Above: MAFFS 1, normally based at Cheyenne, on approach at Fresno International Airport August 5, 2017. Photo by L.S. Braun.
(Originally published at 7:40 p.m MDT August 6, 2017)
L.S. Braun took photos of all three Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) aircraft that are currently activated. The C-130’s were approaching Runway 29R at Fresno International Airport on August 5.
Thanks L.S. Braun!
C-130’s can be converted temporarily to a 3,000-gallon air tanker in a few hours by installing the MAFFS unit. In the United States they are used in a surge capacity when additional air tankers are needed to supplement the existing contracted aircraft.
Above: Tanker 105 at McClellan Air Field, August 5, 2017. It is a good view of the external tank, or pod, that was fabricated and installed below the retardant tank doors, which lowered the release point by 46 inches. The intent was to keep the flow of the retardant away from the engines. Photo by John Vogel.
(Originally published at 6:04 p.m. MDT August 5, 2017)
John Vogel shot these excellent photos on August 5 of air tankers at McClellan Air Field near Sacramento.
These photos were taken by CAL FIRE at a spot fire on the Detwiler Fire and at the helibase off Highway 49 north of Mariposa, California Thursday July 27. A spot fire added another 100 acres, to bring the current size up to 81,650 acres.
Most of the large air tankers working on the Detwiler Fire at Mariposa, California are reloading with retardant at Castle Airport 25 miles west of the fire. When an air tanker needs fuel, they will often have it pumped onboard at the same time the retardant tanks are being refilled. And sometimes a pilot will prefer to work a fire with less than a full tank of fuel so they can carry more retardant. They will have to refuel more often, but the weight savings is very important.
On Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for CAL FIRE, the vendor at Castle Airport ran out of fuel, so air tankers needing more had to divert to Mather Airport southeast of Sacramento to get fuel, and then fly to Castle for retardant before returning to the fire. The spokesperson said that by Thursday the fuel shortage had been resolved.
Fire officials are establishing a retardant site for helicopters so that they can drop long term retardant on the fire rather than water, which is less effective. This was also done on the Whittier Fire, as we reported a week ago. Below is the video from that fire.
The operator of the three DC-10 Very Large Air Carriers, 10 Tanker Air Carrier, announced today that they set a company record yesterday, July 18, when Tanker 911 flew 10 missions in less than six hours of flight time to deliver 108,000 gallons of retardant to the Detwiler fire. That’s 10,800 gallons per sortie.
It is our understanding that they were reloading at Castle Air Force Base 25 miles west of the fire. Another one of the company’s DC-10’s, T-912, was also working the fire.
This video footage that streamed live on KTVU July 11 starts with a fire at an industrial facility near Doolittle and Eden in San Leandro, California. Then the helicopter flies over to a vegetation fire in the San Jose foothills that was threatening homes at Claitor Way and Lariat Lane. It appears the fire started near structures and continued to spread through the rolling hills. The video captures many helicopter water drops, and also the first retardant drop on a real fire by Coulson’s newest air tanker, Tanker 133, an L-382G, which is a civilian variant of the C-130. (Articles tagged T-133 on Fire Aviation are here.)
You probably don’t have the patience to sit through an hour and a half of video, so here’s a tip. T-133 first appears at about 1:07:30. It makes two passes then drops the third time. After that there’s many water drops from CAL FIRE and other helicopters. There are also several S-2T drops; I was able to see one number, T-83. I skipped around quite a bit looking for interesting activity.
Many of the helicopter drops after the 1:09 mark were an attempt to stop a portion of the fire that was burning in a steep canyon that had heavy fuels. Dozers were following behind the water and retardant drops, putting in fireline.
All of these images are screengrabs from the KTVU video.
I want to congratulate the KTVU camera operator. Like many of his or her brethren in California who have probably covered many, many wildfires, they zoomed in on the air tankers as they were maneuvering, but as they dropped retardant the camera operator zoomed out so you could see the entire drop and where the retardant landed. Sometimes in this video they would linger on that spot for a while so you could see the effect on the fire. I have noticed that video shot from helicopters in other parts of the country often maintain the close shot of the aircraft as it drops and flies out of the area, and you often can’t see where the retardant landed. An example is in this article; check out the video at 2:44:00 (yes, that’s 2 hours and 44 minutes).