Nic Strohmeyer to be new NPS helicopter specialist

Nic Strohmeyer
Nic Strohmeyer

The National Park Service has selected Nicholas “Nic” Strohmeyer as the new helicopter specialist. The position had been vacant since Meg Gallagher moved into the branch chief job in early 2018.

Nic started his federal career in 1989 as a seasonal firefighter on the White River National Forest in Colorado where he worked on hand crews and as an engine captain. At Colorado State University he received a degree in Natural Resources Management with a minor in Geography. After graduation, Nic accepted a career seasonal position as the assistant foreman on Rifle Helitack, a combined Bureau of Land Management (BLM)/U.S. Forest Service (USFS) helicopter program in Colorado. He then worked as a station manager for Lakeview BLM and as a crew lead for Wenatchee Rappellers. After moving to Utah, Nic helped to start the Provo Rappel Crew, worked as the superintendent of the Wasatch Helitack Crew, and was the acting state aviation manager for Utah BLM.

While serving as the BLM Southern Unit aviation manager for the Alaska Fire Service he earned an Aviation Safety and Security Certificate from the University of Southern California studying aircraft accident investigations and human factors in aviation safety. In 2014, Nic moved back to the Great Basin where he worked as the unit aviation manager for Boise District BLM until 2018, at which time, he detailed and then served as the Idaho BLM state aviation manager and earned his Unmanned Aviation System (UAS) Pilot card.

In his role as a helicopter specialist, he will focus on policy and oversight of the National Park Service’s helicopters that are owned and operated by NPS. Additionally, Nic will represent the NPS on various committees and working groups to develop policy and guidance to ensure the helicopter program operates in a safe and effective manner now, and in the future.

Branch chief, John Buehler, looks forward to having Nic on the national aviation staff. “Nic’s extensive experience in helicopter operations and management, along with his many years in wildland fire operations, will make Nic the perfect fit for the NPS helicopter specialist position. The entire Fire and Aviation Management team is excited to have Nic join NPS. His knowledge and expertise will help the program move forward in the ever changing operational environment.”

Photos and videos of DC-10 air tankers working wildfires in Chile

Two DC-10s air tankers from the United States are in Chile: T-910 and T-914

Air Tankers 910 and 914 Chile fires
Tankers 910 and 914 at the Carriel Sur airport near Concepción, Chile. Photo: Mauricio Henriquez

Two DC-10s are under contract in Chile, Tanker 910 and Tanker 914.

In the first of two videos below, a DC-10 is flying alongside the lead plane. Below that one of them can be seen in a very shaky video dropping behind the Chilean Navy lead plane.

A Chilean Navy P-295 (as seen below) is serving as a lead plane for the DC-10. Also known as a Casa, a P-295 served as a lead plane ahead of the 747 when it worked in Chile in 2017. He was not allowed to fly it, but former smokejumper and lead plane pilot Jamie Tackman went along as a passenger in the Casa in 2017, kneeling between the pilots, giving them instructions on where and when to drop. This year there are no U.S. lead plane pilots in the P-295.

The video below shows the DC-10 on its first day of work in Chile.

Continue reading “Photos and videos of DC-10 air tankers working wildfires in Chile”

More air tankers becoming available in Kansas

map wildfires kansas
The red areas represent wildfires in Kansas detected by a satellite at 4:07 p.m. MST March 6, 2017.

After numerous devastating wildfires in 2017 the Kansas Forest Service began a program to make more single engine air tankers (SEAT) available to assist firefighters on the ground.

Below are quotes from a KSN interview of agricultural pilot Bill Garrison, one of the seven pilots that Kansas can draw upon to operate a SEAT as needed now that they have gone through a day of field and tactical training.

The quicker you are on top of the fire, fighting it, the better results you have.

When we get a phone call, we go dump water on the fire.

Flames were over the cockpit of the airplane. I was flying at night.

