This is a very interesting video about the only seaplane base operated by the U.S. Forest Service. It was uploaded to YouTube by David Quam and features USFS Pilot Dean Lee who does an excellent job of patiently describing the de Havilland Beaver DHC-2, three of which are seen at the base: N131Z, N132Z, and N133Z. Mr. Lee says in the video that the USFS purchased them new from de Havilland. FAA registration records shows that they were manufactured between 1956 and 1959.
Mr. Lee explained in the video that the Beavers can scoop water into a 125-gallon tank and drop it on fires. They are also used for wildlife radio tracking, search and rescue, recon, medivac, cargo, and “body hauling”.
While working on the Section 33 Fire in Voyageurs National Park north of Ely in August of 2004 we used one of the USFS Beavers for suppression and recon.
Float planes are very useful in the parts of Minnesota that have as much water as dry land.
Their new fleet consists of four leased Air Tractor 802F Fire Boss amphibious air tankers operated by Aero Spray of Appleton, Minnesota and two other Single Engine Air Tankers. The Texas-made AT 802Fs equipped with Wipaire floats made in Minnesota can scoop about 800 gallons of water in 12-15 seconds and be off the water and on its way again to a fire in as few as 20-30 seconds.
On April 2 the Minnesota Fire Bosses and the two other SEATs took action on 9 fires in the state.
After running CL-215 amphibious water scooping air tankers for years, the state of Minnesota is selling the two they have and will be converting to single-engine Air Tractor 802F Fire Boss scoopers. The CL-215s served the agency well, but Aero Flite, now owned by Conair, is no longer interested in maintaining and operating the piston engine aircraft for the state. A newer model, the CL-415, has the more reliable turbine engines. The 215’s will be sold at auction, and four turbine-engine-powered AT-802Fs will be hired on contract.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has posted solicitations for firefighting helicopters at their bases in Cloquet, Princeton and Roseau. Here is an excerpt from their web site:
Service of a helicopter that is fully operated by qualified personnel, and equipped to meet specifications for use in administration, management and protection of lands from wildfire in Minnesota. The types of services which aircraft would generally be required to perform, but not restricted to are: Transportation of personnel, Equipment and supplies, Reconnaissance flights, Fire detection flights, Photography work involving, prolonged slow flight, Helicopter–bucket and fire missions, Administrative flying, Incident Support. Project Technical information contact: Bill Schuster at 218-327-4573.