Air Spray to begin converting a second BAe-146

Air Spray's Tanker 482
Air Spray’s Tanker 482 At their Chico, California facility, September 11, 2013. Air Spray photo.

Following up on the development that Air Spray has received a Call When Needed contract from CAL FIRE for an L-188 Electra, we checked with Ravi Saip, Air Spray’s Director of Maintenance and General Manager at their new Chico facility in California to get an update on their conversion of a BAe-146 into an air tanker. Like some of the aviation companies, they are keeping their cards close to the vest, but he told us that the project is “moving along well”, and they “anticipate being available for the 2014 fire season”. They have a second BAe-146 that will be “arriving soon” which will also will be converted.

Mr. Saip said, “The long term goal for Air Spray is to facilitate the needs of both the US and Canadian wildfire management teams with as many tools as they need.”

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14 thoughts on “Air Spray to begin converting a second BAe-146”

  1. No offense, but US companies need to get these contracts. I’m tired of seeing our money being sent across the border. This is something I’m sure the steel workers in Pittsburg said in the late 80s.

  2. Randy, I appreciate your concern but I am an American, all the guys that work here are American, we are an American company. All the money is flowing this direction (Chico) from Canada. Money is flowing to local Engineering, local Manufacturing, local infrastructure, local rents, mortgages and leases. This is an expensive business. I’m sure some of the profits will go back north to pay for all it cost’s to do this but let me assure you, we’re here for the long haul. I’m proud of what we’re doing.

  3. While Air Spray has operated in Canada for over 45 years, we are committed to expanding our US operation as a US company. We have now established a tanker conversion facility in Chico, California and are leasing one of the old Aero Union hangars which would otherwise be vacant. The City of Chico is the recipient of this rent. Additionally, we have created 16 jobs for US citizens over the past year and are subcontracting with various US companies with the skill and expertise that would otherwise go untapped. If our operation is successful, we will be substantially adding to operation by expanding our space and employing more US citizens with each subsequent tanker conversion we carry out. We are grateful for the opportunity to employ outstanding Americans in the air tanker industry and to improve the industry with the development of the next generation air tanker.

    Lynn Hamilton, President and CEO

  4. Thanks for the info, Lynn

    With the departure of Aero Union and being a former wrench bender and holder of an A&P certificate…. I for one, someone showed up to the hangars at Chico.

    I am sure AU had the corner on the market in Chico during their time there. I am also sure that there some great AU folks still wanting to work with you folks….

    Good for you for for bring the windowed P3……..the L188. The USFS ought to be impressed with the age of those aircraft and I am also sure the old USFS adage of ” That is not flying over our Forest” will be in full swing….

    Then the old argument will ensue….the aircraft that fly the fire mission are really flying in the National Airspace System (NAS) and the the USFS airspace system…..

    Again, Lynn, GREAT to have Airspray saving an old hangar and bring aviation back to life!!!

  5. Roll on Air Spray. Way to take the initiative.

    After 17 years in the business, I have now officially retired. Hard to believe, but there is life after tanker flying.

  6. What happened to AU and Chico was really sad but seeing companies willing to invest, expend and create jobs in the US is a good thing.
    So “new” contractors might appear, and some like Airspray may have a CWN with CalFire but most of them target contracts with USFS the main customer in place. The same customer responsible for this chaotic, short term thinking situation that destroyed this industry and its historical contractors by collateral damage; TBM, HVFS, AeroUnion, IAR…
    Same customer that grounded the Douglas…
    Same customer that didn’t do a thing for 10 years after the Blue Ribbon Panel Report. Same customer who refused to even try the VLAT’s (now they can’t operate without them).
    I know some of the contractors may have had their shares of not looking forward and not make sound business decisions… But I believe the customer is really the main responsible in this case.
    Today private investors and entrepreneurs are brining newer equipment, jumping in Jet Age, etc.. I sincerely respect and salute these efforts but… it’s still the same customer.

  7. Jerome

    Good analogy. But I am willing to bet the boy zzz with the aircraft who decide not to permanently tank their aircraft are free to grab up some freight work during the off season.

    Now, I do understand the folks who permanently fix their tanks to the airframe are limited in those biz decisions.

    The customer, you refer to doesn’t need to sink a plug nickel into all the STC’s, FAA Form 337’s and logbook signatures, etc but expects contractors to meet all their expectations and rightfully so.

    But in that same breath the BRP REALLY did not help the industry at all. Somehow this NEXT GEN misnomer is going to rear it’s ugly head in the jet age Airtanker industry when the aging aircraft stuff hits the already 40-50 yr old DC 10 and the younger 20 to 30’year old MD 87’s and BAe 146’s.

    You watch the customer, in all of its wisdom, will conduct another round of studies, just like the last 20 to 40 yrs without nary an answer or money to put up or shut up.

