Video shot from above a DC-10 dropping on the Pole Creek Fire

The fire eventually burned 120,000 acres south of Provo, Utah

DC-10 drop Pole Creek Fire 2018
Screenshot from the video below.

In this video a DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker drops fire retardant on the Pole Creek Fire that eventually burned 120,000 acres south of Provo, Utah. The video was shot September 20, 2018 from a mapping aircraft operated by Owyhee Air Research, Inc.

The video can also be seen at YouTube.

According to the long/lat information on the screen, this is the location where it was filmed.

A Facilitated Learning Analysis was conducted about the management of the Pole Creek Fire, since initially it was not aggressively suppressed, but it was hoped that the fire would accomplish some resource management objectives.

Firefighting helicopters at John Day, Oregon

July 13, 2019

AS350B3 at John Day, Oregon
Firefighters prepare to depart for a new fire in an Airbus AS350B3 at John Day, Oregon July 13, 2019. Photo by Todd McKinley.

Todd McKinley sent us these excellent photos of helicopters working out of John Day, Oregon yesterday. He said the airport is staying busy with a variety of aircraft available this year.

Thanks Todd!

UH-60a helicopter John Day Oregon
A UH-60A Firehawk helicopter at John Day, Oregon July 13, 2019. Photo by Todd McKinley.
AS350B3 at John Day, Oregon
Airbus AS350B3 at John Day, Oregon July 13, 2019. Photo by Todd McKinley.


Impressive video of DC-10 drop

DC-10 air tanker drop Idaho
A DC-10 dropping on a fire, possibly in Idaho. Screen shot from the BLM video below.

The video below was tweeted by BLM Idaho July 13, 2019 but they did not say when or where it occurred. It may have been at the Ridgeline Fire 5 miles northeast of Albion, Idaho the same day.

It is interesting that the lead plane was much lower than the DC-10. If the tanker had dropped at that height it would have been an extremely low drop and the retardant would have been rapidly moving forward when it impacted the ground. Maybe the lead was low to give the following air tanker pilot a better 3-D perspective of what piece of ground it was over when they released smoke or said “start here”, and they have already agreed on the drop height.

U.S. Navy acquires MQ-8C Fire Scout drones based on the Bell 407

MQ-8C Fire Scout
The MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter conducts flight test at Naval Air Patuxent River Webster Field Annex in Saint Inigoes, Maryland. (U.S. Navy photo)

It is interesting that a drone the U.S. Navy is buying by the dozens is named “Fire Scout”. It is probably only a matter of time before large drones like this one and the K-MAX which has already been demonstrated for fire managers are seen routinely over wildfires hauling supplies, equipment, and providing intelligence.

The Fire Scout, based on the Bell 407, can remain on station for up to twelve hours depending on the payload. The Navy plans to purchase 38 of the Northrop Grumman produced aircraft.

The Department of the Interior is rapidly developing drone capability for aerial ignition and gathering intelligence on fires. An aircraft like this or the K-MAX that could haul hundreds of pounds of supplies, serve as a radio or cell phone repeater, and provide real time video, might be the next giant leap for the DOI. Of course smaller drones can also perform intelligence gathering and communications tasks.

Below is information from the Naval Air System Command:


Published July 8, 2019


NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md — The Navy declared initial operational capability of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter June 28 clearing the way for fleet operations and training.

The MQ-8 Fire Scout is a sea-based, vertical lift unmanned system that is designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces.

“This milestone is a culmination of several years of hard work and dedication from our joint government and industry team,” said Capt. Eric Soderberg, Fire Scout program manager. “We are excited to get this enhanced capability out to the fleet.”

The MQ-8C variant is an endurance and payload upgrade to its predecessor, the MQ-8B, offering up to twelve hours on station depending on payload, and incorporates the commercial Bell 407 airframe.

The Northrop Grumman-built Fire Scout complements the manned *MH-60 helicopter by extending the range and endurance of ship-based operations.  It provides unique situational awareness and precision target support for the Navy.

The MQ-8C has flown over 1,500 hours with more than 700 sorties to date. Over the next few years, Northrop Grumman will continue MQ-8C production deliveries to the Navy to complete a total of 38 aircraft.

The MQ-8C will be equipped with an upgraded radar that allows for a larger field of view and a range of digital modes including weather detection, air-to-air targeting and a ground moving target indicator (GMTI).   It will deploy with LCS in fiscal year 2021 while the MQ-8B conducts operations aboard LCS in 5th and 7th Fleets.

*The Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk is a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission United States Navy helicopter based on the United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family.

