The first air tanker drop on a fire

Posted on Categories Fixed wing
first air tanker drop wildfire fire
Reportedly, this is the first operational air tanker drop on a fire — Mendocino National Forest, 1955.

This is the first time I have seen this photo.

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7 thoughts on “The first air tanker drop on a fire”

  1. Check oit the plaque at the Willows airport in Norcal. My understanding is that airframe is in the area and possibly going to be rebuilt.
    Good meal also at Nancy’s Cafe at the airfield.

  2. That plaque at the Willows airport contains the name and facial sketches of the 10 Nor Cal aviators that started this aerial tanker concept. My uncle Lowell McCurley is in this group. He had great stories of how these pioneers configured their crop dusters, mostly Stearmans, into fire fighting beasts.
    I tried to attach a picture of the plaque but no joy
    Chico, CA

    1. Gary , your uncle was quite a guy!
      “Red” Jensen of Sacramento I believe was credited with the first aerial drop on a fire. After the war he converted TBMs to tankers.

  3. Uncle Mac ran the old Lincoln airport after WWII. I remember him having BT-13s that he purchased for $.10 on the dollar. He bought them for their engines. This HP increase made the Stearman a good platform for his dusting business and later aerial drops. The last tanker conversion I remember him doing were surplus Beech 18s. Believe he did use at least one Beech 18 as I remember him being on “standby” at some airstrip. Maybe others here can add info?
    Does anyone know who might be responsible for the creation of the Willows plaque ?

  4. Carl Crossley
    In 1944, Carl Crossley, an OPAS pilot stationed at Temagami, reasoned that if aircraft could be used to drop bombs upon cities in war-torn Europe, then they could be used to drop water on a forest fire. Early expirements with a 45 gallon barrel strapped into the open front cockpit of a Fairchild KR-34 evolved into custom water tanks built the floats of a Noorduyn Norseman. In August 1945 he extinguished a small fire near Elk Lake with his system. Further tests followed however the promising idea was not pursued.
    Bags of Water
    Development of water-bombing systems shifted to the water bag method which was simpler and less expensive. Water-filled bags, each containing 3.5 to 5 gallons of water, were dropped out of the aircaft. Later improvements added a conveyor belt to allow dropping bags out of the bottom of the aircaft in groups of eight. The first operation waterbombing with bags took place on September 9, 1950 from a DeHavilland Beaver on a fire north of Sault Ste. Marie.

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