Videos of firefighting aircraft in action

air tanker 137 737 wildfire
This is not a video, but it is a screengrab from the video below of Air Tanker 137, a 737, dropping on the Bruxner Highway Fire (Tenterfield LGA) in New South Wales, Australia. Usually it is not obvious when an air tanker drops simultaneously from more than one tank, but on the 737 the tanks are not adjacent to each other, making it possible to see the separation when the drop begins.

The video below shows Air Tanker 137, a Boeing 737, dropping on the Bruxner Highway Fire (Tenterfield LGA) in New South Wales, Australia.

A Blackhawk and an Air-Crane can be seen in the video below working on a wildfire in New South Wales, Australia.

Next, a Blackhawk in New South Wales.

Below, two helicopters work a fire north of Canadian, Texas.

Below, CAL FIRE helicopter 301 makes a swift water rescue.

Deal to purchase Columbia Helicopters canceled

The Bristow Group paid Columbia a $20 million fee in order to terminate the acquisition agreement

Columbia BV-107
Columbia helicopter, N192CH, at Custer, SD July 31, 2011. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The $560 million deal that the Bristow Group had to purchase Columbia Helicopters has been cancelled, the two companies announced Monday.

As required in the agreement Bristow paid $20 million to Columbia as a termination fee.

Columbia’s CH-47D helicopters with 2,800-gallon internal water tanks or external buckets are frequently seen over wildfires assisting firefighters on the ground.

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

The plan was for Columbia to 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.

Bristow’s stock price dropped sharply both when the purchase agreement was announced the week of November 5 and again Monday when the termination of the purchase was revealed, losing 87 percent in the three months since disclosing the planned acquisition.

Bristow has not filed as required their final financial results for the quarter that ended December 31, 2018, and released only preliminary figures, explaining that since March 31, 2018 they have not have adequate monitoring control processes in place.

Thomas C. Knudson, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bristow, stated, “The decision to enter into a mutual termination of the purchase agreement was based on a number of developments following the entry into the agreement, which led both Bristow and Columbia to conclude that it was not possible to combine the two companies at this time. We continue to value our relationship with Columbia and look forward to having the opportunity to work together in the future.”

Steve Bandy, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Columbia, stated, “We continue to believe in the potential for collaboration between Bristow and Columbia, and the companies are actively considering mutually beneficial opportunities to work together.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Tire failure damages DC-10 air tanker in Chile

Air Tanker 910 drops wildfire Chile
Air Tanker 910 drops on a wildfire in Chile, February 8, 2019. Screengrab from T13 video.

(UPDATED at 1:08 p.m. MDT February 11, 2019)

A DC-10 very large air tanker was damaged when a tire failed upon landing at the Carriel Sur airport in Concepción, Chile Friday November 8. The tread separated on a main landing gear tire and damaged an inboard flap. John E. Gould, President of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said the crew immediately began repairing the flap and that work will be completed Monday afternoon.

Damaged tire Tanker 910
Damaged tire on Tanker 910. TodayChile photo.

When tires on a race car or aircraft disintegrate at high speed as shown in the photo, chunks of rubber flying off the tire can damage sheet metal and other components.

Very roughly translated news reports indicate that the aircraft completed either four sorties or four drops on its first day of operations in Chile before the tire failed. T-910 departed from San Bernardino, California on February 6, arrived in Chile the following day, and went to work dropping on wildfires February 8.

Mr. Gould said a second DC-10, Tanker 914 has been ordered and is en route, expected to arrive in Santiago, Chile Monday afternoon. It is not necessarily to replace T-910; CONAF, the contracting organization, wanted a total of two very large air tankers under contract.

The video below shows both a Russian IL-76 and the DC-10 making drops. It is possible that a water enhancing chemical has been added to the water to increase its effectiveness in suppressing the wildfires. The DC-10 can carry up to 9,400 gallons. The IL-76 footage may be from 2017.


The article has been edited to correct the date the DC-10 first arrived in Chile.

