News from the Aerial Firefighting conference in Sacramento, Part Two

Above: Ron Hooper, CEO of Neptune Aviation

Earlier we posted Part One of  a few notes that I scribbled in a notebook at the Aerial Firefighting conference in Sacramento this week. Here is Part Two.


Neptune Aviation
Ron Hooper, CEO of Neptune Aviation, said their air tankers in 2016 averaged 180 hours while working on wildfires. In 2017, a very busy year, that number increased to 276. Their P2V’s have retired from firefighting, leaving the company with nine air tankers, all BAe-146’s.

No one outside the U.S. Forest Service knows when the agency will issue the next round of exclusive use and call when needed next-generation air tanker contracts, affectionately called Next-Gen 3.0. When forced to guess, Mr. Hooper said the aircraft receiving those new contracts may not be activated until 2019. He may know more than most, since his former job was supervising air tanker contracting for the FS.

Phos-Chek
One of the major suppliers of fire retardant, Phos-Chek, is changing hands again. In a matter of days its parent company will be Perimeter Solutions. But as in the previous four iterations it will retain the brand name Phos-Chek.

Here is the product’s history of parent companies:
1963-1997: Monsanto
1997-2000: Solutia
2000-2005: Astaris
2005-2018: ICL
2018- ???? : Perimeter

Global Supertanker

Global Supertanker bob soelberg jim wheeler
L to R: Bob Soelberg and Jim Wheeler of Global Supertanker

Jim Wheeler, CEO of Global Supertanker Services, said the company currently has CWN contracts with CAL FIRE and two counties in Colorado — Douglas (just south of Denver) and El Paso (Colorado Springs). Other pending contracts that they hope to sign later will be with the states of Colorado, Texas, and Oregon.

Colorado

Vincent Welbaum, Colorado Aviation Unit Chief
Vincent Welbaum, Colorado’s Aviation Unit Chief

Vincent Welbaum, Colorado’s Aviation Unit Chief, said they are talking to vendors and expect to award a call when needed contract to at least one vendor that can supply large or very large air tankers. The state has been operating their own two Pilatus PC-12 Multi-mission aircraft for several years, using it to detect and map wildfires.

Colorado will have two Single Engine Air Tankers on exclusive use contracts supplied by CO Fire Aviation and Aero Seat as well as four other vendors on call when needed contracts. The state will also have two Bell 205’s on exclusive use contracts.

Helimax

Helimax Pat Pilolia
Pat Pilolia, of Helimax

Helimax Aviation is one of two subsidiaries of Heligroup Holdings. The other is CHI at Howell, Michigan which concentrates on heavy lift, while Helimax, at Sacramento McClellan Airport is in involved in aerial firefighting.  Helimax recently sold all of their Type 2 helicopters, and now have six Type-1’s, Chinook CH-47D’s.

MAFFS Group
MAFFS GroupBradford Beck, COO of MAFFS Group said the company recently sold a MAFFS II system to the Tunisia Air Force in Northern Africa. The country has operated two of the original versions of the MAFFS for 10 to 15 years. They will continue to operate the MAFFS I systems on a C-130B and will use a C-130H for the new MAFFS II which will be delivered in the third quarter of this year.  The most challenging wildfires in Tunisia occur in the Atlas mountains.

This is the second MAFFS II that the MAFFS Group has sold. The first is now being used in Columbia, South America.

Viking Air

Viking Air
The Viking Air display at the conference.

Viking Air director of Special Projects, Sales, and Marketing Christian Bergeron said the company is currently gathering information from potential customers about what they would like to see on a new version of the CL-415 water scooping air tanker.  The company expects to decide by the third quarter of this year if they will proceed with the project, which will be named CL-515. At this stage, Mr. Bergeron said, they expect it to have a larger cargo door, glass cockpit, updated avionics, and will be able to land with a full load of water. Available options will include an infrared camera system and night vision compatibility. Viking’s manufacturing facility is in Calgary, Canada.

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.

Bombardier sells their air tanker business

Aero-Flite air tanker T-260, CL-415,
Aero-Flite’s T-260, A CL-415, at McClellan, March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Bombardier has agreed to sell their air tanker manufacturing business to Viking Air Ltd.

The transaction will see Viking acquire the Type Certificates (manufacturing rights) for all variants of Bombardier’s amphibious aircraft, and assume responsibility for product support, parts and service for the fleet of 170 air tankers in service with 21 operators in 11 countries around the world.

Below is an excerpt from an article at CTV News:

…Victoria-based Viking manufactures the Twin Otter as well as spare parts for several planes originally made by de Havilland. It also has manufacturing rights for all out-of-production de Havilland aircraft, including the DASH-7 regional airliner, a predecessor to Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop.

Viking employs just under 90 people in Calgary and more than 330 at its headquarters and facilities in Victoria. The company said it expects to add up to 40 people to its workforce in Victoria and Calgary with the new program.

Bombardier said Monday it plans to transfer 50 employees from the amphibious aircraft program based in North Bay, Ont., to other parts of its business.

The Montreal-based company hasn’t produced an amphibious plane since December 2015…

Canadair began manufacturing the amphibious CL-215 air tanker in 1967 and in 1986 sold the manufacturing rights for the aircraft to Bombardier. In 1993 Bombardier introduced the upgraded CL-415, replacing the piston engines with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF turboprops as well as introducing an updated cockpit and aerodynamics enhancements.

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