Air tanker status update, August 20, 2013

As we move into national Preparedness Level 5 today for the first time since 2008, and we have more than 48 uncontained large fires, it’s a good time to see what air tankers are available. These numbers are provided by Mike Ferris, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service.

Today, not counting 2 air tankers that are on their days off and five that are down for maintenance, there are 13 in service.

Overall, if none were on days off or down for maintenance, we would have:

  • 7 P2Vs on Exclusive Use Contract
  • 2 BAe-146s on Exclusive Use Contract
  • 2 DC-10s on Exclusive Use Contract
  • 4 CV-580s borrowed from Canada and Alaska
  • 5 MAFFS borrowed from the military

This amounts to 11 that are on federal contract and 9 that are borrowed, for a total of 20.

Six of the seven air tankers that received “next generation” contracts, and the 747 that will be under a CWN contract, are weeks or months away from being physically ready and fully certified. However, these are counted when the USFS distributes misleading stats claiming, “Overall, we could have up to 26 airtankers available for wildfire suppression.”

14 thoughts on “Air tanker status update, August 20, 2013”

  1. We in Oregon have the three DC-7s (that are still quite useful at 3000 gal) and the numerous SEATs of the State of Oregon available so even if they are not national Resources (Same with Calfire) they are there to relieve the National resources,and, of course the Rotary Wing folks out there too.
    The toolbox isn’t empty.

    1. Good point, there are about 70 SEATs (55 are AT-802s) with on-call contracts from the Department of the Interior for Mar 2013 thru Feb 2014.

      Some of these will be on exclusive contracts for peak fire periods in various coordination center regions for the various land agencies (DOI, BLM, BIA, other federal agencies, as well as state agencies.) For example, the DOI has about 27 SEATs on exclusive use contracts for 2013 (double the amount from 2012).

      1. As we speak the La Grande SEATS and the DC-7s
        ( Helos are too)-have rolled. Last year we had nothing close..
        Thanks, folks….
        ODOF has got it right.
        Maybe the Feds should look at that..

  2. I have heard there is a Q400 on Neptune’s ramp, been flying in and out of there for the past few days. Anyone know what they are doing?

    1. Any idea on the registation? Might be a leasing company trying to move a returned aircraft but heavy tank mods probably require a sale. All the Q400s registered in Canada are employed with airlines, Hydro Quebec, or used by Bombardier as a employee shuttle. Neptune looked at the Dash 8-300 a few years back and there was a write up in their local newspaper. Conair is the only operator that has converted a Q400 to an air tanker and France uses the two aircraft it in a multi-mission fire fighting/cargo/pax role so the tank is external. New Q400 aircraft are much too expensive for the US fire market with new aircraft priced around $30 million but sales backlog is only 34 aircraft (prior to today’s Russian order for 50) so there may be lots of pressure on sales team …

  3. MAYBE the Canadians or Tronos is bringin a Q for evaluation

    Conspiracy? Do not know…I am sure there is no USFS “Area 51” on Neptune’s ramp

  4. What’s available in terms of useful large airtankers and what the brain trust are willing to use are vastly different numbers. Let’s discount the 747 shall we? And the MAFFS-equipped Hercs. It doesn’t take a fire expert to understand the deficiencies of pressurised delivery systems as compared to a gravity tank. Even if the above aircraft and the Neptune BAe146s were parked (the likely effect on fire behaviour: nil), there are hordes of fixed-wing aircraft available. It’s less about the sheer number of airplanes and almost everything to do with how they are managed. Which is, today, less than ideal.

    Did somebody say 55 AT-802s? Add another 25 or so wheeled and a dozen amphib 802s in Canada. There are 5 more CV-580s sitting in BC and SK, plus 2 in Alaska, to add to the 5 already working in ID and MT. There are 9 L-188s available dotted along the border (3000-3300 USG apiece) and they are as robust as any airplane you care to mention.
    It’s difficult to claim there’s “nothing available” as the acres burn, particularly when all these resources are at the ready and a mechanism is in place with which to request and utilize them.

      1. Thanks, I saw the release on the P3s. I am still attached to the old Neptunes and would like to know what happened to them.


  5. I believe the AU P2V’s were scrapped.

    [note from Administrator: a non-functioning website link was removed]

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