Air tankers on the Trailhead Fire

Above: Tanker 12 drops on the Trailhead Fire. A Cobra helicopter is in the background. Photo July 1, 2016 by Matthew Rhodes.

Matthew Rhodes sent us these photos he took July 1, 2016 on the Trailhead Fire on the El Dorado National Forest 11 miles east of Auburn, California. Thanks Matthew.

The 4,000-acre fire is causing evacuations in Placer and El Dorado counties.

Tanker 131 Trailhead Fire
Tanker 131 on the Trailhead Fire. Photo July 1, 2016 by Matthew Rhodes.

Victoria picks up Tanker 132 on contract

Above: Air tankers 131 and 132, both on contract in Victoria. Coulson photo.

Both of Coulson’s C-130 air tankers have been working in Australia during the 2015/2016 bushfire season; 131 has been with the state of New South Wales while 132 was in Victoria. When the NWS contract with 132 ended recently, Victoria hired it, affording a rare opportunity to photograph both of them together.

Tanker 131 fire crew
Tanker 131 and her crew on contract in Victoria. Coulson photo.
Tanker 132 fire crew
Tanker 132 and her crew on contract in Victoria. Coulson photo.

Both of the air tankers are variants of the C-130 platform. T-131 is a C-130Q which served as a strategic communications link for the U.S. Navy’s Ballistic Missile submarine force and as a backup communications link for the U. S. Air Force manned strategic bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile forces. It had the capability to deploy two trailing wire antennas with the longest being 17,000 to 20,000 feet depending on the VLF frequency being used. The aircraft still has remnants of the system —  a vent in front of the landing gear that brought in air to cool the wire spooling mechanism. (More information, a Word document, about the “TACAMO” communications system.)

T-132 is an L-382G, also known as an L-100-30, a civilian version of the C-130 that has been stretched about 15 feet compared to the L-100.

We like posting photos of firefighting aircraft with their crews. Too often we see dramatic photos of aircraft fighting fires, but the crews don’t always get the recognition they deserve.  If you have any recent or classic photos along these lines, let us know. A description with names, places, and dates would be helpful.

Tanker 131 en route to Australia

T-131 C-130Q
Tanker 131, a C-130Q. Photo November 23 in Edmonton by Matt Ralph.

Air Tanker 131 (N130FF), Coulson’s C-130Q, arrived in Hawaii on Thursday after completing the first leg of its trip to Victoria, Australia. It is under contract with Emergency Management Victoria for their summer bushfire season, along with Conair’s Tanker 162, an RJ85, (N355AC).

Two other air tankers are already down under working for New South Wales, T-910 (N612AX) a DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, and Coulson’s Tanker 132, an L-382G (N405LC) which is a civilian stretched version of a C-130.

Tanker 131 just received a new retardant tank and a redesigned “Next Gen Smart Controller” to operate the retardant delivery system.

air tanker 131 retardant tank
The new retardant tank for Tanker 131 is on the right. The original tank is on the left. Photo by Matt Ralph.

The newer tank holds about 500 gallons more than the original tank and should enable an average retardant load of 4,200 USG and a maximum capacity of about 4,500 USG, according to Britt Counson. Tanker 132, an L-382G, also has the new version of the tank system.

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.

Video of Tanker 131 dropping water on wildfire in Florida

In this video, Air Tanker 131, a C-130Q, is seen making two drops with water — instead of fire retardant — on the Mud Lake Complex of fires in Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida. This is an unusual tactic for most large air tankers that normally drop retardant. It was a direct attack on the edge of the fire, rather than being offset as they would usually do with retardant. In the United States, federal policy does not allow retardant to be dropped near water. Many areas in the Mud Lake Complex were near wetlands.

Air tankers that can skim over the surface of a lake, scooping water to refill their tanks, usually drop water instead of retardant. Those aircraft include the Air Tractor Fire Boss, CL-215/415, and the Martin Mars.

Coulson Aviation attached a GoPro camera to the belly of their C-130Q to record the video in May, 2015.

If you are wondering how far water dropped by an air tanker spreads out laterally, check out this video of a scooper dropping on a vehicle fire in Canada.

Managing Australia’s aerial firefighting assets

Air Tanker 162
Air Tanker 162, known as Bomber 391 in Australia, is shown with a truckload of fire retardant transported to Western Australia by the Royal Australian Air Force. (still image from the video below)

The video below, produced by the Royal Australian Air Force, provides information about how the Australian Defence Force assisted residents and fire fighting efforts in Western Australia during the recent fire seige.

Victoria firefighting aircraft
Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning Victoria welcomes 46 firefighting aircraft. (still image from the video below.)

In the next video, produced by Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in December, 2014, officials welcome 46 firefighting aircraft of all shapes and sizes to the 2014/2015 bushfire season, including two large air tankers from North America.

And one last video — this one showing Tanker 131, known as Bomber 390 in Australia, landing at Avalon in Victoria.

Video of large air tankers operating at RAAF Base Edinburgh

The Australian Defence Force produced this film of the ADF providing logistic support to South Australia’s Country Fire Service’s fire fighting aircraft at RAAF Base Edinburgh following the outbreak of devastating bushfires near Adelaide. The fire fighting aircraft included a C-130Q Hercules – Air Tanker, an Avro RJ-85 – Air Tanker and a Gulfstream Aero Commander AC690 – Air Attack aircraft. The task, which commenced on Sunday, January 4th 2015, followed a formal request facilitated by Emergency Management Australia (EMA), which manages and coordinates national support provided to the States and Territories.

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