A shocking drop by a BAe-146

BAe-146 retardant drop
A BAe-146 exits the target area after making a retardant drop. Screenshot from the video below.

At the end of this video of a retardant drop by Neptune’s Tanker 01, a BAe-146, you will hear a four-letter word. After watching, you will fully understand why.

Did you notice the dust being kicked up as the aircraft skimmed over the ridge?

(UPDATE: a SAFECOM was filed that may be related to the incident above)

Tanker 01 is currently working for the U.S. Forest Service on an exclusive use contract.

Here is a great shot of a CL-215 or 415:

And another:

And, a Single Engine Air Tanker on the Paint Mine Fire three miles northwest of Nephi, Utah


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17 thoughts on “A shocking drop by a BAe-146”

  1. Good drop, good drop height. With rising terrain on the exit, it’s very possible to have reduced clearance on the way out, so not too surprising. The best tell of altitude is the relationship of the shadow to the airframe as it approaches the ridge line. Ground effect and the height at which wingtip vortices will begin to pick up dust like that, is about half the wingspan.

    So long as the crew had a good visual on the ridge in planning their exit, it doesn’t appear to be a problem.

    1. Having a good visual on the exit terrain and knowing you have the performance to clear it (especially if the load failed to exit) are two different things. I’ve never attempted a drop if the exit required and immediate climb. Thank God they cleared the ridge!

      1. The crew appears to have known both.

        I have exited with less terrain clearance than I had on the drop itself, thousands of times.

        What I need to know when entering the drop is that I can exit with the load on board, if I can’t lose the load.

  2. “quiet on the set!” Cameras start rolling. What is up with these drops that show little or no smoke/flames?

    1. We do a lot of drops where there are no smoke and flames; sometimes to support a line that’s being put in such as reinforcing a dozer line, sometimes to work ahead of a line going in, sometimes to pre-treat an area, sometimes to extend a line ahead to prevent fire spread, sometimes to reinforce an area where the line is weak or inaccessible by ground crews, etc.

      Hard to say what’s really going on with the fire tactics without a bigger picture a knowledge of what the fire personnel were dealing with at that exact time. There’s often a lot of change from the time the tanker is requested to when it shows up, or from the time we leave a fire to when we return; the fire may have reversed direction, winds may have shifted, fire behavior may have picked up or died down. It’s possible that a storm is moving in, with anticipation of a wind increase or shift, and drops begin in advance of that wind change. It’s also possible that when a video is shot, we’re seeing only a portion of the fire; the active fire may be elsewhere and this may be tying off a spot fire, isolating a fire run, protecting a terrain feature such as a ridge or draw or island etc, or there may be something specific in the drop area that needs additional protection.

      I’ve dropped in the middle of fires when there’s containment on the outside, for cattle, structures, and other things that are within the fire interior; the fire may be burning elsewhere but that doesn’t mean it’s secure inside the fire line. We turned a herd of cows in Montana pink once, that would have otherwise likely been killed (and the rancher threatened to sue…).

      Angles, elevations, etc, can all look different than what they actually are, thanks to the perspective of the photographer, and a lack of overall context. Remember that here, we’re not seeing what the crew saw in the cockpit.

  3. >Ground effect and the height at which wingtip vortices will begin to pick up dust like that, is about half the wingspan.<

    BA146/RJ85 has a wingspan of 86 feet.

    Defend it all you want, but no one needs to be within half a wingspan of the ground unless they're landing.

    1. I didn’t defend it, and I wasn’t flying it. Got a complaint? Talk to the crew.

      Drop height on SEATs used to be considerably lower than the 60-100′ they call for now…it wasn’t uncommon to be at 15′ on the drop for a long time, and I’ve been in heavy tankers and seen heavy tanker drops considerably lower. As for the exit, a different matter than drop height, again, you can talk to the crew.

      They may well have found themselves in a place they didn’t intend to be. It happens. If it hasn’t happened to you, it’s probably be your first season. If it has happened to you, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

      1. You can’t have it both ways, vigorously defending it and then saying “I didn’t defend it”

        1. I haven’t defended a thing. The crew can do that if they wish.

          Again, if you’ve never experienced that, you’re in your first season.

          1. The most important thing is that this video captures hazard of “hidden ridge lines”. I’m sure the crew never saw the close-in ridge that was camouflaged by the more distant one. Please, take this as a learning opportunity that no one had to die for.

  4. THANK YOU DOUG for your experienced, reasoned, fact-filled posts. It’s so much fun to sit on the bleachers and fuss and cuss, but Gabbert and the rest of us are fortunate to have some commentary from you.

    Blue skies and have a TERRIFIC day.

  5. Quite true. It underscores the value of a lead, of making multiple turns on a drop to inspect it from different angles and lighting, etc, and it’s very true that terrain looks very different up close on a drop run than it may have looked on the overhead or even approach. This is more true of subtle variations than high-angle work.

    Very quickly, I can think of a few events in the past few years in which the terrain was deceptive in lay, color, and lighting. One was a drop in southern Arizona in which a lead assured me that there was no rising terrain, though it appeared that way. I got into the drop and found it wasn’t good, wouldn’t have dropped when I saw how much the terrain came up on the exit, but put the load out anyway because I felt I needed the performance, and exited. I don’t blame the lead, but he didn’t face nearly the same performance restrictions on exiting with a load, and certainly didn’t take that into account. The terrain was flattish and rolling, and the drop point slightly lower than the surrounding terrain; deceptively so, but required a climb that turned out to be considerably more than it appeared.

    Every drop is a learning experience, whether our own or another.

  6. Check out, time dilation. Teaching new ag pilots I use this term. The closer you become to an object the faster the closure rate becomes. Race car drivers as they begin to spin, feel the wall is not that close. That last second before hitting the wall occurred in the blink of an eye.

  7. The first video of the Super Scooper on the lake shows the CL-415 variant. The engine nacelles are entirely different from its CL-215 brethren.

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