CL-415’s scooping water at Castaic Lake

Above:  Air Tanker 260 scoops water at Castaic Lake December 6, 2017 . Photo by Robert Schwemmer.

(Originally published at 7:25 p.m. MST December 7, 2017)

Robert Schwemmer shot this video and the photos of water-scooping air tankers as they refilled at Castaic Lake as they were working the Creek Fire in Los Angeles, California. Thanks Robert!

Air Tanker 247
Air Tanker 247 scooping water at Castaic Lake December 6, 2017 . Photo by Robert Schwemmer.

T-247 and one other Quebec government scooper are under contract to Los Angeles County, while T-260 and two other Aero-Flite CL-415’s are working on a contract with the U.S. Forest Service.

Forest Service cancels contract for scooper air tankers

The cancellation became effective for fiscal year 2018 which began October 1, 2017.

Above: Air Tanker 261, a CL-415, at Medford, Oregon August, 2016. Photo by Tim Crippin.

(Originally published at 3:30 p.m. MDT November 29, 2017)

The U.S. Forest Service has cancelled the contract it had with Aero-Flite for two CL-415 air tankers. The company was awarded an exclusive use contract in 2016 for two of the scooper aircraft for five years.

USFS spokesperson Jennifer Jones said the cancellation occurred in September of this year, but a source familiar with the Aero-Flite operation told us it was not effective until the end of the Mandatory Availability Period (MAP) which is *December 6th, 2017. After that date the Aero-Flite CL-415’s can only be used on a Call When Needed contract, if they are available when the need arises. A total of four CL-415’s are on CWN contracts.

The Forest Service also cut back in 2017 on the number of Type 1 helicopters on exclusive use contracts, reducing them from 34 to 28.  And in June they cancelled the solicitation issued November 18, 2016 for the acquisition of one to seven new multi-engine air tankers. It was thought by some that this procurement would spend the $65 million appropriated by Congress in December, 2014 “for the purpose of acquiring aircraft for the next-generation airtanker fleet to enhance firefighting mobility, effectiveness, efficiency, and safety…”.

The cost of the 1,600-gallon Aero-Flite aircraft were very high. The daily availability rate was $42,285 with an hourly rate of $13,299. That daily rate was higher than all of the 21 large air tankers on contract, including the DC-10’s which carry up to 11,600 gallons. And only two large air tankers had a higher hourly rate — one of the DC-10’s and the USFS/Coast Guard C-130.

Jones told us that one of the reasons for the reduction in aerial firefighting aircraft was a lack of funding:

The U.S. Forest Service’s Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget does not include funding for Exclusive Use Water Scoopers. The U.S. Forest Service is providing the appropriate mix of aviation assets (Airtankers, water scoopers, helicopters, etc.) for wildfire suppression within available funding.

Congress has not approved a budget this fiscal year which began October 1, 2017. The federal agencies are operating on a continuing resolution which expires December 8, 2017. The budget proposed by the current administration included the reduction in the scoopers. Congress may or may not go along with the Executive Branch’s proposal.

Our calls and emails to Aero-Flite were not returned at the time this was published.

*We corrected the effective date of the cancellation of the contract from October 1, 2017 to December 6, 2017. 

Report released on landing gear failure on CL-415 in France

There was a mechanical failure while taxiing.

Above: photo of the incident scene, from the report.

(Originally published at 6:55 p.m. MST November 22, 2017)

The French government has released a report about an incident that occurred August 1, 2016 at Ajaccio. As best we can tell from the document, which is in French of course, is that a CL-415 experienced a mechanical failure in the right side landing gear while taxiing and turning left onto a runway before takeoff on a fire mission.  When one of the components broke, the gear partially collapsed, causing the aircraft to tip to the right, coming to rest on the float under the wing tip.

Thankfully the crew was not injured.

The report appears to indicate that the problem was related to a maintenance issue due to a translation error in a technical document.

In the photo above, some of the foam and liquid is probably from a fire engine that can be seen in the photo at the top of this article.

Firefighting aircraft on Twitter

Isaac notified us about these videos and photos. Thanks Isaac!

CL-415 clips a mast while scooping water in France

A video shot northwest of Marseille, France shows a CL-415 water-scooping air tanker clipping a mast on a barge in the Rhône River near the port of Vallabregues August 27, 2017.

Be sure and turn on the sound when watching the video.

Apparently no one was injured and the aircraft landed safely at Nîmes.

Below is a statement from Sécurité Civile that appears to be roughly translated from French:

The wing of the Fire-fighting plane is damaged, it will be unavailable for several weeks, there were projections on two barges, fortunately without making of wounded person. They are experimented and confirmed pilots who knew well the stretch of water. They managed to fly up to the base of Nîmes. The pilot and the co-pilot are shocked, they were suspended as a protective measure and are going to be examined by a specialized doctor who has to make sure that they are in capacity to re-fly.

The image below is a screenshot from the video at the 10-second mark just after the mast was sheared off. We added the yellow circle.

CL-415 broken mast
A screenshot from the video at the 10-second mark just after the mast was sheared off. We added the yellow circle.

More information.

Here is a photo of a very close call in 2016 with another Sécurité Civile air tanker:

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kevin.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Scoopers at Redding

(Originally published at 6:27 p.m. MDT July 30, 2017.)

Ethan, who took this photo at Redding July 30, 2017, said it is the first time he has seen CL-415 water-scooping air tankers at Redding.

Left to right we see Aero-Flite tankers 263, (unknown in the center), and 261 on the right.

Thanks Ethan!

Scoopers on Lake Chatuge

Mark Carr sent us these photos he took November 18, 2016 of CL-415 water-scooping air tankers refilling at Lake Chatuge in Hiawassee, Georgia. That was a busy time for firefighters in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and other areas in the southeast United States.

Aero Flite tanker 262