USFS releases study on C-27J

C-27JThe U.S. Forest Service has released a study on how the C-27J could be used by the agency if the Air Force gives them seven as expected. This ninth air tanker study since 1995 was a surprise to us — somehow the Forest Service kept this one under wraps.

The report was prepared by Convergent Performance, LLC in Colorado Springs, Colorado at a cost of $54,000. We can’t find a date on it but the document must have been released very recently. We found a link to it on the Forest Service web site.

If used as an air tanker

The report confirms one thing that we were told by Art Hinaman, USFS Assistant Director for Aviation, on July 1 when we talked with him at the dedication of the memorial site for the crash of MAFFS 7 a month ago. Mr. Hinaman said he thought the C-27J would hold around 1,800 gallons of retardant when outfitted with a conventional, gravity-fed, constant flow tank, and that is what the Convergent study came up with. Of course, Mr. Hinaman had probably already seen Convergent’s findings when we talked about it.

The report concluded the C-27J could carry 1,850 gallons of retardant if 3,200 pounds of unneeded equipment were removed, including flight deck armor (approximately 1,100 lbs), miscellaneous mission equipment such as litter stanchions, tie-down chains, ladders etc. (approximately 1,000 lbs), and the cargo loading system (approximately 1,200 lbs).

If a mini-MAFFS slip-in retardant system was designed for the C-27J cargo space, which is smaller than a C-130, it would hold approximately 1,100 gallons if the same excess equipment was removed. A MAFFS2 has a maximum capacity of 3,000 gallons, but frequently carries less depending on density altitude and fuel load. The mini-MAFFS would not have an air compressor, therefore requiring the aircraft to depend on air compressors being prepositioned at air tanker bases. The USFS has six mobile air compressor systems that were built to support the original MAFFS, but the latest generation, MAFFS2, has an onboard air compressor.

If used as a smokejumper ship

C-27, jumping from rampSmokejumpers could exit the C-27J through the two side doors or the aft ramp. Depending on how the aircraft was configured, it could transport between 24 and 46 jumpers.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

The C-27J aircraft is very compatible with the smoke jumper mission. The aircraft is specifically designed as an aerial delivery platform for personnel as well as cargo. The C-27J is a high wing aircraft keeping the disruptive airflow above the jump platform; a distance of 41” between the propeller and fuselage to keep turbulence well away from the jumpers; and a horizontal stabilizer on the tail that sits well above the jumper path practically eliminating any parachute contact. The high wing design and the cockpit’s 16-windows provide the best conditions for air to ground visibility and the robust avionics suite with HUD allows pinpoint GPS accuracy for each airdrop. The side doors have a very safe and comfortable height of 6’ 4” and the rear door opening is 7’ 5” high. Free-fall jumpers can be deployed from either side door exit or from the aft ramp. Static line jumpers can only be deployed using the side door exits.

If used to transport firefighters

According to the report, the aircraft configuration can be changed and fitted with standard outer and center seating to accommodate 68 passengers with limited personal equipment plus 2 loadmasters.

The USFS asked Convergent to analyze how the C-27J could be used to transport two 20-person crews to high-elevation airports with relatively short runways. (The maximum allowable flying weight for a hotshot crew is 5,300 pounds.) The examples given were Alturas, CA (KAAT), 4,378′ above sea level; Reserve, NM (T16), at 6,360′; and Negrito Airstrip, Reserve NM (0NM7), at 8,143′. The conclusions were that landing would not be a problem. At two of the three airports taking off would be possible, but at Reserve (T16) with the 4,777′ runway, the aircraft would usually be able to carry only one crew when departing.

If used for cargo

The aircraft could carry between 12,222 and 25,353 pounds of cargo.


If the C-27J accumulated 250 flight hours annually, Convergent estimated it would cost about $7,400 an hour over a 20 to 30 year life span. At 400 hours a year the cost would be about $5,800 an hour over 20 to 30 years.


