Photos of USFS Air Tanker 116

USFS air tanker 116 HC-130H

Earlier this week we posted a photo that showed a portion of Air Tanker 116. This is one of the seven HC-130H aircraft that are being transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service to be converted to air tankers. Now we have four more photos that were taken by Bill Tinney while the aircraft was at Robins Air Logistics Compound in Warner Robins,Georgia. Thanks Bill.

The expectation is that T-116 will be delivered to McClellan Air Field by September 15. Sometime after that it will be operated as an air tanker using one of the eight slip-in MAFFS retardant systems until a permanent retardant delivery system is installed.

USFS air tanker 116 HC-130H


USFS air tanker 116 HC-130H USFS air tanker 116 HC-130H

The photo above shows external fuel tanks hanging from the wings. I would be very surprised if the USFS operated the aircraft as an air tanker with the tanks. The HC-130H is designed as a long range search and rescue platform with a 5,000 mile range, longer than the typical C-130. In an air tanker role, fuel is not usually an issue, since it has to continually land to reload with retardant.

13 thoughts on “Photos of USFS Air Tanker 116”

  1. Ironically in 2002 USFS blacklisted all contracted C-130’s and now the agency is looking to operate a fleet of them…
    Granted the Contractors (H&P, TBM, Inc, Hemet Valley, IAR) operated A model Hercs, not E’s or H’s.
    The Maffs system is worthless but the Rads will make these Tankers look real good (besides the fresh paint job).
    Questions remain ; what about the Crews and the Maintenance program?

    To be continued….

    1. Muddy-,why is it you say the MAFFS is worthless? honest question like to say i dont like it,like a real drop..but im not a pilot,nor have i worked with any tanker companies….but i do know that when an S2 would hit me,it seemed to be more effective than when the MAFFS were new (ok new to me)…but id honestly like your opinion on it.

  2. David,

    The concept of a Modular Tank in a Multirole airplane like the C-130 is actually a good idea.
    Apparently the second version of the Maffs is showing better results than the the initial model.
    It seems the Retardant vaporizes and becomes less effective. Especially on Timber. On grass it works. Also the width is narrow.
    For the amount of money invested in aerial fire fighting operations and for efficiency, I’d rather see a Rads Tank (Gravity/Constant flow) than a Maffs…any time.

  3. Maybe its only a “paper play” the idea of the Forest Service operating a multi-mission aircraft seems possible but not plausible. Where is the Forest Service “market”? As for the MAFF systems this is nothing more than a people (taxpayer) pleaser. As mentioned narrow eroding pattern (fire-wind) which does little to accomplish the air attack retardant mission. Once the RAD GRAVITY flow system is installed then the C 130 will become and effective asset. Just maybe the F.S. will staff this National resource one or two aircraft year round to help states that experience threatening destructive wildfires outside exclusive use private contracts. Example, grass fires in the spring in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas. Usually these fires are short duration weather driven fires that recently have resulted in significant looses. Forget that idea. To have a Federal air tanker on the morning of the second burning period or pre-positioned isn’t in the Feds “cards”.

    1. Don’t know enough to get drawn into the MAFFS debate, but did wonder in regard to Bill’s surprise that it still had it’s underwing tanks, whether they (suitably loaded/ballasted) would actually relieve wing bending loads – with possible stress/fatigue life benefits.
      Same argument for structural benefits of underslung jet engines v. rear-mounted?

      1. Interesting issue, Brian. In addition to what I said about extra fuel not being needed on a typical air tanker mission, the weight of the tanks, even empty, could mean the aircraft would not be able to carry a full load of fire retardant, depending on the density altitude and the fuel load. Most air tankers on a hot day have to only partially fill their retardant tanks. The DC-10 is an exception, and possibly the 747 also.

        Carrying extra weight could reduce the amount of retardant carried even more.

  4. When T&G and then Intl Air Response had a contract in France with 2 C-130’s(1994-2000). These fuel tanks helped to cross the pond and stayed on all season. Not an issue.

  5. In the beginning of air tanker development, one of the first tankers was the F7F which used its external wing tanks to deliver retardant. Each tank under the wing and inside the nacelle had a capacity of 250 gallons? As for the F.S. C 130 maybe if its not broke don’t mess with it. The tanks look sort of cool. On downslope drops the tanks may assist in airspeed management creating parasite drag. When loading fuel the further away from the center section of the fuselage the easier it is on the airframe. When the contract for the retardant tank (s) was written I hope there was insight into the future. Anything less than 5000 U.S. gallons would be poor planning. Doesn’t mean you have to carry the maximum but allows a “window” for improvement. Example, newer more powerful power plants in the next decade. Airframe weight reduction (empty weight) and wing tip modifications like winglets. Hopefully the Feds will develop a hot rod and not a flying slug. Or better yet, forget the whole idea and let the private sector carry on. who-ra

    1. Not much room for “improvement” of C-130H max gross takeoff weight. Here’s what the USAF did to validate the center wing box upgrade mod:

      No chance the USFS will pay for a similar study to support an increased wing fatigue life. Center wing box is the limiting structure. Only way to gain payload is to reduce zero fuel weight by stripping out the fuselage.

      1. Thanks for the informative web site. Understand zero fuel and empty weight. That why I mentioned getting the fat out. Comments like wing fatigue life and wing box is limiting factor are appropriate, but scare me. Probably in the early years of air tanker development the industry should have paid more attention to limits and factors. I’m guilty but lucky.

  6. The MAFFS II tanks have a volume of about 3,900 gallons but currently fly with about 3,000 gallons to stay below the 42,000 payload limit (C-130H). New MAFFS systems under development will carry 3,300 gallons with the same tank volume. MAFFS II tanks are pressurized so they are heavy at about 4,200 lbs, not counting supporting structure. This means making the tanks much bigger that what can be used is a lot of wasted weight. 5,000 gallons of retardant would equal 18,000 extra lbs of load compared t0 3,000 gallons. The C-130 is maxed out it too many areas to ever see anything close to a payload increase of that magnitude.

  7. What is this fascination with MAFFS? As seen many times on this web site, good people with interesting ideas and products attempt to contribute in support of the fire fighting community. One common problem is that most of these companies (people) haven’t been exposed to real life experiences in the field. As for a 5000 gallon internal RADS gravity tank an insignificant increase in weight, about three hundred pounds verses a 4000 gallon tank. The first thing a private air tanker operator does when starting to convert an airplane to an air tanker is get rid of the “fat”. A bet the F.S. C-130H could use a Jenny Crank program. The F.S. C-130’s should be “trim” enough to carry 4000 gallon all day. Remember retardant is an expendable load. “H” should stand for hot rod.

  8. I agree with Johnny.
    The concept of Maffs is interesting but so far not comparably effective with a Rads at this point.
    I also would take quality over quantity any day. A good Retardant pattern of 3000 Gallons dropped by an experienced crew and that airplane flying for 25 seasons is smarter than pushing the limit of that airplane’s structural integrity… (Ref: T130. 6/17/2002)
    Another option is…have more C=130 H/Rads 3000 Gallons Tankers! Tank a fleet of J model Hercs too! Don’t the public deserve the best to protect the country from devastating wildfires? But, in any case, Be conservative with their loads and have a top notch maintenance program to keep the crews safe to Load and return…every time.

Comments are closed.