Photos of the 747 SuperTanker at McClellan

Sergio Maraschin sent us these photos that he took of Air Tanker 944, a 747 SuperTanker, at Sacramento McClellan Airport in 2017. He believes the water drop was a demonstration at the airport.

Thanks Sergio!T-944 Supertanker 747 Sergio Maraschin T-944 Supertanker 747 Sergio Maraschin T-944 Supertanker 747 Sergio Maraschin

A salute to LA County Air Operations

The Fox TV station in Los Angeles honored the Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations Section in this video clip.

Using MAFFS on the Thomas Fire

Video of the MAFFS C-130’s and other air tankers in action

Above: Screen grab from the Air National Guard video.

This video features the 146th Airlift Wing’s C-130s which were activated to support CAL FIRE with suppression of the largest fire in California’s history, the Thomas Fire. The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS), which are owned by the U.S. Forest Service, can be loaded into the back of a C-130 and made ready for operations in as little as 3 hours, but it usually takes about a day and a half to get the unit fully mobilized.

Holding the Line from Airman Magazine on Vimeo.

After 40 meetings two southern California agencies still battle over aviation responsibilities

The Orange County Fire Authority and the County Sheriff’s office sometimes both send helicopters to the same rescue incidents

Orange County Fire Authority helicopters
Orange County Fire Authority helicopters. OCFA photo.

For almost a year the Orange County Sheriff’s office and the Orange County Fire Authority have battled over which agency has the responsibility for providing helicopters for rescue incidents in the Southern California county. Occasionally helicopters from both agencies show up at a scene when only one is needed, creating safety issues when neither one wants to back down. We first wrote about this situation May 6, 2017.

And it has gotten worse, according to an article in the Orange County Register. Below is an excerpt:

The battles over which agency should conduct air rescues in Orange County have become so frequent and so dangerous that county supervisors decided Tuesday to refer the problem to a state agency in the hope it can help settle a dispute.

The board’s direction came after Orange County Fire Authority Chief Patrick McIntosh told supervisors his pilots would continue responding to air rescue calls and ignore Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ recent decision to unilaterally take over helicopter rescue operations in the county’s remote areas.

Hutchens’ announcement Jan. 16 formally ended a prior agreement that named Orange County Fire Authority as the county’s primary responder. It also came after two years during which pilots from the Sheriff’s Department and the fire authority have regularly clashed, with helicopters from both agencies racing to rescue scenes on dozens of calls, at times arguing over radio and face-to-face after flying in the same airspace.

McClellan Air Field becomes Sacramento McClellan Airport

Above: Static Display March 23, 2016 at Sacramento McClellan Airport during the aerial firefighting conference.

(Originally published at 12:44 p.m. MST December 26, 2017.)

The former McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento has changed hands for the second time in the last 17 years and is now known as Sacramento McClellan Airport (KMCC). It was operated by the U.S Air Force from 1939 until 2000 when it was transferred to Sacramento County. In October of this year the 1,100-acre property was purchased by McClellan Business Park.

In addition to serving private plane owners and companies, the airport also functions as a main flight hub and home for many government agencies and emergency services operators, such as the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, CAL FIRE, HeliMax, and the U.S. Forest Service C-130 air tanker program. According to the new owners of the airport, it has the largest aerial fire retardant reload base in the United States.

McClellan Jet Services will continue to provide fixed-base services.

Retardant from a helicopter’s internal tank

These days it is not uncommon on a large fire to see a helicopter dropping retardant or a Chinook with an internal tank, or… both at the same time.

This photo of a Columbia Helicopters ship supporting a very large firing operation on the Thomas Fire was in a tweet by the Los Padres National Forest.

In July we posted the KEYT video below which originally was streamed live on YouTube, showing and explaining the activities at a facility set up at the Whittier Fire northwest of Goleta, California for mixing retardant for helicopters that could draft to refill their tanks. The 11-minute video did not show any ships with buckets — just Type 1 helicopters with internal or external tanks.

The video below shows several helicopters including the same Columbia Helicopters aircraft and the 747, supporting the Thomas Fire on December 13, 2017.

Video from MAFFS cockpit

These in-cockpit videos by the Modular Airborne FireFighting System aircraft are great. If you look VERY closely you will see two puffs of smoke from the lead plane, marking the beginning and end of the drop.

TBT: 16 facts you may not know about CAL FIRE’s aerial firefighting program

For ThrowBack Thursday we’re revisiting a piece we wrote in March, 2016.


The aerial firefighting program in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has grown over a couple of decades into a highly respected, professionally managed organization. After spending some time at their aviation headquarters at McClellan Air Field on Thursday  [March 24, 2016] in Sacramento, I developed as list of 16 facts that you may not know about the program:

1. CAL FIRE has 22 S-2T fixed wing air tankers that can carry up to 1,200 gallons of retardant. They are presently converting an aircraft to replace the one destroyed in the October 7, 2014 crash that killed Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt. That process should be complete in 18 to 24 months.

S-2T air tanker
S-2T air tankers at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

2. They have 15 OV-10 Air Attack fixed wing aircraft.

OV-10
A lineup of OV-10 air attack ships at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

3. And 12 Super Huey helicopters.

super huey
Super Huey at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

4. All of the above aircraft were discarded by the military.

5. The S-2T air tankers were designed to be based on aircraft carriers, and therefore have wings that fold. They still retain this feature, which makes it possible to cram more aircraft into a hangar.

S-2T folded wings
An S-2T with the wings folded. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Continue reading “TBT: 16 facts you may not know about CAL FIRE’s aerial firefighting program”