Volunteers prepare Mann Gulch C-47 for a flight to Normandy, France

It will participate in a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in World War II

C-47 D-Day
On D-Day 821 C-47s flew in a V of Vs formation to Normandy.

For months volunteers have been working on the C-47 that took smokejumpers to the Mann Gulch Fire in 1949. The blaze claimed the lives of 12 of them and also one former jumper who had been fighting the fire for 4 hours before the others arrived.

The Missoulian has an interesting article about what is being done to the plane to prepare it for a flight to Europe to participate in a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in World War II. Below is an excerpt from the article:

…[Kim] Maynard, of Missoula, was one of the nation’s first female smokejumpers in 1982. She and husband Al Charters, a former Green Beret high-altitude jump specialist — the “sky god,” she called him — were among the first to sign on to a crew that will take to the skies over Normandy, France, with vintage chutes for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in World War II.

Like dozens of other volunteers, they’ve been showing up for months to work on the iconic Douglas C-47 Miss Montana that’ll take them there.

“When this came to the museum it was the Mann Gulch plane. Now it’s getting a whole new life,” Maynard said, referring to the aircraft’s history in its Johnson Flying Service days. Fifteen smokejumpers were dispatched on a fire north of Helena in 1949. All but three died that tragic August day.

The mission in the museum hangar is to make Miss Montana airworthy to join the D-Day Squadron and Daks Over Normandy and fly on to a commemoration of the Berlin Airlift. Then she’ll return to spend her next life traveling across the country, representing Montana and those who died in the service of the United States…

FYI: A C-47 is a variant of the Douglas DC-3. From Charlesmcccain.com:

According to the history section of Boeing (which acquired the legacy corporation which had merged with the Douglas Aircraft Company), only 455 DC-3 commercial aircraft were actually built for the airlines. After making requested modifications to the DC-3 design, a further 10,174 aircraft were produced for the armed forces as the C-47 military transports during World War II. The design specifications are slightly different.

A day in the Northwest dropping fire retardant from a P2V — pilot’s eye view

view from P2V dropping fire retardant
Screengrab from the video.

This video has been out for a couple of years but check it out if you enjoy a pilot’s eye view from a P2V flying around forest fires a few hundred feet off the ground. If you have a fast internet connection and a medium to large-sized screen, bump up the quality on the video to 4K. It was uploaded to YouTube by Bob Webb in 2016.

Be sure and check out the drop at 10:32.

The last of the working P2V air tankers retired September 30, 2017.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Evan.
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Portable air tanker base at Canberra used for the first time

It is the first time a portable retardant base has been used at Canberra

Air tanker 166 RJ-85 reloading Canberra Airport
Air tanker 166, an RJ-85, reloading retardant at Canberra Airport. Photo provided by the airport.

A portable air tanker reloading base at Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory was used recently for the first time. Christening the new facility was Conair’s Tanker 166, an RJ85 from Canada that is spending the Northern Hemisphere winter down under. T-166’s main base this summer is Richmond (near Sydney).

The aircraft was working on a wildfire near Michelago, New South Wales (map).

A total of six large air tankers from North America have been working in Australia during their 2018-2019 summer.  Three other tankers with their primary base at Richmond include a 737 (T-137), a C-130Q (T-134), and another RJ85 (T-165). And based at Avalon airport in Melbourne, a C-130Q (T-131), and an RJ85 (T-163).

Air tanker 166 RJ-85 reloading Canberra Airport
Air tanker 166, an RJ-85, reloading retardant at Canberra Airport. Photo provided by the airport.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Isaac.
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Kamov helicopter shipped to Chile on IL-76

Photographer Heath Moffatt grabbed some photos of a Kamov Ka-32A11BC being loaded onto a Volga-Dnepr Ilyushin IL-76TD in Victoria, B.C. The IL-76 used internal cranes to lift and load the helicopter which was then flown to Chile. On Christmas Eve Billings Flying Service unloaded one of their CH-47D Chinooks off a ship in Chile. Both helicopters will be working on firefighting contracts.

The IL-76 can be loaded with a slip-in retardant or water delivery system that can hold over 11,000 gallons. In 2017 one of them was used to fight fires in Chile along with the 747 and a BAe-146.

IL-76 747
An IL-76 and 747 at Santiago Chile, January 30, 2017.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dave.
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CAL FIRE receives new Firehawk helicopter

The agency is replacing its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey firefighting helicopters.

