The Helena, Montana Air Tanker Base set some records over the last several days while supporting the North Hills Fire. Thanks to the fire being only 9 miles north of the airport and recent improvements made at the base, on Sunday air tankers reloading there completed 68 loads for a total of 231,000 gallons of retardant.
In recent days fixed wing firefighting aircraft at Helena included a DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker, four Large Air Tankers, two Single Engine Air Tankers, three Air Attack ships, and two Lead Planes.
Over the last year at the base the Forest Service upgraded the plumbing and installed two new pumps, two 25,000-gallon retardant tanks, and one 25,000-gallon off-load tank.
According to KTVH the DC-10 was recently able to load, make a drop and reload in a short amount of time. We checked with John Gould, President and CEO of 10 Tanker, who consulted the data submitted by the fight crews that were flying the North Hills Fire. The flight times for each sortie on July 27 and 28, off the runway to back on the runway, ranged from 10 to 24 minutes with most of them in the 15 to 18 minute range. That does not include taxi and takeoff on the 9,000-foot runway. The time the DC-10 spent in the reloading pit getting another 9,400 gallons of retardant was usually around 19 to 21 minutes, block in to block out.
As of Monday night the North Hills Fire had burned 4,688 acres.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Susan and Al. Typos or errors, report them HERE.