Above: N137BH, a Siskorsly 70A or “Firehawk”, flies to refill its water bucket after dropping on the Rankin Fire September 13, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
(Originally published at 12:08 a.m. MDT September 14, 2017)
A handful of aircraft were working to fires in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota on Wednesday, two MD-87 air tankers, and two helicopters, a Bell 407 and a Sikorsky 70A “Firehawk”.
The Rankin Fire in Wind Cave National Park has burned about 1,192 acres while the Beaver Fire just outside the park on the Black Hills National Forest covered approximately 140 acres just a few hours after it was reported
(Click on a photo below to see larger versions. The caption is at the top.)
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:
T-160 Aero-Flite RJ85
T-10 Neptune BAe-146
T-101 Aero Air MD87
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Mike and John. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
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.
Its sister ship, Tanker 105, began work on June 8 at Redmond, and the two of them were busy working the fire that day.
Kevin McCullough, the President of Erickson Aero Tanker, told us the air tanker delivered 12 loads of retardant in 3.9 hours of flight time. It was reloading at the Redmond air tanker base, 17 miles northwest of the fire. I don’t know if that’s a record for an air tanker that is not a 747 or DC-10, but there can’t have been many that dropped 48,000 gallons of retardant in less than four hours. Mr. McCullough said it carried 4,000 gallons on each sortie. The Martin Mars which holds 7,000 gallons of water may have hit that number or maybe even a lot more if a scoopable lake was close.
We asked Mr. McCullough if there were any problems with ingesting retardant into the engines and he said there were not.
Two of Erickson Aero Tanker’s DC-7 air tankers will begin their contract with the Oregon Department of Forestry in the first part of July. They are waiting for the final paperwork but it appears that their third DC-7 will start a 120-day contract with CAL FIRE at about the same time.
Erickson purchased the air tanker operations of Butler Aircraft from Travis Garnick in December of 2012. The deal included three DC-7s.
This video uploaded to YouTube on June 8 shows several different air tankers taking off at Redmond, Oregon to work on the Two Bulls Fire three miles west of Bend, Oregon. The aircraft seen in the video include MD-87s (T-101 and 105), a P2V (probably T-06), and a BAe-146. At first the video looks like a still photograph, but the first aircraft can be seen about 12 seconds in.
It is interesting seeing the different routes taken after takeoff, the speed of the aircraft, and the altitude at the end of the runway.