Tractor 802-F. Air Tractor photo.

The investigators concluded that a wing stalled either independently or in combination with an encounter with a wing-tip vortex generated by another aircraft.

Below is the TSB’s Summary of the incident:

An Air Tractor AT-802A on amphibious floats (registration C-GXNX, serial number AT- 802A-0530), operating as Tanker 685, was carrying out wildfire management operations during daylight near Chantslar Lake, British Columbia. Three similar aircraft were working as a group with Tanker 685, which was second in line on a touch-and-go to scoop water from Chantslar Lake. Upon liftoff, control was lost and the aircraft’s right wing struck the water. The aircraft water-looped, and the floats and their support structure separated from the fuselage. The aircraft remained upright and slowly sank.

The pilot received minor injuries, egressed from the cockpit, and inflated the personal flotation device being worn. The third aircraft in the formation jettisoned its hopper load as it continued its takeoff and remained in the circuit. The fourth aircraft jettisoned its hopper load, rejected its takeoff, and taxied to pick up the accident pilot. There was sufficient impact force to activate the on-board 406- megahertz emergency locator transmitter, but the search-and-rescue satellite system did not detect a signal from the emergency locator transmitter until the wreckage was being recovered 6 days later.

The TSB’s findings, in part:

1. A wing stalled either independently or in combination with an encounter with a wing-tip vortex generated by the lead aircraft. This caused a loss of control moments after liftoff, and resulted in the right-hand wing tip contacting the water and in a subsequent water-loop.

2. The operator’s standard takeoff procedures did not specify a liftoff speed for scooping operations. Lifting off below the published power-off stall speed contributed to a loss of control at an altitude insufficient to permit a recovery.

3. The takeoff condition, with the aircraft heavy, its speed below the published power-off stall speed, and a high angle-of-attack contributed to the loss of control.

4. An understaffed management structure during organizational changes likely led to excessive workload for existing managers. This contributed to risks, contained within the standard operating procedures, not being addressed through the operator’s safety management system, resulting in continued aircraft operations below published minimum airspeed limitations.

The report states that Conair hired a safety manager and a company check pilot for the Fire Boss fleet before the 2015 spring training season started. And, Conair adopted a risk mitigation plan for 2015–2016, applicable to the company’s AT-802 fleet. The plan addresses issues mentioned in the TSB report, plus an additional issue identified in-house.

The year following the August 14, 2014 crash on Chantslar Lake there were three incidents that we are aware of that involved Conair AT-802’s:

Helicopter crew training in British Columbia

We posted the Tweet below, because the activity in the photo with the helicopter not is something we have previously seen.

13 firefighting aircraft grounded by a drone

On August 16 firefighting aircraft were forced to halt air operations on the Testalinden Creek and Wilson’s Mountain Road wildfires in British Columbia due to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (or drone) flying over the fire.

Eight helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft that were supporting firefighters were grounded, significantly impacting fire suppression operations.

The Oliver RCMP is currently working with the BC Wildfire Service in relation to this incident.

Martin Mars completes first mission on BCWS contract

Martin Mars after July 18 mission
Martin Mars on Sproat Lake after a July 18, 2015 mission. Coulson Photo.

On Saturday, July 18, the Martin Mars flying boat completed its first mission under their new 30-day contract with the British Columbia Wildfire Service. According to Coulson Flying Tankers, the owner of the water-scooping air tanker that can hold up to 7,200 gallons, the aircraft flew a total of 8 hours. Of that, 4 was spent ferrying across the province and back, and the other 4 was used to drop 9 loads of water for a total of 52,800 gallons. They did it without having to land and refuel.

Coulson said the aircraft dropped 158,503 gallons in one day on fires near Lake Shasta in northern California in 2008. In the late 1970s, according to the Coulson company, the Hawaii Mars dropped 200,000 gallons in one day.

Martin Mars gets 30-day contract

Martin Mars test
A Martin Mars test water drop over Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island, B.C., July 10, 2015. Coulson photo.

The Martin Mars 7,200-gallon flying boat air tanker has received a 30-day contract with the government of British Columbia. It was serviceable on Sunday, July 12 but since then has not been dispatched to any fires.

CKNW AM radio is reporting that the contract specifies a daily availability rate of $15,000 and a flight hour rate of $6,000. The average rates for the 14 large air tankers that the U.S. currently has under exclusive use contracts are a daily rate of $22,901 and $8,408 for each flight hour. Of those 14 air tankers, 13 of them can carry up to 2,000 to 4,000 gallons, and the DC-10 holds 11,600 gallons.

On their Facebook page, Coulson Flying Tankers, the company that owns the two Martin Mars air tankers, explained how this 30-day firefighting contract will affect their previous plans to train pilots from China who will be flying a new amphibious aircraft now being built:

…Coulson has a contract with International Test Pilot School (ITPS) from Ontario, Canada dating back to October of 2014. The contract is for Chinese Test Pilots to familiarize themselves with the largest float plane in the world.

The Chinese government currently has under construction the second largest seaplane in the world called a TA 600, which these pilots will be flying.

The original contract was between July 20 to July 30, but a modified contract is now in place where the aircraft will train the test pilots between July 20-26.

Coulson has also negotiated with ITPS the condition that the Mars must stay on call to the BCFS and a procedure has been worked out to remove flight crew being trained so the Mars can go to a fire if called.

We appreciate both the flexibility of ITPS and the BCFS to work out a solution to accomplish the goal of servicing both customers.