DC-10 air tanker en route to Chile

DC-10 air tanker
Tanker 910 at McClellan October 10, 2017. Photo by Sergio Maraschin

One of 10 Tanker Air Carrier’s DC-10 very large air tankers is en route to Chile. Tanker 910, N612AX, departed from San Bernardino, California Wednesday. It made a stop at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala later in the day, and information on Flight Aware appears to indicate that it will also stop at Pisco, Peru.

John Gould, President of 10 Tanker said the aircraft is expected to arrive at Santiago, Chile early Thursday morning. He said it will be working for the National Forest Corporation, or CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal), which is a Chilean private, non-profit organization, through which the Chilean state contributes to the development and sustainable management of the country’s forest resources. CONAF is overseen and funded by Chile’s Ministry of Agriculture. There is no one governmental agency that has the authority, responsibility, and resources to manage wildfires in the Country.

On Tuesday Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of catastrophe in some regions of the country due to unusually hot weather and numerous wildfires. Below is an excerpt from Prensa Latina:

[Undersecretary of the Interior, Rodrigo] Ubilla said that this extreme measure seeks to strengthen the network of logistical support to deal with these disasters, and that these commanders will be responsible for ‘controlling public order, operationally support the tasks of prevention, fire fighting and adopt all necessary measures to avoid risks to the population.

More than 8,000 hectares [19,000 acres] of forests and pastures have already been burned by flames, dozens of homes have been destroyed and hundreds of people evacuated, according to reports from the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) and the National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior (ONEMI).

Two years ago Global Supertanker’s 747 very large air tanker spent a month or so fighting fires in Chile working out of Santiago. Andrea Avolio, a vice president of the company, said their aircraft is presently down for several weeks undergoing heavy maintenance. She said the company has not received any inquiries from officials in Chile about it being deployed.

Dan Snyder, CEO and President of Neptune, said he has recently had some informal discussions with folks in Chile but no orders have been placed. Neptune sent one of their BAe-146s, Tanker 03, to Concepción, Chile two years ago at the same time the 747 was farther north in Santiago.

A spokesperson for Aero-Flite said as far as she knew the company has no plans to send one of their RJ85 large air tankers to South America. Currently three of them are working in Australia.

Last month an IL-76 airplane hauled a Kamov Ka-32A11BC helicopter to Chile to fight fires. And on Christmas Eve Billings Flying Service unloaded one of their CH-47D Chinooks off a ship in Chile.

Billings Flying Service CH-47D helicopter
Billings Flying Service’s Helicopter 03, a CH-47D Chinook, being unloaded from the ship in Chile. Billings Flying Service photo.

Helicopters and airplanes reseed burned areas in Idaho

helicopter reseed Idaho
A helicopter is outfitted with a hopper to reseed areas burned in wildfires in Idaho. BLM photo.

After being delayed by the partial government shutdown the Bureau of Land Management has completed a large reseeding project in Idaho. The agency treated 52,000 acres of land that burned in wildfires during the last two years including portions of the 99,502-acre Grassy Ridge fire northwest of St. Anthony and other fires near Atomic City and Menan Buttes. Helicopters and fixed wing planes dispersed the seed.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Idaho State Journal:

Experts on the subject say the best time to reseed is when there’s snow on the ground.

“If you have a sunny day when you’re applying, the seed will heat up and melt below the snow layer,” Ben Dyer, BLM fire ecologist, said. “You try to have it put down when a storm is predicted in the near future so you can cover it up with another layer of snow.”

If all goes well, the snow melts in spring and provides the seeds with wet soil to germinate and flourish. There is currently 6 to 8 inches of snow on most of the ground where the Grassy Ridge Fire occurred last summer, Dyer said.
Dyer said the hope is that grass and sagebrush seed will establish itself before cheatgrass does and also help prevent soil erosion.

“We include a mixture of native grasses and forbs and we also have some introduced (seeds) that are a little more aggressive at choking out and competing against cheatgrass,” he said. “In the event that our native components don’t do well, at least we have that non-native component that has a little bit better chance.”

Grassy Ridge Fire
Grassy Ridge Fire, July, 2018. InciWeb.