An S-2 air tanker working on the Clover fire southwest of Redding, California experienced a problem that caused the pilot to have to shut down one of the two engines. It occurred while the aircraft was returning to Chico to reload with retardant. The pilot landed the aircraft safely at Chico according to the Willits News.
Last month Tanker 910, a DC-10, lost their #2 engine just after making a drop on the Beaver Creek Fire in Idaho. They also landed safely, but at Pocotello, Idaho, their reload base.
DC-10 photos on the Morgan Fire
Claycord has three excellent photos of one of the DC-10s (or both of them?) dropping on Mt. Diablo during the Morgan Fire 18 miles east of Berkeley, California. When you visit the site, click on the photos to see larger versions. Both of the DC-10s responded to the fire but soon thereafter were diverted to the Clover Fire near Redding, California which was threatening numerous structures.
This is the eighth in a series of articles on FireAviation.com featuring aerial firefighters answering 12 questions about their profession. We hope to get participation from senior pilots, as well as Air Operations Branch Directors, Air Tactical Group Supervisors, and others that have worked closely with fire aviation. Our objective is to not only provide our readers with interesting articles, but these very experienced aerial firefighters may also reveal a few gems of information that could prove to be valuable to those considering or just beginning a career in fire aviation. If you have a suggestion of someone who would be a good candidate for these questions, drop us a line through our Contact Us page. And their contact information would be appreciated.
Today we hear from Wally Griffin, who has served as an air tanker pilot, lead plane pilot, and a Chief Pilot in Alaska.
Who is one of the more memorable aerial firefighters you have known? And why?
Don Ornbaum…..he taught me to fly the DC-7 in the fire environment…..a VERY interesting experience.
One piece of advice you would give to someone before their first assignment working on a fire?
Pay attention to the objectives of the Team and IC.
Besides the obvious (funding), what is the number one thing government Fire and Aviation should focus on?
Resource value and social impact of the fire.
One suggestion you have for ground-based firefighters about fire suppression tactics, or working with aircraft?
Use aircraft for those aspects of suppression that you cannot see or anticipate.
One thing that you know now that you wish you had known early in your career?
Our best efforts are not always enough to achieve the goals we intended.
Which two aircraft manufactured within the last 20 years would make the best air tankers?
Without further information I cannot with any degree of accuracy name aircraft that I have not flown…..sorry.
List the aircraft you have flown, or flown in, on fires. Which is your favorite, and why?
C-123, DC-4, DC-6, DC-7, OV-10, Commander, Aero Commander.
The funniest thing you have seen in aerial firefighting?
While flying with Don Ornbaum (his flight), the Lead asked us to tag onto a MAFFS drop…….Don climbed to about 4,000 ft where the MAFFS drop was hanging and dropped 3,000 gallons and then asked lead how the drop looked……it might have hit the ground in a week.
How many hours have you spent in firefighting aircraft?
Your favorite book about fire, firefighting, or aerial firefighting?
The first job you had in aerial firefighting?
Co-pilot on an Airtanker.
What gadgets, electronic or other type, can’t you live without?
A problem detected on Air Tractor Fire Boss AT-802F amphibious Single Engine Air Tankers is preventing some of them from being used by federal land management agencies. Cracks in the tail support structure were found on two Fire Boss aircraft.
The Bureau of Land Management’s exclusive use contracts with the Fire Bosses have expired for this year, but the agency has made a decision not to use them on call when needed contracts until they are satisfied the problems have been corrected. However Don Smurthwaite of the BLM emphasized to us that the aircraft are not grounded and they believe the issue is not widespread. The contractor is working to solve the problem.
Since the BLM administers the single engine tanker program for all the federal agencies this has stopped the use of the Fire Boss aircraft on all fires where a federal agency has operational control.
One Fire Boss under contract to the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), Tanker 851, has been inspected and given a clean bill of health and will continue to fly on fires where the IDL has operational control.
The Coulson Company announced that they no longer have a contract with the government of British Columbia for their water-dropping Martin Mars amphibious air tanker. The 7,000-gallon aircraft has been helping firefighters suppress fires for 53 years, and has dropped over 8,000 loads. Built in the 1940s, it was converted into an air tanker with the capability to drop plain water or gel on fires.