CAL FIRE's new S-70i
CAL FIRE’s new S-70i. Photo provided by CAL FIRE.

CAL FIRE posted these photos today of a new addition to their fleet of helicopters.

A year ago the agency received approval to purchase up to 12 new firefighting helicopters, Sikorsky S-70i (Firehawks) from United Rotorcraft. These will replace its aging fleet of 12 Super Huey helicopters.

CAL FIRE's new S-70i
CAL FIRE’s new S-70i. Photo provided by CAL FIRE.

United Rotorcraft reported on October 26, 2018 that it had a contract from CAL FIRE for 12 Firehawks, worth a total of $240 million.

United Rotorcraft is also outfitting various configurations of Firehawks for Ventura County, San Diego Fire Rescue Department, and Los Angeles County.

Firehawks can carry up to 1,000 gallons of water in a belly tank while cruising fully loaded at 130 knots (150 mph), or 150 knots (173 mph) unloaded.

Columbia Helicopters to be acquired by the Bristow Group

internal water tank Columbia CH-47D
Columbia CH-47D Chinook at the HAI HELI-EXPO 2017 conference in Dallas in March, 2017. The helicopter has an internal water tank for firefighting. Columbia photo.

Columbia Helicopters has reached an agreement to be acquired by a company that primarily provides offshore helicopter transportation for the oil and gas industry. The Bristow Group has agreed to purchase Columbia for $492 million in cash and $68 million in Bristow stock.

The deal was reached in November, 2018 but Columbia has until April 9, 2019 to close the transaction.

“Columbia will continue to provide wildland fire suppression services after the transaction closes,” according to Santiago Crespo, VP of Business Development and Marketing. “Columbia has been adding employees for the past few years and expects to continue to do so after the transaction closes.”

Based in Aurora, Oregon, Columbia concentrates on heavy lift operations for industry, the military, and wildland firefighting agencies with their fleet of 21 Vertol 107s and CH-234/CH-47D Chinooks. The company has 860 employees and recently began using 2,800-gallon internal water tanks in some of its Chinooks.

internal water tank Columbia CH-47D
A 2,800-gallon internal water tank being loaded into a Columbia CH-47D Chinook. Screen grab from a Columbia video.

Both of the companies have been around since the 1950s.

Bristow provides helicopter transportation and aircraft support services to government and civil organizations worldwide with their fleet of 233 helicopters and 78 fixed wing aircraft . The company has major transportation operations in the North Sea, Nigeria, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and in most of the other major offshore oil and gas producing regions of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia, and Trinidad. Bristow provides search and rescue services for all of the U.K. on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. In March, 2018 the company had 4,058 people on their payroll, including about 100 in their Houston headquarters.

Bristow helicopter
A Bristow helicopter, an Airbus EC 225 LP, registered in Norway. Screengrab from Bristow video.

Bristow hopes that merging the companies would open opportunities for their currently underemployed Airbus H225s to compete for military contracts using Columbia’s U.S. Department of Defense Commercial Airlift Review Board certificate. And Columbia’s ships may find work in some of the 10 countries in which Bristow maintains air operator certificates.

Columbia would be a wholly owned subsidiary operating as a separate company with its own board and management structure, and would remain in Oregon, retaining the Columbia name and the aircrafts’ livery.

Since the deal was announced the week of November 5, 2018 Bristow’s stock price has fallen 73 percent, closing at $3.28 Wednesday.

Bristow stock price
Bristow stock price, November 6, 2018 through January 16, 2019. Yahoo.

Activist investor Global Value Investment Corp. (GVIC) has some concerns with the acquisition and last week issued an open letter to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bristow Group Inc.

Under the proposed financing, GVIC estimates that about 33 million shares of Bristow’s common stock will be issued in order to consummate the Columbia acquisition. Compared to Bristow’s November 2, 2018 outstanding share count of 35.8 million, this represents dilution of approximately 93%. GVIC believes that any benefits that may result from the Columbia acquisition are greatly outweighed by this dilution.

Bristow announced a $144.2 million net loss for the September 2018 quarter. With the downturn in oil production and other market forces the company has considered canceling their existing orders for 23 additional large helicopters.

OregonLive reported that if the deal to acquire Columbia falls through, the agreement signed in November requires Bristow to pay a $20 million termination fee.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
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DC-3 air tanker used for dust control in Thailand

The turbine-powered aircraft was operated by the Thai Air Force

BT-67 DC-3 Thailand
A BT-67, modified from a DC-3, is used to improve the air quality in Thailand. Thai PBS photo.

