USFS smokejumper aircraft replacement

C-23B Forest Service
C-23B. USFS photo.

The information below is from the U.S. Forest Service, and addresses the use of the 15 C-23B aircraft that were authorized to be transferred from the U.S. Army to the USFS by legislation signed in December of 2013. Unsurprisingly, the agency still has not made “final decisions” on what exactly they will do with the aircraft a year and a half later. I think we’ll coin a new phrase: Paralysis by Lack of Analysis.


“Final decisions have not yet been made, but initial indications are that ten of the C-23B+/SD3-60s will be used to replace all of the Forest Service owned and contracted aircraft used for smokejumping except two agency-owned DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otters that will be retained for backcountry operations. Consequently, the future Forest Service smokejumper fleet will consist of two aircraft models – the C-23B+/SD3-60s and the De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters.

The Forest Service currently owns a total of 7 aircraft to transport smokejumpers, including 4 Short Brothers C-23As; 2 De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters; and 1 Douglas DC-3 TP turbine aircraft. The agency currently contracts for a total of 5 aircraft to transport smokejumpers, including 2 Dornier D0228s; 2 De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters; and 1 Casa 212 for smokejumper operations.

Decisions regarding exact placement of individual aircraft will be made by each Forest Service Region according to their operational needs. The current planning is to replace existing aircraft on a one-for-one basis except for DC-3’s which could possibly be replaced on 2 to 1 ratio for additional lift capability.

Operations and Maintenance

The Forest Service will own all of the Shorts C-23B+/SD3-60 Sherpa aircraft. The agency has chosen a Government Owned-Mixed Operations (GOMO) model for this fleet. This means that some will be operated by Forest Service pilots and others will be operated by private industry under contract. The aircraft will also be maintained under a GOMO model with contractor and agency maintenance. The GOMO model will enable the Forest Service to retain a qualified pool of experts in the smokejumper mission who can help ensure that contract pilots operate the government owned aircraft safely and effectively.
The Forest Service is working to minimize the impacts of this transition on agency and contractor employed pilots as much as possible. Existing Forest Service pilots will be retained as active crewmembers in order to maintain a high level of mission standardization, oversight, and quality assurance for the program. Forest Service pilots will be blended with contractors in most missions. Agency and contract pilots will serve as second-in-command until they achieve agency captain rating for the C-23B+/SD3-60 aircraft.

The Forest Service will issue contract solicitations for operation and maintenance services sometime in Fiscal Year 2015, which began October 1, 2014, to be ready for operations in Fiscal Year 2016, which begins October 1, 2015.”

4 thoughts on “USFS smokejumper aircraft replacement”

  1. So I have some questions; this says “ten” C-23Bs will be used for smokejumper ops. what about the other five aircraft, parts? spares? or are they planning to use some number of them for troop/cargo/VIP transport?

  2. So the USFS is going to carry out its smokejumper program by using aircraft designed for something other than higher elevation airports. These aircraft will work in Redding but McCall?, West Yellowstone? On a 75+degree day in WYS you might be able to put four smjs on the aircraft. By taking the DC-3T out of the system, the agency will need to use more aircraft to staff an escaping fire or deliver a ICT3 and a load to an interface fire. The agency complains about costs but does something that is not taxpayer friendly.

  3. Two power plant aircraft, “if one engine fails the other will get you to the scene of the accident.” Now add hot and high, scary.

  4. Putting a total of 8 jumpers on 2 Sherpas does have one advantage. They can fly off in 2 different directions.

    However if you put 2 jumpers on each of 4 Cessna 206’s they can fly off in 4 different directions.

    Regress is a wonderful thing.


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