From the report:

The C-27J is training intensive and requires constant skill application by the aircrews to remain proficient and mission-ready. Although highly automated, this is not an aircraft that can be effectively and safely operated with min-run training and skill. It requires highly skilled professional aircrew. The training available is thorough and adequate, but it is time consuming (2- 3 months) and relatively expensive in its current form. The length of training and lead-time required to have a fully qualified crewmember to meet fire season operational demand will require structured, deliberate, action. Training is only offered by two sources, one being the manufacturer, but it is conducted overseas with equipment not representative of the aircraft the Forest Service would receive and is generally limited to new purchase customers as part of the point of sale agreement. The only US based training offered is in Warner-Robbins, GA.

Other air tanker studies

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24 thoughts on “USFS releases study on C-27J”

  1. Convergent Performance is Tony Kern’s company. Little surprise here. He began worming his way into the industry before the events leading to the Blue Ribbon Panel, and still has his hooks into the system in multiple ways, despite being entirely out of touch with what’s required to operate air tankers.

    Kern has never been a friend to the industry, and never will be.

  2. Kern still milking the USFS for more study money?

    Ohhh the training will be intensive and requires constant skill application…REALLY??? Any new production aircraft will require pilot and mechanic/maintenance training.

    Once again this “report” states the obvious….gonna cost more to run any sort of “Next Gen” or C27 aircraft project….simple ….more money, more money.

    Thinking the USFS is somehow going to get a deal in the future seems pretty far fetched

    Nice to get another Federal “study” contract there ,Tony! Now how about helping the industry for about $15 to 20 USD turning a wrench and getting elbow deep in a little JP4 or JP8 and getting honest work

  3. This report is the most complete analysis I have ever seen of a potential airtanker. Instead of focusing on misleading terms like “cost per gallon delivered” (well, yes, but is it effective?), Convergent lays out options and costs for a number of scenarios, including low visibility ops and operations from unimproved strips.

    Ultimately, of course, it’s only worthwhile if it is effective. Jerome Laval’s “tool box”–airtanker, tank, retardant, crew. The total package is only as good as the weakest link,

  4. I would love to compliment the $54K for Tony, there Bill.

    Granted, It is more in the line of what the USFS OUGHT to have been doing for 60 yrs…

    But deep in MY pilot/ mechanic / forester heart and my earlier love for the USFS organization as an Aerial Photo interpreter, while I was getting my degree…the 1990’s soured me a little. The touchy feely 1990’s, social experimentation, no real EMT’s on a fireline. guys that thought they were “tougher” than GI’s, 10 and 18’s that were reworked, memorized and still seemed to be getting folks killed whether its fire or timber falling….

    Some of those folks getting perm gigs in Fire and Aviation Management with nary a background in true aviation studies nor any practicum outside the USFS and then spend more dollars and time bitchin about their pittances as put out by Congress. The mirror operates both at the Congressional level and squarely in the USFS ring also.

    NO one told you to get a gig with the USFS….but boy oh boy….get a retirement and then whether or not it is Tony…..the Ex Feds are still at it either doing studies or ADing. Good gigs if you can get ’em!!

    Any REAL mentors in the USFS / USDOI aviation world that can prove to me so far that MORE has been done other than ,,,now,,,,,NINE ….studies.

    How many new “Next Gen” are or have been really ramped up other than the DC10 or B747 that seemed to take forever to get on contract either through normal channels or putting some cockamamie “small business” requirement to these contracts.

    All the money spent on contracts and studies so far could have gotten one or two seasons for what was spent on a ship somewhere in the last 20 yrs

    This may have been a “closer” study with some near time cost analysis….but for 9 studies the USFS has not really gotten a bang for the buck.

    I know, I know….the USFS thinks sooo

  5. The 747 hasn’t been ramped up. It doesn’t have any engines. It’s been awarded a contract, though.

    Shouldn’t the government at least require that the aircraft be flyable and airworthy, before issuing a contract? They’re awfully quick to put us down for unavailability and dock pay if there’s a mechanical discrepancy. Why are they awarding contracts to companies that can’t field an actual airplane?

    1. Doug and Steve, the only contract Evergreen has for the 747 is a call when needed contract; two in fact, one with CAL FIRE and another with the USFS. The company made a business decision to wait until they had the contract, before they re-hung the engines and spent the millions of dollars on the C-check that is going on now.

