The US Forest Service has activated seven air tankers on call when needed (CWN) contracts to join the 15 large air tankers that were already mobilized on exclusive use (EU) contracts.
Six of the seven CWNs are water scoopers, CL-415s and CL-415EAFs, operated by Bridger Aerospace and Aero Flite. While the FS calls it a CWN activation, four of the scoopers are on a 120-mandatory availability (MAP) arrangement while the other two are day to day.
The seventh ship on CWN is a 10 Tanker DC-10, on a 120-day MAP.
There are still three large air tankers with EU contracts that will start later this month, an RJ85, an MD87, and a Coulson aircraft to be named later, probably a 737 or C-130. This will bring the number of EU large air tankers up to 18.
The contract awards for CWN scoopers, announced by the FS on May 19, 2021, went to three companies, Aero Flite, Air Spray, and Bridger Air Tanker.
Air tanker requests filled, canceled, and unfilled
Last year 19 percent of the requests for air tankers were unable to be filled (UTF) and 22 percent were cancelled; 59 percent were filled.
Sometimes an Incident Commander’s request for an air tanker gets cancelled because the situation suddenly changed and the need no longer exists. But often, we have been told, the Geographic Area Coordination Centers tell the ordering point to cancel a request that they can’t fill. In those cases, what is actually a UTF is changed to a canceled request.
If we look at just the UTFs and canceled on a bar chart, it looks like this:
And it’s not just air tankers requests that get converted to canceled. We wrote this in a May 11 article on Wildfire Today:
Last year 1,858 (40 percent) of the orders for hand crews were unfilled, and 1,853 (29 percent) of orders for engines were unfilled. In addition, the number of cancelled orders were 32 percent of crew orders and 22 percent of engine orders. There can be multiple reasons why orders are cancelled, but they can include the order sat unfilled and the requesting unit gave up, or finally the need no longer existed. The number of orders actually filled in 2021 were 27 percent for crews and 49 percent for engines.
It conceivable that if the true numbers of UTF requests were tracked, it would easily justify an increase in numbers of resources — crews, engines, air tankers, and helicopters.