State Senator organizes air tanker demonstration

A Colorado state senator who is also a candidate for county Sheriff hosted a demonstration for an air tanker yesterday. Senator Steve King, who has been very outspoken about the need for the state to have their own aerial firefighting resources, invited Coulson to display their C-130Q air tanker at the Centennial airport on the southeast side of Denver. The aircraft, which has a contract with the U.S. Forest Service, conducted a drop near the runway after flying in from their base in Sacramento.

The video below details some of the sophisticated imaging and mapping capabilities of Coulson’s Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, including identifying targets and a data link for transferring them to the C-130.

Interior of the S-76
Interior of the S-76. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Another report on the air tanker demonstration that has better shots of the C-130 drop can be found at KWGN.

9 thoughts on “State Senator organizes air tanker demonstration”

  1. So many comments…
    Right off the start, Wayne Coulson states that “firefighting in general is a very reactive business”. I will disagree; if Wayne were to spend some time within most agency offices, he will learn that there is a very high degree of PROactivity that occurs. Rare is the instance where a fire crew is surprised or ill-prepared when a fire call comes in.

    The S-76 was extensively demonstrated years ago and was deemed at the time to be a sexy looking machine, but one that didn’t have any more capability than a number of fixed-wing platforms in the industry. Lots of turboprop and jet aircraft are equipped with the same whiz-bang toys, yet can stay aloft for double the time and half the hourly cost. In all but the most adverse conditions, accurate and timely mapping can be gathered and distributed to the fireline by a person with a FLIR ball and a laptop in a Bell 206. Many crewleaders are walking around with smartphones and tablets with internet connectivity (but never leave behind their trusted pulaski). Why package ina very expensive helicopter what is commercially available from Best Buy at a tiny fraction of the cost?

    Marijuana may now be legal in Colorado, but you’d have to smoke an enormous amount of it to be convinced that firefighting at night with fixed-wing airtankers is a good idea.

    1. Anthony, you represent yourself as an expert on the “FLIR ball” which you said is “commercially available from Best Buy at a tiny fraction of the cost”. Are you as intimately familiar with the hardware, software, data link, and communications systems in the S-76 as you imply?

      1. Hi George. No I didn’t. I am well versed in the use of FLIR, and when I (tongue in cheek) mentioned Best Buy, I incorrectly assumed that most readers would understand that devices such as that can’t be bought at a typical big box electronics outlet. But most of the hardware needed to send real-time images to a ground ICP or firefighter can indeed be bought from your friendly Apple geek.
        Nowhere did I imply that I was familiar with the smallest rivet onboard the S-76. I merely had the audacity to state that one doesn’t require such a costly machine to perform the service advertised.

  2. I’m not sure what Wayne means when he says that T-131 was built with the ground firefighter in mind, to get Retardant on the ground and is the diffrence between his airtanker and other airtankers. I realize they were in CO doing a sales pitch for the state and inadvertantly campaigning for Senator King, but what does he think the “other tankers” are doing?

  3. I sort of feel sorry for the folks in Colorado. Senator King is trying to pull teeth from an unwilling patient. Listen/watching to the news reports it sounds like Colorado is amazed with these new fangil flying machines that are suppose to help stop fires. What ever, maybe next year, maybe not. What ever.

  4. The Firewatch 76 is better suited for a retake on Airwolf. What a joke.
    The good Senator is blowing a lot of smoke and it appears this could be an attention gathering ploy more than a save the world mission.

    Its all smoke and mirrors. Nothing to see here folks move along.

  5. Before some of start attacking Coulson and the ’76 and any other operator and gravity vs.RADS vs. MAFFS vs whatever every one has or has had…..

    Let’ s all of REread the 55 page GAO report.

    I did for the 8th time as of today.

    Lookeee at the BIG picture…… long has this all been going on?

    H&P, Aero Union,ARDCO, T&G, Chandler, Butler, etc

    Now it is Neptune, 10 Tanker LLC, Coulson, Erickson Aero, etc

    REread the GAO report……where have the big LMA’s been when dictating the contracts? Who has been pulling the Lions share of R &D ?


    Sure MDTC and SDTC have been doing a liiiiiitle towards R&D, but industry has been pulling the weight to get what little semblance of “purpose built” aircraft out of non purpose built technology… the the USFS “owns” seven very non purpose built C130 H models for the very same mission they have been dictating to the industry for the last 50 to 60 years.

    Politicians and LMA types who promise the world and do not deliver is what makes plenty of dog and pony shows like King puts together is what puts the industry in a bad light for someone’s political aspirations.

    I do not come from the Airtanker industry in itself, but with my aviation and degree in Forestry – Fire and Aviation Management………I can see a goat rope of an operation that dictates rather than COOPERATES with others and industry.

    REread the GAO report and read the very thing GAO indicates about NIAC and cooperation through the years and the entire 9-11 study debacle.

    The debacle isn’t industry….it is the debacle of moving from 44 tankers a mere 12 years ago to the current joke of a contract system that could employ dang near everyone with what limited resources of iron out there.

    Yeah yeah we gots to prove each of the airframes through the IATB knaptions, where everyone gets to pee in the cups proving various airframes that the IATB has operators to prove, which most of all KNOW each aircraft is going to be different and we also KNOW the real world of flying is a whole lot different than peeing in IATB cups…

    But , I digress, reading the GAO report further proves to me the USFS best do its level best in 2014 now that they got 7 C130 aircraft in their “ownership” which is very scary with a group of folks……because it’s going to look awful funny if one aircraft isn’t launched by early 2015.

    The GAO report re confirms one thing……talk was cheap ALL these years that the LMA’s were supporting industry and there was no talk during these “Next Gen”…….just a lot of “stuff” how one operators tanking was not delivering……OK hot shot LMA’ s……start putting your money where mouth has been ALL these years of doing “studies” and not building what the IATB, NIAC, and the LMA’s “THINK” what the “perfect” tank is

    When the LMA’ s have a staff with everyone that has a bare minimum of a pilots license and mechanics licenses…….that are making “decisions” with operations as large as this…….I MIGHT start believing in the operation.

    But in the mean time the industry has had its up and downs, but it is an industry that has evolved faster than the folks “managing and talking” aviation.

    I, for one, as a former Wildland firefighter, will never bitch about one operator over another like some here…………

    1. Thank you Leo. I agree, that bashing providers of aerial resources does not add to the overall discourse here. Neither does someone hiding behind a fake name pretending to be an expert who criticizes those who are trying to advance the technology and provide better and sometimes different equipment. Change is hard.

  6. looking at the impressive positive side:

    What other company is offering a thermal imaging system with a datalink that can pass targets to a type 1 tanker and provide an update to the incident commander?

    The only other system I can think of would be a military MQ-1 linked to a MAFFS C-130J and the command post using JTIDS/MIDS.

    What if Coulson figures out how to tie it all into the Next Generation Incident Command System? Real time information for everyone in the net … its this kind of network that will give the next gen air tankers real next gen capability.

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