Smokejumper aircraft at Missoula

I was able to get some photos of some smokejumper aircraft at Missoula International Airport last week while attending the Fire Continuum conference. Parked, were two Twin Otters and two C23B Sherpas, and a third Sherpa taxied in while I was there.

Previously I had seen a Sherpa flying through the hills north of the airport. The Sherpa that just landed may have been dropping jumpers for training. The U.S. Forest Service has authorization to obtain 15 of the Sherpas from the U.S Army. So far six have been refurbished and Neptune Aviation is working on a seventh with an eighth soon to follow. It is possible that the remaining seven will be used for parts.

C23B Sherpas twin otter
A Sherpa taxis in after landing at Missoula.

C23B Sherpas

C23B Sherpas
Two C23B Sherpas at Missoula, May 25, 2018.
C23B Sherpa twin otter
Twin Otters have served smokejumpers for many years.

Building Twin Otters, in time-lapse

The production facility for Viking’s Twin Otter Series 400 is seen in time-lapse in this video. Twin Otters have transported many smokejumpers over the last few decades.

I looked, but didn’t see any CL-415’s in the background being built. Viking  bought the rights from Bombardier in 2016 for the scoopers, but to date have not publicly committed to manufacturing more.

USFS Twin Otters refreshed for 2016

Above: N143Z, better known as Jump 43, showing off a new paint job at McCall, Idaho, April 18, 2016. Photo by Stuart Palley.

Yesterday Stuart Palley spotted two U.S. Forest Service Twin Otter smokejumper planes at the McCall, Idaho jumper base, N141Z and N143Z. They were sporting new paint jobs but that was not all that was new. Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the USFS, told us that over the last two years they have received new nose gears, nose wheel steering actuators, fuel bladder tanks, fuel pumps, and floor boards.

Annually, the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region mechanics go over each aircraft and make sure that they are prepared, equipped, and ready for the upcoming fire season.

Dehavilland DHC-6-300 Twin Otters were manufactured in 1974 and 1984. Even though the USFS has acquired a bunch of military surplus C-23B Sherpas for smokejumping and other purposes, they plan to hang on to a couple of the Twin Otters. One of the reasons is they have better performance at higher elevation airports.

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