Thai PBS tweeted this photo of a DC-3 dropping water in an effort to improve the air quality in Thailand on January 15, 2019.

The air tanker made several drops of 790 gallons each near Don Mueang Air Force Base and in the Chatuchak area.

Thai PBS described the mission. This excerpt has been very crudely translated by Google Translate:

The Air Force brought the BT-67 aircraft from the 46th Airborne Division, Phitsanulok Province to carry 3,000 liters of water in the tank under the machine. Flying water droplets at a height of about 1,500 feet around the Don Mueang Air Force Base as the first area In order to alleviate PM 2.5 dust problems that are beyond the standard value until they start affecting health.

Type 2 transport aircraft, or BT-67 aircraft belonging to the 46th Air Force Division, Phitsanulok, are aircraft that the Air Force uses to support the missions of the Royal Rain Flying to control wildfire. And water spraying, water spray, alleviating haze / dust problems. In which the flight of the water lapses, each flight will carry water to scatter about 3,000 liters per trip. Scattering water from the height above the target area Which will cause water droplets to spread over a wide area And capture with dust to alleviate the severity of the problem.

It is not clear from the roughly translated article if the water drops are expected to physically remove particulates as the water drifts downward, or if it will wet the ground to reduce the amount of dust that becomes airborne.

The aircraft has had its radial engines replaced with turbine engines. The conversion by Basler results in the aircraft’s model name changing from DC-3 to BT-67.

According to Wikipedia:

The conversion includes fitting the airframe with new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprop engines, lengthening the fuselage, strengthening the airframe, upgrading the avionics, and making modifications to the wings’ leading edges and wing tips.

Due to the slightly higher fuel consumption of the turbine engines of the BT-67, compared to the original piston designs fitted to the standard DC-3, range on the standard fuel tank, with 45 minute reserve, is reduced from 1,160 to 950 nautical miles (2,150 to 1,760 km). Basler provides a long-range fuel tank which increases the aircraft range to 2,140 nmi (3,960 km).

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Isaac.
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Victoria establishes new air tanker base at East Sale

An RJ85 will be based there January 11 and 12

air tanker rj85 australia victoria
On Friday January 11 an RJ85 known as Boomer south of the Equator worked to strengthen containment lines during hot and windy conditions – helping to protect a farm adjoining the bushfire in Holey Plains State Park, south of Rosedale. Screengrab from the video below.

Victoria’s ability to reload Large Air Tankers (LAT) has been bolstered by establishing the capability for the first time at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) military air base located in Sale, Victoria, Australia. (map)

An RJ85 nicknamed Boomer, is available in East Sale today (January 11) and Saturday, and could be deployed based on conditions and other requirements across the state.

To ensure Victoria has protection, a New South Wales-based LAT will move to Victoria during this period. This has been made possible with strong cross-border partnerships with NSW.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said East Gippsland had experienced very dry conditions following two record dry winters and in the last 24 hours experienced considerable lightning activity.

“Ground and air crews continue to work on the Rosedale fire, and while it is contained the underlying dryness and forecasted conditions, a LAT positioned at Sale would support the firefighting effort in the event of a flare up,” he said.

“If required this LAT will continue the work the other LATs and night helicopter firebombing operations have had on the Rosedale fire since Friday in support of ground crews.”

LATs can only operate at a limited number of Victorian airbases because of their size. They can operate from Avalon, Mildura and now Sale. Albury, in NSW can also accommodate the LATs if required.

Having the LAT based at East Sale will mean reducing the turnaround time for refueling and loading of retardant or water.

“The updated seasonal outlook confirmed the forecast of an above normal fire risk in East Gippsland. Given this, arrangements were put in place to be able to use the RAAF base if required,” he said.

“This was made possible due to the strong and ongoing partnership between the Australian Defense Force and Emergency Management Australia.”

Victoria’s Large Air Tankers are state strategic assets that are based at Avalon Airport but can be deployed across Victoria according to need and the identified risk.

They form part of Victoria’s core aerial fleet of 49 aircraft available for the summer season which includes a mix of water bombing aircraft, air supervision, and aerial intelligence gathering aircraft.

Victoria also has a surge capacity of up to 100 aircraft that can supplement the core fleet when needed.