The U.S. Forest Service has activated two military air tankers, Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS), out of the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in southern California. Eight National Guard or Air Force Reserve C-130s can be called up when privately owned contracted air tankers are committed on fires or initial attack. Presently there are about 17 large air tankers on exclusive use contract with the U.S. Forest Service, down from 44 in 2002.
One of the military Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers experienced a hard landing Sunday. The crew detected a potential malfunction with the nose landing gear and executed an emergency landing at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah. Upon landing at 2:53 MDT, there was a small fire and the aircraft, designated as MAFFS 3, sustained damage, but there were no injuries, according to the United States Northern Command.
The Fox 13 TV station in Salt Lake City reported that the air tanker was scheduled to “refuel and resupply” at Ogden when the problem was first detected.
Greg Brubaker sent us the photo below. He said he noticed the aircraft was flying in the area for over an hour and he observed that the nose gear was not visible.
In the photo, the doors that cover the nose gear appear to be partially, but not fully open. Click on the photo to see a larger version.
On July 19, two MAFFS C-130s, MAFFS 1 and 3, from the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard in Cheyenne were activated to assist with the firefighting effort and have been deployed ever since, working out of Boise and other bases while rotating fresh crews in and out.
There have been three other hard landing incidents involving privately owned contract air tankers with failed landing gear or brakes since 2010. No injuries were reported in these accidents:
- 2010, June 26: Neptune’s Tanker 44, a P2V, experienced a hydraulic failure upon landing, had no brakes, and went off the runway at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (JeffCo) in Colorado.
- 2012, June 3: One of the main landing gears did not lower and lock on Minden’s Tanker 55, a P2V. The aircraft landed at Minden, Nevada and slid off the runway.
- 2014, June 15: Minden’s Tanker 48, a P2V, experienced a hydraulic failure, resulting in the nose gear collapsing while it landed at Fresno, California.
On July 1, 2012 a MAFFS C-130 air tanker, MAFFS #7 operated by the North Carolina National Guard crashed. The accident occurred July 1, 2012 as the aircraft was attempting to drop retardant on the White Draw Fire near Edgemont, South Dakota. There were four fatalities.
The C-130 Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS) crews are great about filming what they do. This in-cockpit footage of them dropping on the Day Fire in northern California a few days ago shows the pilots and the ground, while you listen to their radio and intercom traffic. If you look carefully at about 1:20, you will see the lead plane producing smoke to mark the target area a few seconds before the drop.
It appears that as promised, Lockeed fixed the automatic “LANDING GEAR, LANDING GEAR” audible warning that in the past plagued them for several minutes during the approach to each drop. I just heard some “ALTITUDE” warnings right as they were dropping this time.
After getting confirmation that it was a good drop, the pilot, who I believe is actually the actor Alec Baldwin , smiles, laughs and says, “Good job! Isn’t that fun?”, and another voice says, “Oh, man, it’s awesome!”.
In addition to the news about the MD-87 and DC-10 air tankers we posted on Sunday (and updated today), there is also news about four or five other models of air tankers.
Aero Flite’s two RJ-85s are now fully qualified and on contract. They are tankers 160 and 161, both piloted by initial attack qualified crews.
Three CV-580s are in the lower 48 on loan from the state of Alaska. There was one more and a birdog that was borrowed from Canada, but they returned last week.
Last week the two C-130 Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) at the Channel Islands National Guard base in California were activated by the governor of California to help deal with wildfires in the northern part of the state. Two MAFFS from Cheyenne, Wyoming (MAFFS 1 & 3) had previously been activated and have mostly been working out of Boise, but last weekend their temporary home was the tanker base at Helena Regional Airport in Montana.
On August 1, 17 California National Guard helicopters were also activated to assist with the fires in the state.
The CL-415 and the two CL-215s late last week were working out of Deer Park Washington.
The two C-130 MAFFS at the Channel Islands National Guard base in California are being activated to help deal with wildfires in the northern part of the state. Earlier today 17 California National Guard helicopters were also activated. More details are at Wildfire Today.
This video was shot from Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) 3 as Lt. Col. Todd Davis and his crew dropped retardant on the Rockport Fire near Park City, Utah, July 25, 2014. Lt. Col. Davis and the lead plane pilot can be heard discussing where the drop should go to most effectively assist the firefighters on the ground.
The Department of Defense is aggressive about publicizing the role that National Guard aircraft play in helping to fight western wildfires.
— UtahFireInfo (@UtahWildfire) July 22, 2014
Two C-130s carrying MAFFS units were deployed to fires in Utah on Monday. The units were officially called up on Saturday morning, to be based out of Boise.
Updates Tuesday from the planes (you can follow them on Twitter):
- On Monday the planes did 12 drops of 18,000 gallons of retardant.
- Drops were made three times over the Lincoln and Sheep Fires in Utah.
- Six drops were made over the Tunnel Hollow fire in Utah as well.