In-flight videos shot from Tanker 131

These videos were shot with a GoPro camera attached to Tanker 131, a C-130Q, while it was dropping on the King Fire between Placerville and Lake Tahoe, California. That was the fire where 12 firefighters deployed their fire shelters in front of advancing flames and were led to safety by a pilot in a helicopter.

Thanks go out to Britt Coulson for making these available.

We wish other air tanker operators would invest a couple of hundred dollars in a camera they could attach to their aircraft.

I’d love to see a split screen video of an air tanker dropping. On one side we would see the ground and the drop itself, and the other side would be shot from the cockpit and would include the audio of the crew — like this video shot from MAFFS 3 in July. It would take a little bit of advanced video editing, but I imagine if the raw footage was available we could find a volunteer who could put it together.

The photo below of Coulson’s Tanker 131 was shot while it was on final for landing at Redding, California, August 7, 2014.

T-131 landing at Redding, California 8-7-2014

T-131 landing at Redding, California August 7, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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Victoria to contract for two large airtankers

Tanker 131 C-130Q

Coulson’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q, at McClellan, March 31, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

For the first time, two 3,000-gallon Type 1 air tankers will be put to regular use in Australia during their upcoming 2014/2015 summer bushfire season. Other than a brief trial of a DC-10 several years ago, Australia has rarely used large air tankers but instead has relied on single engine air tankers and helicopters for aerial support of firefighters on the ground. In 2010 they had the use of two 2,000-gallon Convair 580s, a Type 2 air tanker.

Britt Coulson said that their company, Coulson, will be be providing one of the large air tankers, their 4,000-gallon C-130Q known as Tanker 131. The other will be a 3,000-gallon RJ-85. The only company that currently operates RJ-85 air tankers is Aero Flite. Their two RJ-85s, Tankers 160 and 161, were first certified this summer. However, Judy Ziomek, the Vice President of the company, said Thursday that she was unaware that of one of their aircraft was destined to be used in Australia. Calls to Convair, the company that converted the RJ-85s into air tankers, were not returned. (Check out this unusual photo of Tanker 160.)

Kim Payne of Emergency Management Victoria, said the air tankers will be based at Avalon Airport in the south part of the state beginning in mid-December.

Victoria is also contracting for two Erickson Aircrane helicopters from the United States, and Coulson will, as usual, send two of their Sikorski S61s down under.

The state has appropriated $7.15 million in additional funding this year to bolster the state’s aerial firefighting fleet and increase the number of aircraft for the upcoming fire season.

Minister for Bushfire Response Kim Wells said this fire season, 46 specialist aircraft will help to support firefighters, which is four more aircraft than the previous fire season.

“Targeted aviation resources based in the Latrobe Valley will ensure rapid response to incidents across the whole Gippsland region and increase community safety,” Mr Wells said.

“In addition, Victoria will be the first Australian state to use the two large air tankers, which are some of the biggest firefighting aircraft available, and were most recently used to support firefighters in California.

The aircraft fleet will include:

  • 2 large fixed wing airtankers;
  • 1 firebombing helicopter to be based in the Latrobe Valley;
  • 2 Erickson Aircranes capable of dropping 7,500 litres (1,980 gallons) of water;
  • 2 large Sikorsky helicopters capable of dropping 3,500 litres (924 gallons) of water or transporting up to 17 firefighters;
  • 5 medium sized firebombing helicopters;
  • 15 light helicopters;
  • 12 single engine airtankers;
  • 2 infrared line-scanning fixed wing aircraft;
  • 4 fixed wing firespotting aircraft; and
  • 1 fixed wing aircraft to support the large air tankers.

The Aircrane helicopters and the large air tankers will be available for use in December, with the remaining fleet available later in October.

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

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Wayne Coulson, on the Martin Mars and their C-130

Philippine Mars

Philippine Mars, July 17, 2014. (Screen grab from the Coulson video below.)

AirInsight recorded a very interesting audio interview today with Wayne Coulson, the CEO of Coulson Flying Tankers. Most of the interview covered the history of their two Martin Mars aircraft, the Philippine Mars and the Hawaii Mars, but he also discussed their C-130Q air tanker that carries 4,000 gallons of fire retardant. You can listen to it below.

The Martin Mars, built in 1945, were converted to water scooping air tankers and are not amphibious like the CL-215/415 — they always have to land on water. The huge aircraft can carry 7,200 gallons of water which can be mixed with gel concentrate to drop on fires.

The Hawaii Mars has been busy fighting fires off and on for quite some time, however it does not have a contract this year and is for sale, Mr. Coulson said. They have been talking to an interested buyer who wants to put it in a warbird collection in Hawaii, but nothing is finalized yet.

