U.S. borrows CV-580s from Canada

Tanker 42, a CV-580
Tanker 42, a CV-580, at JEFFCO in Colorado in 2012. Photo by Shane Harvey.

The United States Government has again borrowed two CV-580 air tankers from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Jennifer Jones, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, said they will be in Boise today, Wednesday. They may be stationed there for a while or be deployed to another location.

In June of 2012 there were a total of five CV-580s temporarily in the lower 48 states; one borrowed from the state of Alaska and four from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

The CV-580s, produced between 1947 and 1954, have a maximum retardant capacity of about 2,100 gallons. The piston engines on the ones used in Canada have been replaced by turboprops.

24 thoughts on “U.S. borrows CV-580s from Canada”

  1. A big Thanks to Saskatchewan for these……sure they will be put to good use….and also a big thanks to Forest Service for recognizing the need! While a much better fire season (acreage-wise at least) than same time last year, the next months do not look favorable at all.

    Plus my deepest condolences to the families of the Granite 19 and other recent fallen protecting us all! Have a great 4th ! !

  2. Too bad the picture indicates a Conair Convair 580 rather than the much improved and upgraded ones from Saskatchewan.

    I can supply some excellent pix of the Saskatchewan aircraft for future reference.

    One of the fleet s especially noteworthy …. Tanker 475 served as Air Force One during the Nixon and Ford administrations and flew the President and many staffers into airports too small for the Boeing 707 to be used.

    Although not hauling around the President, it was a real highlight for me to be be flying that airframe on operational missions knowing it’s history.

  3. Three Canadian CL-215Ts from Alberta and a birddog aircraft are also currently deployed from Alberta to Alaska. They are fighting fires alongside Aero Flite CL-215s and Conair CV580s on summer contract with the State.

  4. With all due respect to the outstanding CV580 crews, and an excellent airtanker, I have two questions:
    1. If a U.S. operator bids a turbine-powered airtanker with a tank capacity less than 3000 gallons, will USFS accept it? (The I.E.S. BE200 was rejected because it is 63 gallons short of 3000 gallons when carrying retardant. T979, a previously carded, turbine-powered, 20,000 gallon airtanker, was only offered a CWN contract. I believe one of Neptune’s BAe146 airtankers only has a CWN contract, but I’m not sure on that.).
    2. If and when U.S.operators get back to the point where they have surplus, parked, LATs, as they had in 2000, will Canada be willing to grant them contracts similar to those the CV580s have (when needed)? Will they reciprocate and use U.S. SEATs and VLATs when needed, at the going rates?
    Mutual support is great, as long as it is reciprocal. Wildland protection should be the primary goal, of course, but support of U.S. operators should also be a consideration.

  5. As I recall,aren’t the 580’s rebuilt to near new by Kelowna (not sure of spelling) Flightcraft? Good ship..

    1. Kelowna Flightcraft owns the Type Certificate for the Convair 340/440/640/580 aircraft family which they purchased several years ago. This means that they are regarded by regulatory authorities such as the FAA and Transport Canada as the manufacturer of the CV580, just as Erickson Air-Crane is now regarded as the manufacturer of the S-64 since they purchased the type certificate for this helicopter from Sikorsky.

  6. The DC 10 was used in Alberta a couple of years ago. Dropped a lot of gallons of the red stuff around Fort Mac.

  7. The province of British Columbia is larger than the territory of California, Oregon and Washington state combined so it makes sense for the province to make a long term investment in a fleet of contract air tankers.

    The Canadian aircraft that are coming south are contracted throuygh government to government agreements or regional compacts. My understanding is that the US pays the contracting agency that controls the aircraft, rather than the commercial operator directly (i.e. the USFS pays the Province of BC or Saskatchewan)

    The Canadian and US air tanker systems are different … and Canadian provinces and territories have invested more than a billion dollars in the past 15 years to renew their air tanker fleets and introduce more turboprops …

    The US market seems to be much more fragmented with an alphabet soup of Federal and State contracting agencies working with much smaller territories …

    US air tankers and especially heavy lift helicopters (S-64s, Boeing 107s and Boeing 234) have come North to flight fires in Canada on many occasions throughout history … but it appears that the US really hasn’t had a lot of surplus large tankers available to send north for in the past decade.