CAL FIRE paints one of their HC-130H air tankers

The aircraft still needs a retardant delivery system

CAL FIRE T-118 HC-130H
CAL FIRE’s Tanker 118 at Sacramento McClellan Airport July 12, 2019.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has taken one visible step toward incorporating the seven HC-130H aircraft into their air tanker fleet. One of them, Tanker 118, showed up at Sacramento McClellan Airport today sporting new livery. And it’s clearly identifiable as a CAL FIRE aircraft, with CAL  FIRE in bold letters behind the cockpit, and below the wing is the state flag. The paint design is similar to that on their S-2T air tankers.

S2 air tankers CAL FIRE facilities McClellan
File photo of S2 air tankers at CAL FIRE facilities at McClellan, March 24, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

In 2013 the U.S. Forest Service was given seven former U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft and Congress appropriated up to $130 million for maintenance and to convert them into air tankers. But after millions were spent the FS lost interest and in August of 2018 they were transferred to the State of California to be used eventually as air tankers.

tanker 118
Tanker 118 at McClellan Air Field, May 3, 2017 when it was operated off and on by the U.S. Forest Service. Photo by John Vogel.

The aircraft was operated off an on for a couple of years by the FS using a slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) retardant system. It was borrowed from the program of using military C-130s during busy portions of fire seasons when a surge capacity was needed. All seven HC-130H aircraft were supposed to receive retardant tanks, but the U.S. Air Force, responsible to see that it was done, dithered on that program for years and it never happened.

T-118 will be getting the rudder painted soon, and one day may receive a conventional internal gravity-powered retardant delivery system.

Chief of CAL FIRE Thom Porter said he expects it to be ready to fight fire in 2021.

If you ever need to kill some time, you can read through the 40 or so articles on Fire Aviation about the troubled U.S. Forest Service HC-130H program. The are all tagged HC-130H.

P3 Air Tanker Water Drop Filmed from 20000 feet

Demonstration water drop Tanker 23, P3 Orion
Demonstration water drop by Tanker 23, a P3 Orion operated by Airstrike. June 28, 2019 at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland, Colorado. Filmed by Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 MultiMission aircraft. Screenshot from the video below.

A P3 Air Tanker, Tanker 23, made a demonstration water drop at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland, Colorado June 28, 2019 while Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 MultiMission aircraft filmed it from 20,000 feet. The aircraft has a Call When Needed contract with the state of Colorado for fighting wildfires.

You can also watch the video on YouTube.

More information about the demonstration, including a video shot from the ground.

Orange County begins trial of night-flying, hover-filling helicopter

night-flying helicopter Australia
The S-61 snorkels from a dip tank in phase 2 of the night-flying trial in Australia. February, 2018. Coulson photo.

This month the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) is beginning a trial of a night-flying firefighting helicopter that can refill its collapsable external water tank while hovering. Thanks to a $4 million grant from Southern California Edison the OCFA has awarded a 150-day contract to Coulson Aviation for two helicopters that will be based at the Fullerton Municipal Airport northwest of Anaheim, California (map).

The one that will be most visible is an S-61 that can carry up to 1,000 gallons of water. As demonstrated during the recent bushfire season in Australia the Coulson helicopter can hover over a water tank at night and use a hose to refill the tank. Night-flying helicopters have been used in the United States since the 1970s to fight fires, but until a few months ago they always had to land to reload, with firefighters on the ground dragging hose, connecting it, pumping water into the tank, disconnecting, and moving out of the way as the helicopter takes off. Hover refilling is more time-efficient.

Firefighting at night can be more effective, since usually winds subside, relative humidity increases, and temperatures decrease, resulting in lower intensity and rates of spread.

Coulson's Sikorsky S-76
Coulson’s Sikorsky S-76, Helicopter 347, at Sacramento, March 20, 2014. Since then, the livery has changed. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The second helicopter that is part of the trial is a Sikorsky S-76 that will work with the S-61 to provide intelligence, evaluate effectiveness, and identify targets with a laser designator. In Australia the S-76 orbited approximately 1,000 feet above the S-61 and used a GPS controlled illuminated laser pointer to inform the water dropping helicopter where to drop the loads. The S-61 is fitted with night vision goggles but also has twin adjustable Night Suns on the landing gear along with the helicopter searchlights.

The two helicopters will be staffed 24/7 and will be available to all regions serviced by Southern California Edison including Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Orange County’s regular helicopter fleet consists of two Super Hueys and two Bell 412ep ships, and has been using night-flying helicopters for years.

The video below shows an Orange County night-flying drill, uploaded to Vimeo July 8, 2019.

A long drop by a DC-10

The Horse Butte Fire has burned 9,400 acres approximately 18 miles northwest of Aberdeen, Idaho. The lightning-caused fire has been moving actively through brush and tall grass. Firefighters are expecting to have it contained by the end of the day on Monday.

The photo below shows a DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker, Tanker 912, dropping on the fire.

Tanker 912 Horse Butte Fire Idaho
Tanker 912, a DC-10, dropping retardant on the Horse Butte Fire in Idaho. Photo by Mike Krupski. Via @GreatBasinCC