Above: C-130’s line up at Sacramento McClellan Airport April 23, 2018 as MAFFS training begins. Photo by 2nd Lt. Emerson Marcus, 152 Airlift Wing/Public Affairs.
The annual training and recertification has started at Sacramento McClellan Airport for the military C-130 crews who will fly and maintain the MAFFS aircraft this year.
All four of the airlift wings that operate the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System are participating: three Air National Guard units from California, Nevada and Wyoming, and one U.S. Air Force Reserve unit from Colorado. Following the crash of MAFFS 7 in 2012 near Edgemont, South Dakota, the U.S. Forest Service and the military units have made an effort to have all four units in one place at the same time each year for the training.
“Training with all four MAFFS wings alongside the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and other wildland firefighting agencies here in Sacramento provides a significant opportunity as we prepare for wildland fire season,” said Col. James DeVere, commander of the MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group and 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve. “Training collectively ensures overall standardization of operations while continuing to build working relationships with the key players in the wildland firefighting community. It is rewarding as guardsmen and reservists to stand alongside our agency partners, knowing that we help make a difference protecting our citizens and their property.”
The U.S.D.A. Forest Service’s MAFFS equipment — rolled into the back of a C-130 aircraft — can drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in six seconds through a nozzle on the rear left side of the plane.
The certification training includes classroom sessions and flight operations for military flight crews, lead plane pilots and other support personnel from the U.S. Forest Service and other wildland firefighting agencies.
Training water drops will be executed on lands within the Tahoe and Shasta-Trinity national forests. California residents in these areas may see low-flying U.S. Forest Service lead planes and C-130s dropping water Tuesday through Friday.
MAFFS aircraft are activated to supplement commercial air tankers contracted by the USDA Forest Service when high wildfire activity requires additional aircraft. They can also be activated by governors to assist with wildfire suppression in states where the Air National Guard units that provide the C-130s are located — California, Wyoming, and Nevada.