“It has been an honour, over the last seven years, to operate the aircraft and continue the tradition of the past men and women who have safely operated and supported the Hawaii and Philippine Mars in firefighting roles,” said Coulson Group CEO Wayne Coulson.
“The commitment to excellence that the Mars operation has displayed over the last 53 years is outstanding, given the difficult firefighting missions faced in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. There will never be another aircraft that can kill a wildfire like the Mars with its ability to directly attack fire with a pay load of 27,000 litres.”
Mike McMillan took these photos of aircraft working on the Rim Fire in California on August 29, 2013 for the U.S. Forest Service. Earlier we posted some photos of UH-60 Blackhawks and HH-60 Pave Hawks arriving at Columbia Airport to be used on the fire.
Below are two videos posted by J N Perlot showing the DC-10 dropping on the Rim Fire. In the first one, on August 24, the approach to the drop begins at about 1:50.
In the next video, shot on August 31, the approach to the drop begins at about 1:00.
For a decade or two CAL FIRE and U.S. Forest Service aviation managers been talking off and on with officials at the Castle Airport (MER), 8 miles northwest of Merced, California, about using it as an air tanker base. As a former Air Force base with an 11,802-foot runway, and its location in central California near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it could be a valuable resource for any fire aviation asset, but especially for Very Large Air Tankers like the DC-10 or 747.
Finally, prompted in part by the nearby Rim Fire, 40 miles from the airport, the U.S. Forest Service recently signed an agreement with Merced County to allow the airport to be used as an air tanker base. Tuesday of this week both DC-10 air tankers began using it to reload with retardant, making the round trip to and from the Rim Fire every 30 to 40 minutes, dropping 11,600 gallons with every trip.
According to the Modesto Bee:
Under the agreement, Merced County will charge the Forest Service through a series of fees: $225 per month for the 5,200-square-foot building lease, $450 per day for the 551,600-square-foot ramp and 50 cents per 1,000 pounds a plane weighs upon landing, according to county staff.
With a DC-10 air tanker weighing about 368,000 pounds, it will cost around $184 for each landing. The fee for landing a 6,505-pound single-engine Air Tractor AT-802 with an 820-gallon retardant capacity would be about $3.
For now, at least, the Tanker Base will be on call when needed status, staffed only if there is a specific need.
The video below has information about this new use for the Castle Airport.
The California National Guard is operating a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle over the Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park. The MQ-1 Predator is streaming real-time video down to the Incident Command Post and reportedly alerted firefighters to a flare-up they otherwise would not have immediately seen.
This is not the first time that a large Predator-type drone has been used to collect real-time imagery of wildland fires. In 2008 and again in 2009 NASA made available their Ikhana Predator B UAV.
Here is an excerpt from the StarTribune with more information about the current use of the National Guard’s Predator:
…While unmanned aircraft have mapped past fires, use of the Predator will be the longest sustained mission by a drone in California to broadcast information to firefighters in real time.
The plane, the size of a small Cessna, will remain over the burn zone for up to 22 hours at a time, allowing fire commanders to monitor fire activity, determine the fire’s direction of movement, the extent of containment and confirm new fires ignited by lightning or flying embers.
The drone is being flown by the 163rd Wing of the California National Guard at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside and is operating from Victorville Airport, both in Southern California. It generally flew over unpopulated areas on its 300-mile flight to the Rim Fire. Outside the fire area it will be escorted by a manned aircraft.
Officials were careful to point out the images are being used only to aid in the effort to contain the fire.
Today NASA conducted a crash test of a helicopter full of instrumented crash test dummies. Researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton dropped a 45-foot long helicopter fuselage from about 30 feet to test seat belts and other crash data.
It is unfortunate that this test was not done before the 2008 crash of the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter on the Iron Complex fire near Weaverville, California in which nine firefighters died. Seat belts was one of the problems identified in the NTSB’s investigation of that crash.
For today’s test the Navy provided the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter fuselages, seats, crash test dummies and other experiments for the test. The Army contributed a litter experiment with a crash test dummy. The Federal Aviation Administration provided a side-facing specialized crash test dummy and part of the data acquisition system. Cobham Life Support-St. Petersburg, a division of CONAX Florida Corporation, also contributed an active restraint system for the cockpit.
Computers on the helicopter recorded more than 350 channels of data as the helicopter was swung by cables into a bed of soil. The helicopter hit the ground at about 30 miles per hour, which represents a severe but survivable condition.