Air tanker 10 to become permanent display at Missoula airport

Tanker 10
Tanker 10. Neptune Aviation photo.

Neptune Aviation’s P2V air tanker 10 has been retired for several years but will live on as a permanent static display at the Missoula Airport. The company is refurbishing the aircraft, removing the reusable avionics, giving it a new paint job, and making it animal and wind resistant before it is installed on a platform to be built at the entrance to the airport.

The number on the aircraft, Tanker 10, has a storied history, having been used on a B-17, the P2V, and is currently on the tail of a recently converted BAe-146.

T-10 Medford
T-10 at Medford, Oregon. Photo by Tim Crippin July 31, 2016.

Report from Medford air tanker base, June 9, 2016

The progression of the three air tankers through the retardant loading and refueling procedures was “like a ballet on the tarmac”.

Above: Neptune tankers 01 and 41 at Medford, Oregon, June 9, 2016. Photo by Kristin Biechler.

Kristin Biechler spent a couple of hours Thursday at the Medford air tanker base in southwest Oregon. She sent us this report and took the photos Thursday evening. Thanks Kristin.

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“Base Manager Lonnie Allison was very cooperative and allowed me to talk with various staff, including ground crews, pilots and dispatchers and to take photos up close. The Medford base is really jumping these past three days with the Pony fire in northern California. Neptune tankers 01, 10, and 41 (all BAe-146s) are making turnarounds to the Pony fire in about 45 mins. From Medford it’s about 12 minutes of flight time to the fire. They drop their retardant, then return to Medford to fill up with retardant and refuel if needed.

Neptune pilots
Neptune Pilots Rob Minter (left) – 6 years with Neptune and John Gallagher (right) 8 years with Neptune.

The pilots were telling me they get about 3 hours of flight time per refueling. Pilot John Gallagher said the Pony fire had made a big run on Wednesday night. He noticed a significant difference this morning that the fire had gone down into the canyon almost to the river and up another flank. He was based out of Redmond yesterday, but the three Neptune tankers are in Medford today for the Pony fire.

Neptune tanker 10

It was like a ballet on the tarmac with all three planes on the ground at the same time. The Redmond airport is also busy with aircraft on several fires in Eastern Oregon. T-162 and T-163 (photos from 6/8/16) are now assigned to Eastern Oregon fires, rather than the Pony fire in California.

I was listening to the air traffic communications between pilots and the Medford tower plus the USFS tanker base. A few minutes after departure one of the Neptune pilots reported seeing a new wisp of smoke, single column, and circled around to give coordinates. That turned out to be a small grass fire, very near the USFS Applegate Ranger District office. The tower made appropriate notifications and an Oregon Department of Forestry hand crew was dispatched.

Also of interest was the report that the Redmond, Oregon airport had to be shut down due to a disabled air tanker on the runway. Tankers from there are currently assigned to Eastern Oregon fires (Owyhee Canyon and Akawana fires.) All tankers were being diverted to Klamath Falls, OR for refueling. There is also an air tanker base at Klamath Falls so refueling and retardant would not be an issue.

Also, note that VLAT T-912 is flying out of Castle AFB in California to the Pony fire. One of the dispatchers told me the turnaround on that DC-10 was about 53 minutes on the Pony fire.

retardant
Hunot Retardant Co. employees Jasmine Serabia (left) and her mother Cristina Serabia (right) in front of the retardant pumping station for Pits 1 and 2 at Medford.

I also met and talked with the ground crew that manages the retardant station. Cristina Serabia and her daughter, Jasmine Serabia are employed by Hunot Retardant Company out of Ramona, California and work on a USFS contract at Medford. Ms. Serabia indicated when the second, portable base is opened at Medford for Very Large Air Tankers (VLAT) she will assign a crew to that location and will also work shifts on that side of the airport. The scheduled date for opening that base is July 1 but with all the early fire activity it may be necessary to open it sooner.

Medford Air Tanker Base Manager Lonnie Allison wanted everyone to know, “we’re already kicking butt here at Medford.” As of noon today, they had just pumped 100,000 gallons of retardant for the season which began on June 5.”

Air tankers at La Grande, Oregon

T-10 at La Grande
T-10 (a BAe-146), another BAe-146, and an RJ85, La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.

Josh Annas took these photos of air tankers that were working out of Union County Airport in La Grande, Oregon (map) between July 20 and 24. The aircraft were working the Blue Creek Fire in the southwest corner of Washington.

Aaron tells us that on July 23, 13,000 gallons of Jet A fuel was used.

RJ85 at La Grande
An RJ85 at La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.
T-131 at La Grande
An RJ85 and T-131 (a C-130Q) at La Grande, OR, while a SEAT photo-bombs. Photo by Josh Annas.
Tanker 45, a P2V
Tanker 45, a P2V, at La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.

