Photos of helicopters working the fire on Sproat Lake in British Columbia

Fire on Sproat Lake S-61
One of Coulson’s S-61 helicopters working the fire on Sproat Lake in British Columbia. Photo by Britt Coulson.

Britt Coulson of The Coulson Group sent us these photos of the wildfire burning along the lake near the company’s Martin Mars base in British Columbia. One of their S-61 Type 1 helicopters assigned to the fire can be seen in two of the photos, the black and white ship.

helicopter fire on Sproat Lake
One of Coulson’s S-61 helicopters working the fire on Sproat Lake in British Columbia. Photo by Britt Coulson.
Helicopters fire Sproat Lake
Helicopters working the fire on Sproat Lake in British Columbia. Photo by Britt Coulson.

Earlier we wrote about the inquiry the British Columbia Wildfire Service made about possibly activating the Martin Mars using their existing call when needed contract.

Report: B.C. government makes inquiry about using Martin Mars

In the video above the Martin Mars makes a demonstration water drop in Coal Harbor in Vancouver on Forestry Day during the Olympics in 2010. If you like the sound of four 18-cylinder big-ass radial engines, turn up the sound.

(UPDATED at 9:33 p.m. MT, July 6, 2015)

Britt Coulson told us Monday evening that their company already has a Call When Needed contract for the Martin Mars with the British Columbia Wildfire Service but the aircraft has not been activated yet. The Coulson Group told the agency that if they activated it by the end of the day on Monday the Martin Mars could be serviceable and fighting fires on Thursday. As of 6:11 p.m. MT, the Coulsons had not heard from BCWS.

Mr. Coulson also said the wildfire on Sproat Lake is close to their Martin Mars facilities:

We can sit on our dock [on Sproat Lake] and watch the action its so close to our house, this is the first time in our history we have ever fought fire locally.

We have an S61 [large Type 1 helicopter] on it. The Mars base is just down the lake and you can sit in the airplane and watch the fire. It’s so smoky in the valley no traditional airtankers could get in but because the Mars scoops and is all low level it would have made a huge difference.

A great deal of misinformation about contracts and the B.C. government using or not using the Martin Mars is floating around in the mainstream media as well as the social media.


(Originally published at 7 p.m. MT, July 6, 2015)

Several media outlets are reporting that the British Columbia government has talked with the Coulson Group about the possibility of using the Martin Mars air tanker on fires currently burning in the province. One fire is in Sproat Lake Provincial Park a short distance from the aircraft’s base on Sproat Island.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the VanCityBuzz on July 6:

…“We provided the information to them, and that’s where it’s at,” [Wayne Coulson] said. “We’re watering the Mars tomorrow morning and we’re going to start test flying it.”

While there are more cost-effective options available, in the right circumstances, it can now be called on to supplement the airtanker fleet.

The pilots who are test flying it will be the ones who would conduct the operation if the provincial government decides to use the aircrafts. Coulson said the earliest it could be deployed would either be Wednesday or Thursday.

The Martin Mars can scoop up to 7,200 gallons of water and then mix it internally with Class A foam or gel concentrates. The aircraft is not amphibious and must always land on water. It was built in the 1940s and after its service in the U.S. Navy worked as an air tanker in Canada for several decades. The U.S. Forest Service had it on a call when needed contract in 2008 and 2009 and occasionally based it at Lake Elsinore in southern California and Lake Shasta in the north part of the state.

We reported on May 24 that Britton Coulson of The Coulson Group said their company will be using the Martin Mars to train 14 test pilots from China during two weeks in late July who will be the first to fly the new TA-600 amphibious aircraft being built now. The training will include ground, water taxi, flight, as well as scooping and dropping water. The trainee pilots will go through classroom and hands on training using Coulson’s Hawaii Martin Mars aircraft, actually taxiing and flying the huge flying boat.

Air Tractors ready for the Little Bobtail Lake Fire

Click the picture to see a larger version.

It’s not the best composed photograph I’ve ever seen, but interesting nonetheless — six Air Tractor 802F Fire Bosses ready to attack the Little Bobtail Lake Fire 25 miles southwest of Prince George, British Columbia. That might be an Electra on the right, one of two working the fire..

