By Ed Jensen, Airport Manager, Hot Springs Municipal Airport, South Dakota
The Hot Springs Municipal Airport has been a busy place this last month. The single engine air tanker (SEAT plane) based out of the Hot Springs Airport during the summer months has been especially busy. Just in the month of July alone, the Wildland Fire Division crew operating it has flown over eighty fire missions within western South Dakota. Wildland Fire was also quite busy with the Indian Canyon Fire by Edgemont, having four planes flying out of our airport to assist in putting that fire out. We are really glad to have them based here in Hot Springs for immediate the fire protection of our area.
Switching gears from firefighting operations at our airport, we also saw an increase of recreation users this last week during the Oshkosh, WI fly-in. Many planes traveling to Oshkosh for the fly in chose to land in Hot Springs for fuel with some renting hangar space for the night. Many also stopped again on their way home to refuel their planes. Separate of the fly-in, we were lucky enough to see a 7/8 scale P-51 Mustang land here on July 30th. For those familiar with aircraft, you know this was a sight to see.
Fred Celest sent us this photo he took with his cell phone while he was returning from the 16 Mile Fire in eastern Pennsylvania for a load and return. Both planes are operated by New Frontier Aviation out of Fort Benton, Montana. The single engine air tankers are Air Tractor 802s with Garret-14 engines.
The Northwest Territorial government has ordered $26 million worth of single engine air tankers, an acquisition that will add new eight Air Tractor 802 Firebosses to their fleet.
Below is an excerpt from an article at CBC News:
…This is the first time the territorial government has bought new water bombers, which are used to fight fires. It inherited the current fleet of Canadair C-215s, which were introduced in 1969, from the federal government for $1.
The minister of environment and natural resources, Wally Schumann, says it makes more sense to buy the new Air Tractor 802 Fireboss aircraft than to upgrade the old fleet.
“I think the cost of doing that, from everything I’ve seen, would have been four times or five times the cost of purchasing these new Firebosses,” he said.
The government plans to issue a request for proposals this spring for the operation and maintenance of the fleet.
It could have asked contractors to provide a fleet of aircraft as well as operate and maintain them, but Schumann says many northern companies would not have been able to bid on it.
“The biggest benefit of us, the GNWT, owning a fleet of aircraft is the larger chance of Northern aviation companies to participate in the operation of the tanker based fleet,” Schumann said…
A Blackhawk and a Homeland Security surveillance aircraft are staged at Burns.
Above: file photo of Department of Homeland Security’s Beechcraft Super King Air 350 (N50056). FlightAware photo.
As we reported on January 10, the FBI has been staging equipment at the Single Engine Air Tanker Base at Burns Municipal Airport four miles east of Burns, Oregon. Initially a large truck with numerous antennas showed up that is probably used as an incident command post.
The airport is 21 air miles north of the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where armed domestic terrorists broke into and seized the facilities at the site.
In the last few days additional equipment arriving at the tanker base included about half a dozen armored vehicles, a Blackhawk helicopter, and a Beechcraft Super King Air 350 surveillance aircraft (N50056) with very obvious external accoutrements, sensors, and communications gear.
The King Air, registered to the Department of Homeland Security, has a logo that appears to be “U.S. Customs and Border Protection”. According to FlightAware records it flew in from Boise on January 27 after having been at St. Augustine, Florida on January 25.
The Bureau of Land Management operates the SEAT base independently of the city-owned airport which remains open. The base, which cannot handle air tankers larger than a SEAT, has one pit for loading aircraft and parking for three.
The FBI’s Blackhawks are rarely seen. Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia about aircraft operated by the agency’s Hostage Rescue Team:
The HRT’s Tactical Aviation Unit is staffed by FBI special agents. The Tactical Helicopter Unit, a sub-unit of the Tactical Aviation Unit, contains a variety of specially modified helicopters. These helicopters include military converted Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk tactical transport helicopters and tactically enhanced Bell 412 and Bell 407 helicopters. The HRT’s tactical aviators are required to fly daily.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is staging equipment at the Air Tanker Base at Burns Municipal Airport four miles east of Burns, Oregon. The Oregonian reported that FBI personnel were blocking the entrance to the Bureau of Land Management’s Single Engine Air Tanker Base and that “… a large vehicle sat equipped with FBI signage, numerous antennae, a satellite dish and other gear.” Law enforcement officers have been seen at the site for several days.
The airport is 21 air miles north of the Headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where armed domestic terrorists have broken into and seized the facilities at the site.
The BLM operates the base independently of the city-owned airport which remains open. The general aviation airport, with two runways a little less than a mile long, began as a military air base in the 1940s. The SEAT base, which cannot handle air tankers larger than a SEAT, has one pit for loading aircraft and parking for three.
David Benson of Trotter Controls sent us information about a simulator for their fire retardant dispersal system. The company makes the GENII firegate and controller for Air Tractor AT-802F single engine air tankers. Anyone with a Windows-based computer can download the program to train with the system.
Here’s how they describe the simulator:
This Windows-based simulator allows pilots to operate a virtual Fire Retardant Dispersal System (FRDS) and firegate from a personal computer. This is great training for new SEAT pilots and is just downright FUN. The simulator is a free download.
Whether you already own an FRDS GEN II, or you’re just considering an upgrade to the FRDS GEN II, you should check out the app. You’ll be amazed at how simple operating the world’s premier fire gate truly is.
Two Single Engine Air Tankers operated by Air Spray and contracted to the state of Oregon dropped 195,906 gallons of retardant in 2015. That is about a fourth of the 838,000 gallons dropped by all air tankers working for the state this year. The two SEATs were primarily based in Prineville.
Below is an excerpt from an article in The Bulletin:
…The planes were part of a $5 million program to beef up the firefighting fleet in Oregon this past year. The agency was able to move the small tankers around the state when needed. Over the course of the fire season, they reloaded in John Day, Medford, Roseburg and The Dalles. But primarily they flew in and out of Prineville and Redmond, carrying 71,784 gallons of retardant from Prineville and 48,977 from Redmond.
Contracted with the state, the planes that flew out of Prineville belong to Air Spray, a Chico, California, company. Built by Texas-based Air Tractor, they cost $1.7 million each.