    I don’t believe that Canada has the same Call When Needed (CWN) system for air tankers as is found in the USA because the focus of the Canadian industry has always been on long term contracts because of our fire season is short and intense and there is NO work for the aircraft in the long cold winter unless you have a contract in Australia or Latin America.

    Many forget that Canada started using aircraft on contract fire patrols in 1920 and the the Ontario Provincial Air Service was established in 1924 as the world’s first aerial fire fighting agency … and has been fighting fires for almost 90 years!

    Another major difference is that the Canadian Federal government has NO role in contracting fixed-wing air tanker resources in Canada and RCAF doesn’t have any aircraft that bomb fires.

    Most Canadian provinces and territories have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in establishing the acquisition off their own air tanker fleets (Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the NWT) which are operated by government pilots or contracted out to commercial operators (Alberta and NWT).

    The public knows their provincial politicians are responsible for protecting their communities and they expect air tankers to be available when needed …

    New Brunswick utilizes Forest Protection Limited which is jointly owned by the government and the forest industry.

    Alberta’s three CL-215Ts are operated by Conair and the province also contracts many land based tankers and initial helicopters

    The NWT’s CL-215s are operated by Buffalo Airways and it also contracts land based tankers.

    BC and the Yukon contract 100% of the air tankers they use and all these aircraft are on five to ten year contracts.

    There is no fleet of ad hoc fixed-wing tankers in Canada waiting around to battle a fire except a couple Air Tractors used to fight grass fires on the Prairies and the Martin Mars in BC which is on a very short contract with BC. Aircraft that don’t have regular work are sold … to museums (Forest Protections TBMs) or exported such as the CL-215s that went to Korea and Turkey last year.

  8. Neptune tanker 10 sits while we bring in foriegn aircraft and MAFFS. I think the money would be better spent on giving Neptune and other U. S. operators finacially feasible contracts for the long term good of the industry.
    Low bid and playing games started this mess in the first place. Lets not go back to the days of H & P.

    1. I don’t really understand the US system …

      Who sets the sequence in which air tankers are called up if all the contract aircraft are busy and has this sequence changed over time?

      For example does the USFS use its contract tankers first, then Type 1 helicopters, and then the CWN air tankers (i.e. Neptunes or SEATs) before turning to the USAF and other fire fighting agencies (California S-2Ts, Oregon DC-7s, Alaska CV580s and Minnesota CL-215s and Canadian provinces) or are CVN PV2 Neptunes called last?

      In Canada it’s usually a tanker group that gets moved between provinces based on short term availability … this could be a single L-188, a couple of CV580s or a group composed of three or four Air Tractor AT-802Fs on wheels or amphibious floats.

  9. Walt Darran’s article on airtankers.org website mentions that the 3rd and 4th BAe-146’s from Neptune with a new and improved tanking system won’t be mission ready until August (Tanker 10 and 01) and a 5th coming online in September.

    The USFS seem to like adding Neptune’s BAe-146’s as “Additional Equipment” somewhat bypassing the formal and lengthy bid process.

    BAe-146 T-10 was supposed to have begun the IATB drop tests in June. Any word if that is completed now?

    Is Evergreen’s 747 mission ready now? Their CWN contract was supposed to start on July 1st.

    1. I believe the average dispatch is some were in the 50-80 mile range. Due to each province having their own fleets of aircraft and own dispatching systems aircraft do not have to fly great distances to get to a fire when it starts. That is a bit different than in the States where you can get a call to a fire 3 States away.Which usually isn’t an initial attack on a fire by then. Both systems have there pros and cons

  10. Here in Colorado, we were very fortunate – and grateful – to have Saskatchewan and British Columbia Convair airtankers to help with Boulder’s Flagstaff Fire in 2012.

  11. Ken Swartz pretty much nails it in terms of accuracy with airtanker use in Canada. The provinces & territories there ‘figured it out’ a long time ago with regards to aerial firefighting.

