There is an extremely rare site in the photo above, at least in recent years — two DC-7 air tankers on active duty at an air tanker base in California. CAL FIRE has arranged for them to be on contract so that their 23 S-2T air tankers can rotate in for their annual maintenance. The wildland fire season in the state does not appear to be ending, so they had to do something to provide the needed maintenance for their airborne firefighting fleet while the fire danger remains high.
The state of Oregon routinely uses DC-7 air tankers, but the federal government stopped contracting for them a number of years ago.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service in recent days has had a couple of P2V air tankers on duty. Yesterday Tanker 910, one of the two DC-10 11,600-gallon air tankers operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, was brought over from Albuquerque to be available at Santa Maria, California.
The images above are screen shots from the videos below, which were shot at Santa Fe Dam on Thursday. In addition to being the Incident Command Post for the Colby Fire at Glendora, California, east of Los Angeles, it has been the scooping point for the two CL-415 water-scooping air tankers working the fire. Los Angeles County Fire Department has been contracting for scoopers every fall for many years. In 2013 the contract was scheduled to end in December, but because of the drought and very dry fuel moistures the County extended the contract.
Being directly below the aircraft just after they lifted off the lake with full loads was not the safest place to be. Probably the pilots were wishing the folks with the cell phones were not there.
Below is one more screen shot from one of the videos.
These photos were graciously sent to us by Steve Whitby who took them on the Mountain Fire in July. The fire burned over 20,000 acres in and near the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California. Thanks Steve — great pictures!
Britt Coulson sent us this very impressive video and the excellent photos of their C-130-Q, Tanker 131, dropping on the Wheeler Fire in southern California. The still photos were taken by Michael Meadows on Thursday, November 14 and are used here with his permission.
You have to watch this video. I have seen lots of forward-looking videos shot from the cockpit of air tankers, but this one looking toward the rear allows you to see where the retardant hits the fire. Very impressive. We asked Britt for some details about the camera:
It is the newest version of GoPro and they mounted it on the rear ramp door. The C-130Q has a hole where the low frequency RF cable used to go out that was later converted to a window with bars over it so it doesn’t get damaged. We build a housing that attaches to the bars and holds the camera. I believe they activated it before they took off then just cut the video down.
They have another camera mounted on a wing tip but it was not turned on for this flight. The photo below was taken from that camera.
The Wheeler Fire, north of Santa Paula in Ventura County, was contained at 64 acres. T-131 dropped 10,500 USG over 3 sorties and 5 drops.
Coulson’s exclusive use contract with the U.S. Forest Service ended for the year on November 15 but the agency gave them an extension based on fire activity.
Click on the photos to see larger versions. Thanks Britt and Michael!
Tanker 73, one of CAL FIRE’s 23 S-2Ts, had a problem while landing at Hemet-Ryan Airport Friday evening in southern California. Thankfully there were no injuries. The air tanker with one person on board made a retardant drop earlier in the evening on the Rose fire near Perris. It returned to Hemet to reload, and took off again for the same fire but was canceled before dropping the second load according to CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson. Upon landing at 5:40 p.m. there was an “incident”, she said. The Chief did not know if it landed on its wheels.
“I’m not sure if they kept the whole load or not,” she said. “Normally they will jettison the load in situations like that. But there was an unknown amount of retardant still on board. How much and how much it weighed, that’s something investigators will be looking at.”
Congratulations to the pilot for keeping the aircraft on the runway.
These first three photos were supplied by the Hemet Police Department.
The airport was closed Friday night because the air tanker was still on a runway, but the other two air tankers at Hemet-Ryan were relocated to the Ramona Air Attack Base east of San Diego.
Air Tanker 131, Coulson’s C-130Q, made its first drop on a wildfire Friday, September 20. It split one load, dropping on both flanks of the Sanctuary Fire on the Los Padres National Forest near the Hopper Mountain Condor Sanctuary where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raises the Condors.
The video above is the first drop for T-131 ever on a wildfire. The second video, below, is the second drop on the other flank.
Tanker 131 and T-44, a P2V, worked the fire with lead plane Bravo-52. The fire was contained at 27 acres.
A big thanks go out to Gary Monday of Ventura County Fire Department who shot the video.