Air tanker crashes in British Columbia lake

A single engine air tanker crashed in a lake in British Columbia Friday afternoon, July 10. The Air Tractor 802-F Fire Boss amphibious air tanker was scooping water from Puntzi Lake (map) at about 2:15 p.m. when the Conair plane had some sort of difficulty and sank. The pilot was not injured, according to Bill Yearwood with Transportation Safety Board.

Mr. Yearwood said,“We are quite familiar with the aircraft and its operation and there is no information to suggest there’s been any problems in advance of this.”

The fire that the aircraft was working on is on the west side of Puntzi Lake, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Williams Lake. At the last report it had burned about 1,200 hectares (2,965 acres).

Puntzi Lake air tanker crash
The pointer marks the location of Puntzi Lake, the site of the air tanker crash in British Columbia.

This was the 4th crash or serious incident involving a Conair single engine air tanker in the last 13 months.

On May 22, 2015 another Conair 802-F Fire Boss crashed in Alberta, killing the pilot.

An engine failure on Conair’s 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.

A Conair Air Tractor 802-F Fireboss crashed and and sank August 14, 2014 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.

AT-802F Fire Boss
File photo of one of Conair’s AT-802F Fire Boss air tankers. Photo by Peter Unmuth.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chris.

Video of Tanker 489 dropping on a fire in B.C.

The video shows multiple retardant drops by Air Spray’s Tanker 489, a Lockheed Electra, on a fire in Kokanee Creek Provincial Park in British Columbia (map).

Here is the description provided by the videographer:

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“Published on 4 Jul 2015
Fire season has arrived in the Kootenays! This video was taken July 3rd, 2015 showing the new small forest fire near Kokanee Creek Provincial Park towards Kokanee Glacier. This video features many of the aircraft involved in battling the blaze including water bombers, air tankers and helicopters with bambi buckets.

–The aircraft featured in this video include:
–Air Spray Lockheed L-188 Electra Airtanker
–Air Spray Twin Commander 690 Birddog C-FZRQ
–Cessna Caravan Birddog
–Selkirk Mountain Helicopters Aerospatiale AS 350 B-2 C-GSKL with water bucket
–Air Spray Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss Amphibious Tanker Plane

This was my first time ever seeing aircraft fighting a wildfire in person and it was truly an impressive sight. It was especially cool seeing the massive Electra turboprop diving down into the valley near Kokanee Creek Park and dumping fire retardant onto the flames.”

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BONUS VIDEO

This video of an MD-87 dropping on a fire in Laguna Canyon in southern California on July 3, 2015 is shot from pretty far away but you can clearly see the retardant and after the drop, the air tanker as it exits the area closer to the camera. It looked like an excellent drop. I could not make out the tanker number.

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BONUS VIDEO #2, added July 9, 2015

I found this video today, and it looks like the same air tanker, the MD-87, making another drop on the fire in Laguna Canyon. It’s interesting how at 0:48 it disappears into a canyon while making the drop.

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.

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(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

AT-802F
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.