Agreement sought to manufacture Be-200 air tankers in California

The aircraft would be manufactured in Santa Maria, California.

A businessman in Santa Maria, California, who has long been interested in the Russian-made Be-200 scooping air tanker, is pursuing still another avenue to use the aircraft in the United States.

David Baskett is the director of Santa Maria’s airport, president of TTE International, and is associated with International Emergency Services (IES).  Campaigning for years to import the 3,000-gallon Be-200 air tanker, in 2010 he arranged for one of the aircraft to visit the United States. It was on display at Santa Maria, California and made a demonstration water drop. Mr. Baskett said then that his plan was to purchase 10 of the aircraft and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States.

Be-200ES
A Be-200ES rolls out for the public while another makes a demonstration water drop. May 30, 2016 at the Beriev factory in Taganrog, Russia.

Now he says he is working with the Beriev Aircraft Company (that makes the aircraft), Global Seaplanes, and Airbus to manufacture the aircraft in Santa Maria. He hopes that the air tanker will receive FAA certification.

Several years ago some U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganrog, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 could be approved by the Interagency AirTanker Board (IAB). At the time, we heard unofficial reports that it met the criteria for water-scooping air tankers, but tests were not completed for dropping fire retardant.

This is not the first announcement that the Be-200 would be manufactured in the United States. In 2014 USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) said they signed a collaboration agreement with IES to produce the Be-200 in Colorado. USAFAC co-founder Chris Olson told the Colorado Wildfire Matters Review Committee that the company was in discussions with international financiers to back the initiative’s $500 million proposition.

USAFAC at the same time was proposing to convert the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt into an air tanker.

New agreement to produce US-built Be-200 amphibious air tanker

Beriev Be-200 air tanker
Beriev Be-200 air tanker. Beriev photo.

The Colorado company that proposes to convert the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt into an air tanker announced on September 26 that they signed an agreement to produce the until now Russian-built amphibious water-scooping Beriev Be-200 in the United States. USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) said they signed a collaboration agreement with California-based International Emergency Services, Inc. (IES) to develop a U.S.-built Beriev Be-200 in Colorado.

USAFAC co-founder Chris Olson made the announcement before the Colorado Wildfire Matters Review Committee saying the company was in discussions with international financiers to back the initiative’s $500 million proposition.

David Baskett of IES has been campaigning for years to import the 3,000-gallon Be-200 air tanker, and in 2010 arranged for one of the aircraft to visit the United States. It was on display at Santa Maria, California and made a demonstration water drop. Mr. Baskett said then that his plan was to purchase 10 of the aircraft and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States.

A couple of years ago some U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganrog, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 met the criteria established by the Interagency AirTanker Board (IAB). At the time, we heard unofficial reports that it met the criteria for water-scooping air tankers, but tests were not completed for dropping fire retardant.

There are quite a few videos of Be-200s dropping water, but the four-second one below is my favorite.

USAFAC has made a splash recently with proposals about the A-10 and now the Be-200. The company, which first registered its web domain on August 9, 2014, has ambitious goals. It will be interesting to see if their talk translates into something flyable.

BE-200 air tanker at Santa Maria, California
BE-200 air tanker at Santa Maria, California, April 10, 2010. Photo by Michael Lynn.

Before we created Fire Aviation, we wrote several stories about the Be-200 at Wildfire Today. Here is a link to articles there tagged Be-200.