Photos of some of the first F7F-3 air tankers

(Originally published at 4:17 p.m. MDT June 20, 2019)

Today we have another couple of photos from the Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base — an F7F-3 (N7625C) registered to Fred Arnberg Inc out of Yreka, California. In these photos there is a small “2” on the tail and also on the nose wheel cover.

A photo at shows an F7F-3 registered to Fred Arnberg with the same N number but with different livery and a large “22” on the tail. That website says Arnberg operated the first F7F-3 Grumman Tigercats as air tankers for several seasons in the early 1960s. This particular aircraft was purchased February 27, 1962 and by September 24, 1962 had hit trees and crashed near Callahan, California.

F7F-3, N7625C
F7F-3, N7625C, registered to Fred Arnberg Inc out of Yreka, California.

In the photo below you can see painted on the underside of the right-side wing.

F7F-3, N7625C
F7F-3, N7625C, registered to Fred Arnberg Inc out of Yreka, California.

And here is one more F7F-3 known as Tanker 22. It is N7238C operated by Cal-Nat Airways out of Grass Valley, California. Other owners were Dick Gordon of Santa Rosa, California and Sis-Q Flying Service of Montague, California.

F7F-3 air tanker (N7238C)
F7F-3 air tanker (N7238C) operated in the 1960s by Cal-Nat Airways and other companies.

(UPDATED at 10 a.m. MDT June 20, 2019)

Bill Bailey sent us an email and the photo below:

N7635C had AERO on the top of the left wing and bottom of the right wing and it has AD on top of the right wing and under the left. There were 2 AERO AD F7F-3s, N7625C , which you posted and N7626C which was later owned by Cal-Nat, still painted all Red and marked as Tanker E-42.

I found the attached photo some years ago and don’t remember who took it.

By the way, that first photo solved a question among modelers that has raged for years ….. was AERO AD painted on top of the wings.

F7F-3, N7626C
F7F-3, N7626C, operated by Cal-Nat Airways, Grass Valley, California. Purchased around 1960 from Aero Ads Inc. skywriter. Sold to Sis Q Flying Service in 1969. (according to Photo by William T. Larkins at Oakland, CA., date unknown.

Thanks go out to Bill B.

(UPDATED at  4:46 p.m. MDT June 20, 2019)

JD Davis sent us additional photos of the F7F-3. Thanks JD!

DC-7, N7626 air tanker
F7F-3, N7626, Tanker 42. By JD Davis, who said tanker pilot Ed Real took it to the ‘California 1000’ Air Race at Mojave Nov, 1971 — Qualified it but didn’t race it.

10 thoughts on “Photos of some of the first F7F-3 air tankers”

  1. We were based at Porterville in 1971 with Aeroflite’s B-17, Tanker B30 for a couple of weeks, and flew on several fires in the Redwoods. There was a F7F based there, also, and would go to the fire and back twice to our once. It was fun to watch it operate.

    1. That would b Dave Kelly Sr. flying the F7F, tanker 64. And Ray Burkhead flying the TBM, tanker 60 at that time.

      1. Wasn’t that aircraft lost later that year. I think I heard that it was lost. One of the Tankers there was a TBM, and I think the pilots name was Frank Blaha. It was a nice tanker base. We were also shipped to Santa Barbara for a couple of days to fly on a fire just to the mountain from downtown. Glad to see that the B-17 was saved and ended up in the museum in Tucson.

  2. 1972 El Cariso was on the Carmen I & II outside of Beckwourth, CA. We spent most of our time on Beckwourth Peak which afforded me an opportunity to get some “coming at you” shots of C-119 and, most notably, F7F drops. Over my 3 Hot Shot seasons, Carmen was the only fire I ever saw an F7F by my recollection. Certainly the only time I ever shot one. It was such an incredible bomber! All engine and retardant belly pod. And powerful. It was distinct before you even saw it. I wish I could go right to those slides but as with so much stuff in my life, they are buried away somewhere within my desert rambler home. LR

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