Air tankers at Durango

Above: Air tankers 101 and 103 at Durango, CO May 28, 2018. Photo by Dave Herdman.

Dave Herdman took these photos of the air tankers that were working out of Durango, Colorado May 28 during the Horse Park Fire. Thanks Dave!

And speaking of the Horse Park Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have released more details about the near miss that occurred on the fire May 27 in a remote area of Southwest Colorado. The report disclosed that in addition to the two firefighters that had to abandon a stuck truck, a lookout in another location also fled on foot and ignited an escape fire at a potential fire shelter deployment site as the fire approached. According to the information released there were no injuries.

air tanker durango
Air tankers 161 at Durango, CO May 28, 2018. Photo by Dave Herdman.
air tanker durango
Air tankers 101 at Durango, CO May 28, 2018. Photo by Dave Herdman.
air tanker durango
Air tankers 162 and 103 at Durango, CO May 28, 2018. Photo by Dave Herdman.

The four aircraft working on this fire represented 30 percent of the large air tankers that are on USFS exclusive use contracts this year.

Air tankers at Rapid City

An MD-87 and an RJ85 were at Rapid City for the Legion Lake Fire in the Black Hills

Above: Air Tanker 163, an RJ85, at Rapid City December 12, 2017.

(Originally published at 12:15 p.m. MST December 13, 2017)

When the Legion Lake Fire broke out in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota December 11 it grew quickly in strong winds. The Incident Commander didn’t hesitate to order additional resources, including two large air tankers. Tankers 101, an MD-87, and 163, an RJ85, responded from Southern California, arriving late in the afternoon. They were not used that day since the lead plane did not arrive until much later. The tankers also were not used the following day. But the fire blew up the night of the 12th, expanding from 4,000 acres to over 40, 000 acres. As this is written around noon on December 13, the Incident Management Team said they will be used if needed.

On December 12 we visited the Rapid City Air Tanker base while the tankers were parked there. We talked with MD-87 pilot Brent Connor who told us Erickson Aero Tanker expects to have their fifth MD-87 in service by the 2018 fire season. Tanker 101 was the first they built; the others are 102, 103, 105, and 107.

Articles on Wildfire Today about the Legion Lake Fire are tagged “Legion Lake Fire”.

Each of the recently developed jet-powered air tankers have unique retardant delivery systems, and the MD-87 is no exception. As you can see in the photo gallery (click on the photos to see larger versions) it has two imposing tubes (for lack of a better term) in addition to a tank under the cabin floor and a pod under the plane’s belly. Those three reservoirs hold 3,000, 1,000, and 700 gallons, respectively, for a total of 4,700 gallons.

To mitigate the issue of retardant dispersing over the wing, which introduced the possibility of it being ingested into the engines, they had an external tank, or pod, fabricated and installed below the retardant tank doors, lowering the release point by 46 inches.

Mr. Connor said that at this time they are limited to dropping 3,100 gallons, and they never have to download due to density altitude. After modifications are made to the system, they expect to be cleared to carry 4,000 gallons. He said that to get to the present stage of development the FAA required 80 hours of  flight testing.

Aircraft over the fires at Wind Cave National Park

Above: N137BH, a Sikorsky 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.)

 

For more information about the Rankin Fire, visit Wildfire Today.

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 go out to Mike and John.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

New paint for Tanker 66

T-66 new paint
New paint for Tanker 66. Photo on March 19, 2015 at Medford, Oregon. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Tim Crippin sent us the photo above of Erickson’s Tanker 66, saying it just returned to Medford, Oregon after getting a new paint job at Phoenix Goodyear Airport.

The photo below is what it looked like a year ago. It is our understanding that Tanker 60 will get the same paint scheme very soon.

DC-7 air tankers at Paso Robles Air Tanker Base
Two DC-7 air tankers and an S-2T air tanker at Paso Robles Air Tanker Base, January 19, 2014. CAL FIRE photo.

The paint is similar to the three Erickson MD-87s:

Tanker 101, an MD-87
Tanker 101, an MD-87, during the grid retardant test, January 15, 2014. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman. (click to enlarge)

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.