Below is an excerpt from the August, 2014 issue of a Coulson company newsletter in which Mr. Coulson describes some of the recent history of the aircraft:

We took the Hawaii Mars to the October, 2007 San Diego fire storm in Southern California. In 2008, we spent the summer at Lake Shasta in Northern California when the State declared a National Emergency after thousands of lightning strikes. 2009 led us to Southern California with the USFS, where we spent 160 days in the Los Angeles basin at Lake Elsinore. 2010 brought us back to BC which was a slow fire season. In 2011, we got out early and performed a 20-day contract in Mexico that was featured on a Discovery Channel show, Mighty Planes; we then ended up spending the rest of the fire season in Alberta. In 2012 and 2013, the Mars was back in BC.

The Philippine Mars has not seen firefighting action in years. In the May, 2014 newsletter Mr. Coulson wrote about the plans for the aircraft:

We continue to make progress on the transfer of the Philippine Mars to the Pensacola Naval Museum located in Florida.

This project has been three years in the making and I believe this summer we will be delivering the Mars to Pensacola as we continue to finalize the paperwork.

The trade will allow us to acquire two C-130 Hercules aircraft, currently located at the Museum, which will become a significant parts supply for our firefighting C-130. We will be sending a team to Pensacola to retrieve these aircraft and I will continue to provide updates as we move forward. Other aircraft that will be part of this trade will be a Grumman F6F Hellcat. For your information, the Grumman F6F Hellcat was one of the best aircraft carrier fighters in the Pacific theatre in 1943 and was superior to the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero.

The other aircraft of interest is the NK 1 Japanese Rex which was built in 1943 as a float plane fighter. This aircraft also operated in the Pacific theatre, and, once we receive these two colourful aircraft, we will provide the interesting history of each unique flying machine.

In the interview Mr. Coulson said he expects they will fly the Philippine Mars to Pensacola in October. With a 14-hour range, they could fly non-stop, however going over the Rocky Mountains without deicing capability would be problematic, so they are planning to land at Lake Elsinore in southern California to refuel, then fly direct to Pensacola from there.

The video below, recorded on July 18, 2014, shows the  Philippine Mars with all four engines running for their weekly start.

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Coulson to convert a second air tanker

Lynden Air Cargo L-382

This Lynden Air Cargo L-382 photographed in Sydney, Australia is similar to the one procured by Coulson Aviation. Photo by Russavia.

Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc. of Oregon announced today that they have acquired a second aircraft which they will convert into an air tanker. Formerly operated for a number of years by Alaska-based Lynden Air Cargo, the Lockheed L-382G is the civilian version of a C-130E.

Wayne Coulson, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, said they will install a 4,800 USG Coulson RADS XXL tank into the aircraft beginning in November of this year.

Coulson Aviation has been operating Tanker 131, a C-130Q which is similar to a C-130H, since August of 2013. The tank in T-131 can hold almost 4,000 gallons; their average load this year has been 3,700 gallons.

Mr. Coulson said:

It is our understanding that the USFS will have a “Next Generation II” Air tanker bid opportunity in the fourth quarter of 2014, and we want to be ready to participate in the bid process. Our current C-130Q firefighting aircraft has been performing extremely well, and both the aircraft and the 4,000 USG RADS XL tanking system have exceeded expectations.

 

 

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Another air tanker company moves out of California

 

Coulson's T-131 at Reno

Coulson’s Tanker 131 at Reno, April 18, 2014. Photo by Ryan Coulter.

The Coulson Group has moved their air tanker operation from McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California to Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada. This is the second air tanker operator that has moved out of the state in the last six months. In October, 10 Tanker Air Carrier relocated their corporate headquarters from Victorville, California to the airport at Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10 Tanker has two DC-10 air tankers and is converting a third, while Coulson has one C-130 on U.S. Forest Service contract and hopes to acquire another. Coulson expects to have a minimum of 20 employees on their payroll at Reno.

Still left in California is Air Spray, who in 2012 took over a hanger at Chico formerly occupied by Aero Union. The company has a  Call When Needed contract from CAL FIRE for an L-188 Electra “Long Liner” air tanker and is converting two BAe-146s into air tankers at the facility. Several employees that formerly worked for Aero Union are now employed by Air Spray at Chico.

 

KTVN Channel 2 – Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Britt, Ryan, Dave, and Scott.

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GAO releases details of air tanker contract protest decision

GAOThe General Accountability Office has released their 23-page decision documenting why the agency sustained the protest filed by three companies over the sole source air tanker contract that the U.S. Forest Service awarded to Neptune Aviation December 12, 2013. The non-competitive contract, worth $141 million to $496 million, specified that Neptune would supply two or more next-generation air tankers, BAe-146s, for the next four to nine years beginning in 2014.

In our previous article about the decision we included the text of a press release issued by the GAO, but this 23-page document provides much more detail.