      Only one of the seven air tankers that received exclusive use next-gen contracts were flyable as air tankers when they received their contracts months ago. And they still are not certified by the Interagency AirTanker Board.

  6. I agree with Doug; Common sense should prevail; airplanes should be flyable and making drops before being considered eligible for contracts…

    Aircraft (fixed wings or Rotor wings) is only 25% of the “tool”!
    Crew experience, Type of Tank system, Type of Fire Suppressant are 25% each.

    1. What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

      So, USFS shouldn’t give a contract for Nex Gen’s until they’re completely ready…

      Nex Gen providers don’t want to go through the 12-24 months and several million dollars to buy, C-check, design, tank and test until they know there’s going to be a way to recover their costs…

      Meanwhile, everyone complains the forests are burning up and we don’t have any tankers. We’re contracting the military and Canadians to fight our fires while we do more studies and bicker over who’s gonna pull the trigger first.

      Funny way to go forward.

  7. I say chicken! heuu…no ..wait… Egg! heuu…well… CP you’re correct and have a valid point!
    But honestly we have to go back in time(at least 2002) when some decisions should have been made so this last minute NextGen Egg/Chicken thing wouldn’t even exist!
    Incentive, Decision Making, Vision, Planning ahead, Projects, etc.. None on the Fed side as far as Tankers. What happened after 2002-2003 Blue Ribbon Panel report? Nothing! 10 years waisted. Obviously, then was the time start thinking NextGen… and by 2010 start phasing out LAT’s with more recent aircraft…
    “We” can(should) plan ahead but we can’t go back in time, can we?

  8. Oregon’s got a SEAT program going two here in la Grande.
    part of the toolbox and Oregon’s not waiting for the feds.
    A return to the TBM days is not necessarily bad.

  9. C-27J with 1100 gallon MAFF unit. What great thinking. Cargo, jump ship sure, tanker forget it. Air Tractor has a SEAT fire fighter with 1002 gallon capacity almost ready. I guess if money or production (extinguishing ability) is not an issue the C-27J is a great Fed choice.

  10. Oregon and California made the pertinent choices to have their own fleet giving priority to Initial Attack. Other States should follow this concept.

    1. Which makes you wonder why there aren’t more S2-t’s out there? From what I have seen when flying a helicopter with them, they do a great job! 1200 gallons in a platform that seems to be able to put it where it belongs. Just flew a day with them on the Little fire in, really great work by them and air attack. In and out fast too.

      1. Yea. I agree. S-2T seems to be a very adept, capable and competent tanker platform. Why its limited use? It’s as if CALFIRE has proprietary rights.

        Lone Ranger

  11. Joseph and Lone Ranger,

    Indeed I agree! it would be nice to see more S-2T’s for IA.
    These 23 S-2’s are operated by Calfire (California State Agency) but I don’t think Calfire has rights concerning the S-2’s. Want to build more of them? Do it…
    Maybe another State could fund a project like this.

    1. Good deal if they are in serviceable condition. If they are the ones operated by some foreign Navies, it might be tough to find good airframes. I got a few hours in S-2F’s before the Navy put them in storage and they weren’t exactly spring chickens back then.

  12. Finding a good 1000-1200 Gallons Initial Attack Tanker isn’t easy..
    Grumman S-2’s are sturdy and fit the profile and it would be great to rebuild a bunch… All it takes is money…

    1. S-2 T’s and Turboprop-Zero timed 4-engine Douglas Airframes. Figure 4000 gal- or so DC7 with P&W
      100s..(Ok- dreaming here)
      But if they can do Convair 580’s…

  13. Wondering if the country would be better served if the Air Force gave these planes to agencies that do search and rescue, as Canada thinks this is an ideal plane for that purpose. From

    “Fixed Wing Search and Rescue is about saving Canadian lives: The C-27J is right for the mission… the most capable, cost effective, and uncompromising search and rescue aircraft available today. No aircraft is better suited to meet Canada’s FWSAR needs.”

    If there were already plenty of C27J airtanker retrofits out there, it might make sense for the Forest Service to take this path, but this is new territory. Engineering a solution from scratch seems like a questionable use of resources and, more to the point, precious time.

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