Northwest Territories to buy 8 single engine air tankers

AT-802F
Air Tractor 802-F. Air Tractor photo.

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…

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Doug.

Interesting aircraft at Burns Air Tanker Base

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.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Matt.

FBI stages at Burns Air Tanker Base

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.

Burns Air Tanker Base
Burns Air Tanker Base. File image from Google Earth.

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.

Reuters has photos of the FBI agents at the airport.

Simulator for a fire retardant dispersal system

Simulator fire retardant dispersal system
Screen grab from the simulator for a fire retardant dispersal system from Trotter Controls.

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.

 

The BLM had two popular air tanker videos in 2015

On Twitter, @BLMOregon described the following Vine video of a Single Engine Air Tanker, like this:

BLM SEAT

It was taken from the 5:33 minute video below, which they described as:

BLM SEAT

The entire video is below:

In August we posted another video of a SEAT dropping on what we believe is the same fire, named Windy Ridge.

Two SEATs in Oregon dropped almost 200K gallons of retardant in 2015

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.

Air Spray Air Tractor
A new Air Tractor 802 that was added to the Air Spray fleet earlier in 2015. It worked under contract for the state of Oregon. Air Spray photo.

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.

Videos of single engine air tankers in Colorado

These videos of retardant and water drops by single engine air tankers were published by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

Below is the description for the above video provided by the CDFPC, and following that is the description for the second.

“Bitter Creek Fire, July 26 and 27, 2015: DFPC received dispatch at 1700. The fire was located half way between the border of Colorado and Rock Springs. The video was taken by Mike Miller, DFPC Pilot (contract) from Tanker 831 (T831). There were 5 SEATs working on the the fire when this video was taken.The objective was to contain this fire as soon as possible.”

“Video taken from T831 aircraft in Craig, CO. DFPC crew dropped water to assist firefighters on the ground fighting the Keystone Fire on July 24, 2015. Video taken by: Mike Miller, DFPC Pilot.” (The action starts at about 2:55.)

And here is a bonus — a short video from one of Colorado’s Multi-Mission Aircraft demonstrating the two cameras, visual and infrared.

Single engine air tanker en route to Australia

Air Spray SEAT
File photo of one of Air Spray’s Air Tractor 802s. They acquired this one earlier in 2015. Air Spray photo.

As we are writing this Saturday evening, a single engine air tanker (SEAT) is en route from the United States to Australia. An Air Tractor 802, Tanker 849, N30723, departed from Santa Maria, California on September 30 at 8:33 a.m., and after stopping in Honolulu and the Marshall Islands is now on the way to Honiara, Guadalcanal with an expected arrival time of 9:12 p.m. MT, October 3.

On the 13-hour leg to Honolulu it flew at 5,000 to 8,000 feet at a ground speed of 175 to 219 mph.

We have heard but can’t confirm that fuel can put in the hopper (retardant tank) on a SEAT to extend the range. Obviously extra fuel is stored somewhere to enable the 13-hour flight.

You can track the SEAT at FlightAware.

(UPDATE October 5, 2015)

We found out today that the SEAT was operated this summer by Aero Spray, a company headquartered in Appleton, Minnesota that operates several Air Tractor aircraft for spraying crops and fighting wildfires. They were the first company in the United States to operate an Air Tractor on floats. Laura at the company told us that they leased the Air Tractor Fire Boss, Tanker 849, from Pays Air Service in Australia, and it is being returned to the owner.

In an earlier comment on this article, Bean said the Air Tractor website mentions a ferry kit that enables 800 gallons of fuel to be carried in the hopper. And at Airliners.net a person identified as “AT502B” wrote:

AT 802’s are available with a ferry kit, which enables you to fill the water tank-or Hopper- up with fuel, thus giving you an additional 800gal of fuel. Add this to the standard fuel tank size of 336us gal- gives you some serious fuel capacity for a single engine aeroplane. An AT 802 burns approx. 75-85us gal per hour at a ferry speed of 200mph- so it gives you a pretty good range as well.

The aircraft arrived in Queensland, Australia Sunday, October 4 at 7:53 p.m. MT according to Flight Aware, after a flight of almost seven hours from Guadalcanal.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Willard.