    The USDA/ FS and USDOI just need to sell off the entire contract operation to CALFire and Dyncorp and get off their lazy fourth points of contact and manage the land like Congress TOLD them to do YEAAAARS ago.

    The customer really needs to get out of the aircraft contract biz altogether and house it under GSA…..maybe give them a try……could be better the the goat rope that has occurred for years now……

  8. Leo,

    Having a multirole airplane makes business sense but it’s quite difficult in real aviation business.

    Of course contractors should meet requirements and perform top notch maintenance. Maybe an independent aviation consulting company could make sure it happens.

    BRP; it was just a flag saying “things need to change now!”… But lack of leadership and vision stayed in place and nothing changed.
    Old planes..Yes, we’re just repeating the model..with Jets instead of pistons and props.
    Or we could decide to give up one B-2 Bomber and finance an adequate fire fighting fleet for decades… After all, this is to protect lives and properties at home… it should be considered as useful as Bombing enemies.

    USDA/FS needs to get out of aviation management and fire fighting.
    But do we want to create another Fed Agency specialized in aerial fire fighting? Other options?
    CalFire model works. An equivalent Federal system would work too with the right people in place…and right priorities established.

  9. Jerome,

    We are not having much luck with the CALFIRE model out here in Colorado. While the legislature did pass a bill for a state air firefighting organization this year, they did not fund it. It seems that they would rather pay the bill after the fact for lives lost, infrastructure and property destroyed.

    The problem with the present contract model is the use of airframes that were not designed to operate in the firefighting environment. Some will work, others will not but we usually find out the hard way which airframes have significant fatigue life problems.

    If anything will work, its probably a federal organization dedicated to firefighting.

  10. Bean and Jerome

    Agree with you both but if there is a Fed agency….who is it then? Everyone chirps how bad the FAA is and puts the Public Use tag on Fed agency contract so they can get by the normal regulatory stuff the rest of us in the aviation world have had to deal with.

    But it needs to be another Fed agency with strict aviation only management not some blurred lines of Wildland fire, SAR, committees for this and that for playing in the all risk all hazard world. The USFS can claim all this expertise and yet can not make the contract system work smoothly, contract ship from Canada with age old aircraft such as our own fleet, tell operators they can not fly over USFS lands….the list goes on.

    Yep….we can blame Congress for no money or money that is robbed from account in to another….etc etc etc etc

    The BRP sure did not identify a program to set up shop and surely did not show how to set up a funding source to fund new airframes.

    So now how does the USFS purport to fund their dream ships ( C27J and C130J)???? OR even stand up a GOCO program such as CALFire??? They can not even come up with plan and it is has taken 11 studies to get further nowhere……..all OBVIOUS to us pilots, mechanics and aviation support personnel who do this 365/24/7

    Where is all that horsepower from Mark Rey to get those C130 J ‘s built with all his lobbying power????

    Again Lockheed Martin isn’t going to give them away and those “FREE” C27 J’s are going to wind up being not so “FREE” after all…….

    USFS and BRP are WEAK in the real work that needs to be done to FUND and SUSTAIN a program……GAO has even proved it

    Time for new world order in Wildland fire aviation………

  11. Leo,

    Absolutely agree.

    Very large organizations cannot be depended on to solve a problem they create.

    Any dual mission organization will always concentrate on one job at the expense of the other.

    The federal solution would be to consolidate the existing government agencies firefighting programs into a new single purpose agency. Not impossible. If it was impossible, we’d still have an Army Air Corps instead of the US Air Force.

    Hope is not a plan but that seems to be where we are at the moment.

  12. “All it takes is money”..

    I like the analogy; Army Air Corps and US Air Force… good one.

    The model GOCO works (CalFire) works but Contracts with private contractors works too! There’s a need for a Fed Agency (no need for big)specialized in aerial fire fighting and dedicated to it.

    Each State can also create their own fleet and get the the IA phase if they can fund it. (Own the a/c or contract them)…

    anyway..we can keep dreaming ..


  13. Read all the the replies-I agree with everyone on their points.
    We need IMHO to do this: (Putting on old nomex and boots)
    No more USFS/BLM-Interior dept. only USFS out from Agriculture.
    all managed under federal lands.-Period. (I’d throw in the BIA fire management too.) Then a Fed level CALFIRE type program. With
    the states adding a level of their own-with shared resources-particularly aviation. We dodged a bullet in Oregon this season-but still had issues with Three DC-7s not useable on Fed fires-unless someone got creative-which can and did happen. More SEATS heck, they were great here and elsewhere. So it’s back to the TBM days. Fine. But I am tired of studies that just propagate more studies.
    Good for Airspray! Keep goin’ Eh? If I still drank (too much Cherokee in the McCoy woodpile.) I’d tip a Moosehead to you..

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