More about the Little Bobtail Lake Fire at Wildfire Today.

Float damanged on AT-802A after engine failure during training

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

An engine failure on Conair’s amphibious Air Tanker 699, an Air Tractor AT-802A, during training resulted in damage to a float upon landing. The incident occurred April 11, 2015 on Harrison Lake, BC, 33 nm NNE of Abbotsford.

Below is an excerpt from a Transportation Safety Board of Canada report:

…The aircraft was a 2-seat model conducting the fourth touch and go exercise. On the departure, the trainee was given a simulated engine failure at 700 feet above the surface. Following the emergency drill, the training pilot requested a go-around at 400 feet. When engine (PT6A-67F) power was commanded, flames were observed coming from the exhaust stacks and the engine was reduced to idle power and shut down. The emergency landing was carried out straight ahead but was hard and a bounce resulted in float damage. The FCU [fuel control unit] will be torn down for examination at the manufacturer’s facilities.

SEAT sinks in British Columbia lake

An Air Tractor 802 Fireboss crashed and and sank August 14 while scooping water on Chantslar Lake in British Columbia, Canada about 30 kilometers west of Puntzi Mountain. Jeff Berry of Conair said the pilot was able to exit the Single Engine Air Tanker, but was held overnight in a hospital in William’s Lake and released Friday morning.

The Fireboss was brand new. Recovery operations are underway at the lake.

Air tankers at Castlegar, BC

air tankers Castlegar, BC
Conair CV-580 air tankers at Castlegar, BC, July 9, 2014. Photo by Jeremy Chernoff.

Jeremy Chernoff was kind enough to send us these photos he took at Castlegar, BC, Canada. Thanks Jeremy.

air tankers Castlegar, BC
AT-802F single engine air tankers and a bird dog at Castlegar, BC, July 14, 2014. Photo by Jeremy Chernoff.

Kamov KA-32 helicopter crashes while fighting wildfire in B.C.

Kamov 32 at Loulé heliport in Portugal
Kamov KA-32 at Loulé heliport in Portugal, similar to the one that crashed in B.C. Sunday. Photo by Bill Gabbert, August 29, 2012.

A Russian-built Kamov KA-32 helicopter made a crash landing in British Columbia Sunday, August 4. Jen Norie of VIH Aviation Group confirmed that one of their helicopters was conducting water dropping operations on a wildfire near Bella Colla, British Columbia using an external bucket when the aircraft developed an engine problem. The ship made a hard landing on uneven terrain collapsing at least one landing gear, which caused the aircraft to tip over about 30 degrees. The twin overhead counter-rotating main rotors struck the ground, which of course destroyed them.

Thankfully the two pilots walked away with no injuries, so in that sense it was a “good landing”. There were no passengers on board.

Ms. Norie said the company has been operating KA-32s since the mid-1990s, accumulating over 46,000 flight hours without a major incident, until Sunday.

Martin Mars and other aircraft attack fire near Powell River

In this video the Martin Mars, a single engine air tanker, and several helicopters are seen making water drops on a fire near Powell River in British Columbia June 9.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Alberni Valley Times:

A two-hectare slash fire in Powell River is now under control, and it offered a good opportunity for the Hawaii Mars to show off the important role it can play in firefighting – an essential step given that the province has announced it will not use the bomber next fire season.

Alberni Valley resources played a big part in containing the blaze. Both the Martin Mars \water bomber and Thunderbird fire unit headed out to fight the Powell River fire on Tuesday.

“It was excellent for us,” said Wayne Coulson, CEO of the Coulson group, which owns the water bomber. “We did about four loads and whacked it out with a couple of other machines, and it was a quick one.”

According to Coastal Fire Centre fire information officer Marg Drysdale, the fire was three kilometres northeast of Powell River and the resources that took care of it were three initial attack crews, two officers and half a unit crew, which were the Thunderbirds.

“And then they brought in air tankers, including the Martin Mars,” Drysdale said. “And it knocked the fire down really well.” The fire was reported at 1: 55 p.m. and the Mars bomber began its action in Powell River at 5: 05 p.m., before finishing at 6: 16 p.m. after dropping four loads.


Thanks go out to John