U.S. air tanker dispatched to Canada

Neptune's five BAe-146 air tankers
Neptune’s Tanker 02, with four of her sister BAe-146 air tankers. Neptune Aviation photo, May 2014.

An air tanker operated by a United States firm was dispatched to Canada on Sunday. Today Neptune Aviation’s Tanker 02, a BAe-146, is in Grand Praire, Alberta (map).

Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, said there are no plans to send any additional air tankers to Canada at this time.

Tanker 02 does not have an exclusive use contract with the U.S. Forest Service, but received one of the 22 recently awarded Call When Needed contracts.

It is not common to send U.S. air tankers north across the border. But in recent years CV-580 air tankers have spent quite a bit of time in the United States after making the trip south.

Articles on Fire Aviation tagged CV-580.

U.S. air tankers in Alaska

palmer alaska air tankers
A photo of six air tankers at Palmer, Alaska on June 18, 2015, showing T-260, T-160, T-55, T-52, T-47 and T-43 (photo courtesy of John Bell). Click to enlarge.

In addition to the Canadian air tankers being assigned to Alaska (seven recently that we know of) there are three air tankers under contract with the U.S. Forest Service in the state, according to information we received from today from Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the agency:

  1. T-160 Aero-Flite RJ85
  2. T-10 Neptune BAe-146
  3. T-101 Aero Air MD87
BAe-146 and RJ85
A BAe-146, T-10, and an RJ85, T-160, on the BLM-Alaska Fire Service Tanker Base tarmac, May 23, 2015, on Ladd Air Field at Fort Wainwright.

Thanks and a tip of the hat goes out to Mike and John.

Additional resources arrive in Alaska

Smokejumpers in Alaska
Smokejumpers from BLM Boise, Idaho, board a CASA-212 to make their practice jump Saturday afternoon, May 23, 2015, at the BLM Alaska Smokejumpers Base on Ladd Air Field at Fort Wainwright.

Because of the recent high fire danger, additional resources, including three air tankers and 16 smokejumpers, have arrived in Alaska to bolster the aircraft fleet and jumpers already in place. These photos were taken and portions of the captions were written by Sam Harrel of the Bureau of Land Management/Alaska  Fire Service.

Smokejumpers in Alaska

Smokejumpers in Alaska
Smokejumpers from BLM Boise, Idaho, log their chutes as they prepare to make their practice jump Saturday afternoon, May 23, 2015, at the BLM Alaska Smokejumpers Base on Ladd Air Field at Fort Wainwright. Because of high fire danger in Alaska, 16 additional smokejumpers were brought to the state. Once the crews from Boise have completed their orientation to Alaska they will enter into the fire assignment rotation.
BAe 146and CL-415
Neptune’s Tanker 10, a BAe-146, and Aero-Flite’s Tanker 260, a CL-415 water scooper, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at BLM Alaska Fire Service at Fort Wainwright. The two aircraft are new to fire suppression efforts in Alaska.
T-260 CL-415
Aero-Flite’s Tanker 260, a CL-415 water scooper, sits on the BLM-Alaska Fire Service tarmac at Ladd Field on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at Fort Wainwright. T-260 is less than a year old.
BAe-146 and Convair CV580
A BAe-146 and a Convair CV580 at the BLM- Alaska Fire Service retardant tanker base Tuesday, May 19, 2015, on Ladd Field at Fort Wainwright. The Convair turboprop tankers have been used in Alaska for several years. This is the first season in Alaska for the jet propelled BAe 146.
BAe-146 and RJ85
A BAe-146, T-10, and an RJ85, T-160, on the BLM-Alaska Fire Service Tanker Base tarmac Saturday morning, May 23, 2015, on Ladd Air Field at Fort Wainwright.

Air tankers at Medford

Medford Tankers by Kristin Biechler (1)
DC-10s, Tankers 910 and 911, at Medford. Photo by Kristin Biechler.

Kristin Biechler sent us these photos that she and Dave Clemens shot at the Medford, Oregon Airport (map) over the last few days. She said her house is directly under the tankers’ flight path to the Happy Camp and Beaver Fires in northwest California. The planes depart MFR, she explained, bank west, and mostly follow Highway 238 toward Jacksonville and out to Applegate Reservoir and into California.

Medford Tankers by Kristin Biechler (2)
A P2V (Tanker 07) and a DC-10 at Medford. Photo by Kristin Biechler.
Neptune 01-10 by Kristin Biechler
Neptune’s BAe-146s, Tankers 01 and 10, at Medford. Photo by Kristin Biechler.
Medford tankers by Dave Clemens (1)
Tanker 910, a DC-10, at Medford. Photo by Dave Clemens.
Medford tankers by Dave Clemens (5)
Tanker 101, an MD-87, at Medford. Photo by Dave Clemens.
Medford tankers by Dave Clemens (4)
Tanker 101, an MD-87, at Medford. Photo by Dave Clemens.