Paint design approved for USFS C-130H air tankers

C-130H paint design
C-130H paint design, by Scheme Designers

The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service has approved the paint design for the seven C-130H aircraft the agency is receiving from the Coast Guard. The National Defense Authorization Act required the transfer of the C-130Hs plus 15 Shorts C-23B Sherpas from the military. The C-130Hs are being converted by the Air Force into air tankers, while the Sherpas will be used to deliver smokejumpers and cargo and to perform other wildfire support missions. The C-130Hs will be owned by the USFS but will be operated and maintained by contractors. Some of the Sherpas will be flown by agency personnel and others by contractors. All of the Sherpas will all be maintained by private companies.

The paint for the C-130Hs was designed by a company in New Jersey, Scheme Designers. Craig Darnett, their founder and CEO, told Fire Aviation that they have also designed the paint for other USFS aircraft, including the DC-3 and some smokejumper planes. Other examples of their work can be found at Scheme Designers will not actually paint the C-130Hs; most of their work is done on computers, however sometimes the aircraft owner will pay them to be on site and monitor the painting as it is done.

If someone is restoring an automobile that is at least 27 years old, as these C-130Hs are according to our research, paint is the very last step in the process. Five of the seven have to go through a 10-month wing box replacement, and then the rest of the conversion process can begin, including cutting a hole in the belly and installing a retardant tank system.

Initially bringing the 22 aircraft into the agency will be extremely complex and time-consuming, with FAA approvals, inspections, evaluating, painting, writing then awarding contracts for maintenance and pilots, deciding on a tanking system, contracts for installing tanking systems, avionics, etc. And, developing a comprehensive PLAN of how to manage the aviation assets now and in the future. The Air Force will do some of this, other than the planning, before the actual final transfer of the C-130s to the USFS (the Sherpas will not receive retardant tanks), but the Forest Service has to be involved in the decision making. Then, after the 22 aircraft are completely up and running, managing the programs on a continuing basis is not simply a part time job for one person.

Below are some other paint designs on USFS aircraft:

McCall DC-3 retirement
J-42, a US Forest Service DC-3, retires. USFS photo, taken at Ogden, Utah, October 24, 2012.
Redding smokejumpers' Shorts 330 Sherpa
Redding smokejumpers’ Shorts 330 Sherpa. USFS photo.
Smokejumper aircraft, N143Z
Smokejumper aircraft, N143Z. USFS photo.
USFS IR aircraft, Cessna Citation Bravo
One of the U.S. Forest Service’s Infrared aircraft, their Cessna Citation Bravo, N144Z
Lead planes at Cheyenne
Lead planes at Cheyenne, WY, May 7, 2013. These were not government owned, but were under contract to either the USFS or BLM. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Fire Watch helicopter
The U. S. Forest Service’s Fire Watch Cobra helicopter. July 28, 2011.
US Forest Service infrared aircraft N149Z
USFS infrared aircraft N149Z at Phoenix in 2013


Thanks and a hat tip go out to Leo

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7 thoughts on “Paint design approved for USFS C-130H air tankers”

  1. I’d like to investigate working in this new C130 branch of the USFS. Does anyone have any leads or contacts? Thanks

    1. Tim, it is unknown if the USFS will hire any new employees for their administrative side, but the outfits that receive the contracts for operation and maintenance of the Sherpas and C-130Hs will undoubtedly do some hiring. If their past history is any indication, it will probably be months before the USFS awards the contracts.

  2. She sure is puuuurrrty

    Now how about some real.meat and potatoes about the program?

    USFS pretty sure of themselves about a program…somehow they forgot about that approx 10 months per ship for CWB rework

    That paintjob sure aol get it to the fire faster!!!

  3. I got out of fire aviation and went into ‘aviation fire’ – ARFF. But, I try to stay in the loop as much as possible- what is the reasoning behind reinventing the wheel with these H’s? I know the MAFFs system is not perfect, but it would seem to me to be easier to go ahead and use these in that configuration while a tanked system is being retro fit. I am still upset that the P3/A.U. Incident took place, lost arguably the best platform we had, just to spend a ton of money on something that will take seasons to get in the air. Soapbox dismounted…

  4. Maffs are waste of money.

    Getting C’130 H’s is great news for USFS and the structure mod + Rads Tank mod will finally put the Hercs back as one of the best Tanker Platform ever.

    I agree with P-3 story; shameful but USFS could get a bunch of P-3 C’s in the boneyard and start modify them too…

  5. For a country that leads the world in so many industries, its embarrassing to realize that the US falls so far below several nations in regards to aerial fire suppression management and tactics. No single agency is perfect, but my God, do we ever make a mess of every aspect of our system!

    All the “new” (ahem) Hercs in the world won’t fix anything, no matter how sexy the paint job.

  6. why is it that most or all of our Fed Aviation assets are red and white and are clearly painted for Fire when all of our ground equipment is green or white? I love the Paint schemes on our aircraft maybe some day that will filter down to the ground

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