MD-87 back in action

Above: One of Erickson Aero Tanker’s MD-87’s, Tanker 105, makes a drop on the Whittier Fire northwest of Goleta, California. Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo.

Originally published at 11 p.m. MDT July 13, 2017

We have not seen the MD-87 air tankers over fires for a while, but the photo above and the video below were posted on Twitter July 13, 2017 by Mike Eliason of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

As we reported in March, we talked with Kevin McLoughlin, the Director of Air Tanker Operations for Erickson Aero Tanker, who told us that they have fixed the problem with their recently converted MD-87 air tankers and expect to have five of them available this summer. Two are on exclusive use contracts and they hope to have the others on call when needed contracts. The issue involved retardant dispersing over the wing which left open the possibility of it being ingested into the engines. They had an external tank, or pod, fabricated and installed below the retardant tank doors, which lowers the release point by 46 inches, mitigating the problem, Mr. McLoughlin said. In November the aircraft took and passed the grid test again, certifying it for coverage levels one through eight.

Check out the video below of a drop on the Whittier Fire northwest of Goleta, California.

In September of 2015 an Erickson MD-87 experienced an engine failure after departing from Fresno Airport. Pieces of the engine fell into a neighborhood, with at least one fragment shattering the rear window in a car. The aircraft returned to the airport.

Aircraft over the North Fire

Citation lead plane
One of the two Cessna Citation jet-powered lead planes under contract with the BLM. North Fire.

I took these photos of the television screen as Los Angeles Channel 7 was covering the North Fire — the carmeddon fire that trapped scores of vehicles on Interstate 15 in southern California, burning 22 of them.

The temperature on the screen says 76 degrees, but that must have been at downtown Los Angeles, because about that time it was 88 degrees in San Bernardino, not too far from the fire.

air tanker 105 North Fire
Tanker 105, an MD-87, on the North Fire.
Tanker 912, a DC-10
Tanker 912, a DC-10, just beginning a drop on the North Fire.

Air tanker vs. garbage truck

Tankers 105, 06, and 101
Tankers 105, 06, and 101 (L to R) at Redmond Oregon, June 8, 2014. Photo by Jeff Ingelse.

According to an FAA report, one of Erickson Aero Tanker’s aircraft was struck by a garbage truck while parked at San Antonio, Texas January 5, 2015. There were no injuries, and the amount of damage to Tanker 105 is unknown.

The aircraft is an MD-87, N295EA, first certified by the Interagency Airtanker Board in 2014. One of its sister air tankers, T-101, made the first drop on a fire by an MD-87 June 7 on the Two Bulls Fire west of Bend, Oregon.

The aircraft is off contract now and the start date for 2015 hasn’t been determined.

A phone call to Erickson Aero Tanker was not returned.

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

Video of air tankers departing Redmond

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.

MD-87s work Two Bulls Fire in Oregon

air Tankers 105, 06, and 101
Tankers 105, 06, and 101 (L to R) at Redmond, Oregon June 8, 2014. They all made several drops on the Two Bulls Fire. Photo by Jeff Ingelse. (Click the photo to see a larger version.)

The two MD-87 air tankers that just entered service both worked the Two Bulls Fire west of Bend, Oregon today. June 8 was the first day on duty for T-105; its sister T-101’s first day was June 4. Earlier we had a photo of T-101 taken shortly after it reported for duty.

Jeff Ingelse took the photo above and said all three ships, including T-06, the P2V, flew several loads of retardant to the fire today. Thanks Jeff!