In spite of that, the numbers of air tankers and helicopters are being slashed
Above: A water-scooping air tanker, a CL-415, at Sacramento, March 12, 2018.
In our notes from the Aerial Firefighting conference HERE and HERE, we included information about how some air tankers were busier than usual in 2017:
Ron Hooper, CEO of Neptune Aviation, said their air tankers in 2016 averaged 180 hours while working on wildfires. In 2017 that increased to 276 hours each.
Rick Hatton of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said each of their three DC-10s averaged about 300 hours on fires in 2017, which is more than usual.
Shawna Legarza, the USFS Director of Fire and Aviation, said the two Aero-Flite CL-415 scooping air tankers that were on exclusive use (EU) USFS contracts in 2017 each had over 400 hours of fire flight time.
After we reported the information above, Jason Robinson, the Chief CL-415 pilot for Aero-Flite contacted us to supply more details. He generally confirmed the numbers reported by Ms. Legarza and said their two EU and two CWN CL-415’s averaged 410 hours each. In July and August alone the four scoopers flew 1,036 hours. The company brought in extra staffing to provide seven-day coverage and manage pilot fatigue. He said that in 2017, 12 Canadian CL-415’s and CL-215’s worked in California and Montana.
Mr. Robinson said they have operated CL-415’s in Alaska for up to 12 hours a day by double-crewing the aircraft.
Due to a reduction in the federal firefighting budget by the Administration and Congress, there will be no scoopers on the EU list this year. Some are still on a CWN contract, but they may or may not be available if the USFS Calls them When Needed. The large air tankers are being cut from 20 to 13 while the large Type 1 helicopters have been reduced from 34 to 28.
Above: A DC-10 drops on the Masonite Road Fire in New South Wales. Screengrab from video by Raymond Terrace Fire & Rescue.
Check out these videos of a DC-10 dropping on the Masonite Road Fire near the Newcastle Airport in New South Wales. The fire burned 2,300 hectares (5,683 acres). The airport was closed at times due to degraded visibility caused by the smoke.
Advice: Masonite Rd Fire.
Richardson Road is now OPEN between Medowie Rd and Grahamstown Rd. Crews continue to backburn on the northern side of airport. #NSWRFSpic.twitter.com/KsRbmRlWSM
Above: The Liberty Fire east of Murrieta, California, December 7, 2017. Screengrab from the KTLA video.
(Originally published at 7 p.m. PST December 7, 2017)
KTLA shot some excellent stabilized video from a helicopter Thursday of the Liberty Fire that has burned about 300 acres northeast of Murrieta, California. This is a new fire that erupted this afternoon 17 miles north of another new fire, the Lilac Fire south of Temecula which was 3,000 acres at 7 p.m. PST.
The video, which is almost 2 hours long, has at least 8 shots of air tankers dropping. We skimmed through it quickly and noted where the drops occur, probably missing a few.
Also known in Australia as Bomber 912, or “Nancy Bird”.
Above: File photo of Air Tanker 912, a DC-10, making a quick orbit over the Indian Canyon Fire to check out the last of two drops the aircraft had just made just after sunset near Edgemont, South Dakota July 17, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Air Tanker 912 is beginning its contract with New South Wales in Australia, working out of Richmond. The NSW Rural Fire Service produced this video featuring pilot Captain R. K. Smithley giving us a tour of the huge 11,600-gallon capacity aircraft. (If you are having trouble seeing the video you can view it at YouTube.
Four large North American air tankers will be in Australia during their 2017-2018 summer.
Again for the Australian bushfire season four large air tankers are migrating from North America to assist the firefighters down under. During the 2017-2018 summer there will be one DC-10 from 10 Tanker Air Carrier, one RJ85 from Conair/Field Air, and two C-130’s from Coulson — plus a couple of Coulson S-61 Type 1 helicopters.
The contracts for the aircraft have different mandatory availability periods. One of the C-130’s has been there for a while. For the last couple of Australian summers Conair and Field Air collaborated to bring an RJ85 from Canada to Australia, and they will have one there again. Jeff Berry of Conair said it will ferry there in late November for their contract that begins in mid-December. In 2014-2015 it worked until March, 2015.
The video below was not shot in Australia, however, it’s interesting seeing seeing an RJ85 airliner converted into an air tanker.