    Some comments on comments above: Neptune’s BAe146 was not renewed nor accepted as a next gen airtanker because their choice of product delivery system (pressurised tank) was a poor one. Tronos – the developer of the airtanker – was advised of this well before they cut the first airfrrame but decided to pursue that option anyway. Whoops. We see two of Neptune’s jets flying today…likely because of some unpublished deal, or because the USFS has their back against the wall in terms of available options.

    Walt asks about mutual support and muses why Canadians don’t call US operators (forgetting they did in 2011 when the DC-10 worked successfully in Alberta, without the joke of local pilots undergoing a “VLAT qualification” process. Why don’t we see more US planes fly north? 1) we don’t have any to spare, 2) they don’t need any of ours; they have plenty of their own, 3) any ex-military aircraft (the restricted category is not recognised in Canada) are forbidden to fly outside the US, 4) the perceived need to support of US operators doesn’t gain much traction north of the 49th – much as down here, where few Americans give a hoot about the health of Canadian aircraft operators if we’re honest.

    The state of Alaska has relied upon Canadian pilots and aircraft for many years and these crews have provided exceptional service in the Lower 48 on our behalf. Three provinces routinely bail us out when Colorado, Montana and other states burn. One US companies who operates Canadian-built scoopers employs primarily Canadian flight crews. Two of the five successful Next Gen airtanker operators are US subsidiaries of Canadian companies. Canadian operators have established bases in the US and hired American staff and more than a few former Aero Union employees. We should be grateful.

    Or, we could display our political, petty side and continue to throw jabs at those who have better ideas than we do. The USA is number 1 in a lot of industries. Aerial firefighting is not one of them.

  12. Two more addenda: there were no pistoni CV-580s ever operated in Canada. or anywhere elswe for that matter. 580s are turbine conversions of CV-340s. No piston Convair was ever used in the firefighting role.
    Tanker 474 (I think the comment above may be incorrect in stating it was 475?) served as AF1…once. It was a one-off instance and there was an article in a local Denver paper when the airplane was based in CO last summer during the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires.

  13. Thanks GeeBee

    Not all Canadian tankers are accepted by the USFS. This year Air Spray of Red Deer Alberta operates eight Lockheed L-188 tankers for four provinces and territories, but they are not qualified to operate in the US even though civil certified, fitted with tanks developed jointly with Aero Union also qualified on the P-3 (before Air Spray bought this intellectual property) and technically supported by Lockheed Martin.

    That said, these L-188s often attack US fires on cross border “splash and dash” missions from their bases in BC, Alberta and the Yukon.

    Should also add that under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between US-Canada-Mexico cross border operations of 15 Specialty Air Services were deregulated. Approval of Aerial Fire Fighting and Forest Fire Management was phased in on January 1, 1994.
    This means that the regulatory framework governing aerial fire fighting is different that for passenger and cargo operations.
    See http://www.dot.gov/sites/dot.dev/files/docs/nafta%20packet%2097.pdf

  14. Ken, one of the Electras (not AirSpray’s) was recently deployed to Alaska on behalf of the State DNR. As most of the fires there were on fed lands, the airtanker never did get to prove its worth, although it did serve as an LC hauler when many of their bases ran low.
    Electras regularly drop on fires in Washington state as well, although on DNR lands only, as they mysteriously become non-airworthy as they cross over into federal boundaries.
    Bottom line: our states are progressive; our federal agencies, um…
    The state folks are impressed by the Electra’s speed and capacity (3000-3300 USG depending on operator and never downloaded below full capacity).
    If I had to pick one and one only airtanker for my fleet, it would be the L-188.

  15. Quick correction Ken: AirSpray’s L-188s are only contracted to two provinces (3 apiece) and two territories (1 apiece and one of which is subcontracted on behalf of the incumbent operator who lacks his own airtanker as per the contract).

  16. Geebee-
    Your comment about the US scooper operator is not correct. The flight crews are primarily American with some Canadian pilots. Other operators, such as Dyncorp for example, employ French and Canadian pilots.
    A diverse group is good for all and keeps the inbreeding in check.

      1. Mr. Swartz:
        Other (aerial firefighting) operators, such as Dyncorp for example, employ French and Canadian pilots.

Comments are closed.