Tanker 160 goes through retardant drop grid tests

T160 dropping

T160 dropping

On December 11 Aero Flite’s Tanker 160 began a series of retardant drop tests for their Avro RJ85 at Fox Field in southern California. The aircraft, converted into an air tanker by Conair, was expected to perform 20 to 25 drops over a two or three day period. The process involves dropping retardant over a grid of thousands of cups, intended to measure the volume and consistency of the pattern when it hits the ground. The Interagency AirTanker Board requires passing this and other certifications before an aircraft can be “carded” as a federal air tanker, which makes it eligible for a contract to fight fires. Both paid and inmate fire crews were on hand at Fox Field to assist with the set-up of the grid and the collection of the cups after each drop.

Randy Johnson uploaded this video:

T160 dropping

The grid. Thousands of cups.
The grid. Thousands of cups. Click to enlarge.

Tanker 160, an RJ85 which is similar to a BAe-146, is being converted by Conair for Aero Flite, which received a contract June 7 for two RJ85s. The aircraft were not ready and missed the contractual start date a couple of months later. The U.S. Forest Service then issued “cure notices” to Aero Flite and two other companies that received the next generation contracts for five air tankers, none of which met the required start date. Aero Flite responded saying the aircraft would be available between April and June, 2014. Later in a justification for awarding a sole source contract to Neptune for two BAe-146 air tankers, the USFS wrote they were “not confident that five of the seven contracted NextGen airtankers will be available to fight fires in 2014″.

Thanks go out to the Los Angeles County Fire Department which took these photos.


Thanks and a hat tip go out to John

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6 thoughts on “Tanker 160 goes through retardant drop grid tests”

  1. Gravity feed. Good. Not sure about the stuffed squirrel
    cheek look of the tank, but Conair and Aero Flite have
    been in the pattern before. Good luck, people..

  2. And T-160 passed the grid test…. Beautiful drop pattern! I wonder if the fs is gonna make them put a siren on it, ALA helicopters.. that RJ is whisper quiet approaching the target….

    1. A siren shouldn’t be necessary if every mission is directed by a low-level ASM team. That aircraft will ensure the drop zone is clear of any firefighters or general public. Helicopters tend to work alone in most situations; my feeling is that all fixed-wing airtankers should have low-level supervision (ASM).
      I understand the Aero Flite RJ will likely have the best tank in the nation. Nice to see an operator meet the intent of the next gen contract.

  3. Next Gen Air tankers is a fresh of breath air considering the age and history of the pre-A/T fleet (Air Tanker). The US agencies need to revamp the “Rules of Engagement” when it comes to their contract (daily availability) as well as hourly operational cost. As far as the delivery of any VLT or Type-1 Tanker delivery should only be under the direct supervision of a dedicated ATC (Air Tanker Coordinator/ Lead Plane) or Bird Dog for our Canadian counterparts. As far as ASM’s (Airborne Supervision Module’s) well it was Maffs 7 (CLT/NC ANG) that followed a ASM to it’s CRASH SITE.

  4. Next Gen is only a breath of fresh air if the aircraft were built in 2010 and after.

    All this Next Gen talk with aircraft ( even Coulson’s C130) RJ, BAe, MD series ’10, 80/ 87 series aircraft are ranging from 20 to 35 yrs old

    Next Gen? Maybe with glass cockpits which some have right now only because one is installing current day nav and avionics in formerly steam gauged aircraft, MAYBE if their engines are burning biofuels………

    Next Gen? Hardly

    Can not imagine these being called Next Gen…..only to those who have not worked around them, flew, serviced, maintained, etc

    I know the boyz who worked on these 24/ 7/ 365 would not even venture to call ANY of these Next Gen…….hell half of those are approaching Neptune aging P2V’s…….ask anyone

    That Next Gen moniker just needs to thrown out …batted around here like a bad habit……..

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