Update on the CAL FIRE C-130 air tanker program

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YouTuber Juan Browne, “blancolirio”, has an update on the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s progress in converting seven former Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft into firefighting air tankers. It was filmed at Sacramento McClellan Airport and posted to YouTube June 28, 2020.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dave. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

18 thoughts on “Update on the CAL FIRE C-130 air tanker program”

    1. That’s a big mistake High lift wings are stressed much more aerodynamically than low lift ones. Unless you add strengthen spars and wing root reinforcement, the “g” forces imposed on fire fighting maneuvers will will eventually cause stress fractures and worse. BAD idea, this coming from someone who has flown over 4,000 hours in type.

      1. What would be a better airframe to use that has low lift wings? C-13o’s are pretty rugged and firefighting is very similiar to typical AF C-130 low level /airdrop operations / threat maneuvers, etc.

        1. I remember Hawkins and Powers crash, and I worked that aircraft years before the crash, I seen the stress cracks in the dry bays

      2. Frank Bravo – You are spot on regarding the un-suitability of the C-130 for use as an air tanker for a number of reasons. The C-130 is a great airplane when used for its intended mission, which not aerial firefighting. Cal Fire is taking 1950’s technology, adding outdated 1980’s technology and expecting 21st century results. At Aero Union we had systems on the design board that make the old Rads systems look like dinosaurs. The H&P system had design flaws that caused fatal structural problems, the old Rads system was somewhat better but will eventually suffer the same fate. I had major involvement with system design and flight test for both the H&P and Rads C-130’s since their conversions. In my opinion, no amount of engineering will make either of these systems safe and viable for the long term.

        1. If the C-130 is not such a good tanker due to stress cracks/fractures, how is Coulson doing so well with this platform? What does Coulson know, and what are they doing, that most don’t know and are not doing?

  1. another million dollars spent, when calfire just needs to put fires out rather than milking them for state taxpayer dollars. ex. 3 days on a 3acre fire is just plain wrong.

  2. Juan, a few corrections. 1. The US Forest Service is no longer involved with this program at all. We will not be getting them through the USFS. When the work including the retardant drop systems are completed the aircraft titles will go directly from the US Coast Guard to CAL FIRE. We will own and operate them. 2. We plan to have 5 operational C-130’s throughout the state, along with one flyable spare and one aircraft rotating through maintenance not necessarily an IRAN. All seven of these aircraft are coming to us with new or nearly new center-wing and outer-wing boxes, plus fresh PDM’s they will not be due for an IRAN for sometime. 3. With the procurement processes of the Air Force the timeline for getting the 1st tanked C-130 transferred to us is in December of 2021. Your comment gives the impression that they will be available in 2021. They will not. Lastly if you want to know what is going on with the CAL FIRE fleet I would ask that you contact the Aviation Management Unit, that is responsible for the procurement, maintenance and operation of the fleet not the Tanker Base. Thanks

  3. I remember Hawkins and Powers crash, and I worked that aircraft years before the crash, I seen the stress cracks in the dry bays

  4. Say hey there Dennis.
    As always, you do give the facts. Being an ex USCG aviation type, we always respected our aircraft and helicopters, E.City in the day had great quality in their resets and I am sure true today. Best of luck with the Hercs, I spent a lot of time with them and a solid platform.

  5. Is Cal Fire planning to replace and retire the S2’s eventually with the Herc’s or are the C-130’s simply augmenting the current inventory of S2’s?

    1. The plan is to augment the S2-T fleet, while also allowing us to start an IRAN program for the S-2’s to help extend their availability longer b

  6. Thank you Mr. Brown for the reply! I’m glad to hear the S-2’s will be around for the foreseeable future. Have a great 4th! James R.

  7. Here is an excerpt from a Fire Aviation article published January 1, 2014 that details some of the work that had to be done before the Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft were transferred from the Coast Guard to the Forest Service — but now, CAL FIRE instead.

    “In addition to replacing the Center Wing Boxes [as needed], the legislation requires “progressive fuselage structural inspections” for the seven Coast Guard C-130s being transferred to the USFS. If they receive the standard primary structure inspection — known as programmed depot maintenance — that process will take between 180 and 200 days. In February, 2013, the Ogden Air Logistic Complex at Hill Air Force Base in Utah began performing some of the programmed depot maintenance on the Coast Guard C-130s, aircraft which are similar to the C-130s flown by the Air Force, but they have more avionics for radios and radar.”

  8. Bill,
    Why do post Juan’s videos?
    I have watched others he has done, and I don’t think he has all the facts when presenting.

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