Tanker 116 sees action at Phoenix

Air Tanker 116 HC-130H retardant

Above: Air Tanker 116, an HC-130H, sprays retardant on a fire near Phoenix, June 22, 2017. Fox 20 Phoenix.

Tanker 116 saw some action today, dropping on a fire near Phoenix that closed Interstate 17. Fox 10 got a pretty fair shot of the drop, but unfortunately the camera operator, perhaps not experienced in covering air tankers, followed the aircraft very closely all the way through the drop so it was difficult to tell which of the two parallel retardant drops was made by T-116. Yes, there were two drops parallel to each other. One looked like it was very wide but the coverage on the ground was very thin. The other was much more narrow and and had better coverage.

The video below shows the drop, and I found it at 2:40:45, but when I first saw it, it was at a different time stamp. The video should begin a few seconds before that point, but it you don’t see it there, check a couple of minutes on each side.

The image below shows the two parallel drops. It is difficult to tell from the video which one was made by the HC-130H.

retardant drops
The two parallel drops can be seen at the lower-right. Screen grab from the Fox 10 video.
The news people in the audio have some problems with aircraft ID in that video and at another spot in the same video. At about 2:22:15, there is a second drop and you will hear the news people identifying a lead plane as a Single Engine Air Tanker and what is either an RJ85 or a BAe-146 as a DC-10.

About 2 to 3 minutes after that second drop, a third drop (at 2:25:45) is similar to the second one, and is possibly the same but from a different angle. I am fairly certain this third drop is an RJ85, since you can see the pregnant bulge on the belly.

The very lengthy video goes back to a fire near Los Angeles several times. The image below, a screenshot, show a retardant drop that affected several homes.

retardant drop houses Los Angeles
Retardant gets dropped on homes at fire near Los Angeles. Fox 20 Phoenix.
T-116 is using, not a conventional gravity retardant tank, but a pressurized Modular Airborne FireFighting System rig that is normally only used in military aircraft that have been temporarily drafted into an air tanker role by loading a MAFFS unit in the cargo hold. The compressed air that blows the retardant out of the 3,000-gallon tank sprays it out of a nozzle, breaking the thickened retardant into very small droplets. T-116 and six other HC-130H’s are in the process of being transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service. If the process is complete by the end of this decade as the agency expects, all seven will have conventional gravity-powered retardant delivery systems and will be operated and maintained by contractors, but owned by the USFS.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom and Brian.
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4 thoughts on “Tanker 116 sees action at Phoenix”

  1. The news people also have problems with geography. Pretty sure the fire “in Los Angeles” is the Toll Fire in Vallejo, north of San Francisco. Sadly, better coverage than I saw in the Bay Area.

  2. “If the process is complete by the end of this decade as the agency expects,”

    Hedging a little, Bill? It’s too bad we all have the same level of expectation of the program, I still believe it’s the right thing to do. It sure would be nice to have the aircraft available with a RADS style tank sooner than later. As I envision things in my utopian mind, you send the contractors where things are busy, and have the USFS aircraft available at the fringes, where CWN isn’t viable. Maybe even have CWN go away, and have all of the contractor aircraft on exclusive use contracts. And get the MAFFS back to surge capacity, when we get to PL 4 or 5.

  3. MAFFS drop a narrow line, but the Coverage Level is consistent from end to end. MAFFS can go up to about CL 8 on the newer system. The Coulson tank system is probably the best out there btw

  4. They did spend a lot of $$$ on that “303 fire”-basically a grass fire surrounded by roads. T-163, T-912, and 116 made drops. Could speculate that the “thin” drop was made by the VLAT-dropping from the higher alt which makes lesser-coverage lines that are weak. Even the MAFFS spigot can make that “thicker” line when the alt is low enough. At the time this was underway, T-131 was also at IWA on hold-with the others-and the monsterjet was sent with 116. The Coulson Herc could have done a good job at less cost. Our tax dollars at work. Still believe that contractors should be allowed to take those CG Hercs, get-em done, and put em in service with the gravity-systems !!

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