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GAO sustains protest of air tanker contract

Neptune's Ait Tanker 41

Neptune’s Tanker 41, a BAe-146, at Missoula, August 11, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(Originally published at 3:15 p.m. MT, March 31, 2014; updated at 8:40 a.m. MT April 1, 2014 with the text of a statement released by the GAO, and again at 11:20 a.m. MT April 1, 2014 with a response from the USFS.)

The Government Accountability Office announced today that they sustained the protest filed by three companies over the sole source air tanker contract that the U.S. Forest Service awarded to Neptune Aviation December 12, 2013. The non-competitive contract, worth about $141 million, specified that Neptune would supply two or more next-generation air tankers, BAe-146s, for the next four to nine years beginning in 2014.

A spokesperson for the GAO said their review concluded that the U.S. Forest Service “could not reasonably justify” the non-competitive process used in awarding the contract to Neptune.

The three companies that protested the sole source contract were Coulson Aviation (USA), Inc; 10 Tanker Air Carrier, LLC; and Minden Air Corp. If only the minimum two air tankers were signed up, the value of the contract would be about $141 million. If the options for five additional tankers were utilized, it would be hundreds of millions.

The protest automatically halted the activation of the sole source contract when it was filed in December.

We asked the USFS for their reaction to the GAO decision, and if other air tankers will be brought on, either by activating options under existing legacy or next-gen contracts, or will additional contracts be pursued? We received the following statement issued by their Washington office Tuesday morning:

The U.S. Forest Service is committed to ensuring that we have all of the resources we need to fight wildland fire and protect the lives and property of the American people. Airtankers are an important part of our efforts and we are currently reviewing the GAO recommendation.

In the protest filed with the GAO, hundreds of pages were submitted, listing dozens of reasons why the three companies felt the sole source contract should be terminated.

The Coulson company argued that on several occasions they told the USFS that they could supply more than the one C-130, but were told that the funding situation was too uncertain to commit more air tankers. Then a few months later, the USFS issued a contract potentially worth at least $141 million.

10 Tanker made similar offers, and in fact had a second DC-10 fully certified and on a call when needed contract that they would have liked to convert to an exclusive use next-gen contract. They also said they are working on retrofitting a third DC-10 which they expect to have ready to go by the end of calendar year 2014.

This was the third USFS air tanker contract that has been officially protested in the last two years. Two of those were sustained by the GAO, the recent sole source contract and the original attempt to issue contracts for next-gen air tankers, while the third, filed by Neptune, was dropped five months before the company received the sole source award in December.

Neptune will have six Korean War vintage P2Vs (2,082 gallons each) and one jet-powered BAe-146 (3,050 gallons) on exclusive use contract this year in what the U.S. Forest Service calls the “legacy” air tanker category. The company expects to have four additional BAe-146s ready to fight fire this year that are not currently on contract.

10 Tanker Air Carrier has one DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker on exclusive use contract and another on a call when needed contract. The company is in the process of retrofitting a third DC-10. They each carry 11,600 gallons of fire retardant.

Coulson has one 3,500-gallon C-130Q on exclusive use contract and hopes to acquire and convert a second C-130.

Minden has a contract for a BAe-146 but it has not yet been tested or approved by the Interagency AirTanker Board.

The complete text of a statement by the GAO about the decision is below. It was written March 31 and released April 1, 2014.

****

The following is a statement from GAO regarding today’s decision resolving bid protests filed by Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc., 10 Tanker Air Carrier, LLC, and Minden Air Corp., B-409356.2 et al., March 31, 2014.

On March 31, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained, or upheld, the protests filed by Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc., of Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada, 10 Tanker Air Carrier, LLC, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Minden Air Corp., of Minden, Nevada, challenging the sole-source award of a contract by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Forest Service, to Neptune Aviation Services, Inc., of Missoula, Montana, for airtanker services to support wildland firefighting.  The contract contemplates Neptune providing at least two modern large airtankers for up to 9 years (the contract also contains options to add up to five additional aircraft in each year).  The total estimated value, based on all possible aircraft over all years, is approximately $496 million.
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State Senator organizes air tanker demonstration

A Colorado state senator who is also a candidate for county Sheriff hosted a demonstration for an air tanker yesterday. Senator Steve King, who has been very outspoken about the need for the state to have their own aerial firefighting resources, invited Coulson to display their C-130Q air tanker at the Centennial airport on the southeast side of Denver. The aircraft, which has a contract with the U.S. Forest Service, conducted a drop near the runway after flying in from their base in Sacramento.

The video below details some of the sophisticated imaging and mapping capabilities of Coulson’s Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, including identifying targets and a data link for transferring them to the C-130.

Interior of the S-76

Interior of the S-76. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Another report on the air tanker demonstration that has better shots of the C-130 drop can be found at KWGN.

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