USFS Sherpas to get glass flight decks

The analog instrumentation on the Sherpa aircraft the U.S. Forest Service obtained from the Army will be converted to glass flight decks using the Garmin G950 system. The work is being done by Field Aviation in Oklahoma City who started on the first one in October of last year.

Garmin 950
Example of a Garmin 950 flight deck. It can be configured as a two-display or three-display system with 10- or 12 inch flat-panel LCDs. Garmin photo.

The USFS received 15 of the aircraft which are known by a confusing list of names: Sherpa, C-23B+ (the military designator), and the civilian names of SD3-60, SD-360, and Short 360.

SD3-30. (Similar to, but not one of the SD3-60 aircraft recently received from the Army). USFS photo.

The contract, which has a potential value of $19 million, was awarded on July 29, 2015. At a minimum it will cover the flight deck installations in four of the SD3-60 aircraft with the possibility of converting 11 more.

The USFS expects to use the planes for delivering smokejumpers, cargo, and possibly firefighting personnel. They already have four SD3-30s, a variation, which is a little smaller with less powerful engines. According to Wikipedia the larger SD3-60 has a cruising speed of 249 mph, a range of 732 miles, and can carry 36 passengers (but fewer smokejumpers).

The schedule calls for the delivery of the first aircraft by the end of the third quarter of this year. Modifications on the remaining three Sherpas should be complete by the end of 2017.

On the Garmin G950 system, flight plan information is overlaid on a dynamic map displaying airspace, rivers, lakes, parks and woodland areas – typical landscapes for USFS missions.

The platform, which is 250 pounds lighter than the round dial analog system, also incorporates a terrain awareness and warning system, wide area augmentation system, and localiser performance with vertical guidance approach capability.


Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bill.

5 thoughts on “USFS Sherpas to get glass flight decks”

  1. From the Flight Manuals;
    Airspeed limitations
    Maximum operating 196 KIAS
    Section 2, page 12
    Publication Ref SD3-60/CM

    Maximum operating 198 KIAS
    Section 5, page 1
    T.O. 1C-23A-1

    196 KIAS converts to 225.6 MPH

    From Wildlandfire thread – C-23B is no improvement over the C-23A

    C-23B+ Sherpa.
    3.4% more speed,
    19% more fuel burn.

    Is it worth it?

    Known; the C-23B+ weighs 2000 more pounds than the C-23A.

    Given; the payload (smokejumpers, cargo and fuel) are the same for each aircraft.
    10,000 feet
    ISA +20

    23,000 pounds
    air conditioner – OFF
    IAS 154 kts
    TAS 183 kts
    FF 859 pp/h

    21,000 pounds
    air conditioner – OFF
    IAS 149 kts
    TAS 178 kts
    FF 721 pp/h

    The 250 pounds can be carried in fuel which takes care of 2 hours of the required by contract 3.5 hours endurance.

  2. So let me get this straight…..a 19 million dollar contract for 15 aircraft????

    Am I missing something? Does this seem excessive to anyone else?

  3. I don’t understand the need for a glass cockpit? Excessive, it’s the Government. Why glass, what is wrong with gauges. The crop dusters that I flew over three decades all had “glass cockpits”, except the Snow S2A. I would look between my knees at the lower portion of the hopper and glance through the glass at the amount of material left to apply.

  4. Yeah, Jeff, I thought that 19 million for 15 aircraft seemed high, especially if its just for avionics. If it includes everything else that will be needed to turn these “free” aircraft into serviceable machines, like paint, and FAA inspections, then the figure seems more reasonable, but certainly not “free”.

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