Air Tanker 914 drops on the Central Fire north of Phoenix

The fire is 4 miles east of Interstate 17 near New River

Air Tanker 914 DC-10 drops retardant Central Fire Arizona Phoenix
Air Tanker 914, a DC-10, drops retardant on the Central Fire, June 20, 2020. Photo by JDH Images.

John Hall of JDH Images took these excellent photos of Air Tanker 914, a DC-10, dropping retardant on the Central Fire at about 5 p.m. June 20, 2020.

Mr. Hall told me that he was a firefighter 18 years ago. You can see more of his photos on Instagram (@jdhimg).

The fire has burned about 2,000 acres east of New River, Arizona. Wildfire Today has more information about the Central Fire.

Air Tanker 914 DC-10 drops retardant Central Fire Arizona Phoenix
Air Tanker 914, a DC-10, drops retardant on the Central Fire, June 20, 2020. Photo by JDH Images.
Air Tanker 914 DC-10 drops retardant Central Fire Arizona Phoenix
Air Tanker 914, a DC-10, drops retardant on the Central Fire, June 20, 2020. Photo by JDH Images.
Air Tanker 914 DC-10 drops retardant Central Fire Arizona Phoenix
Retardant dropped by Air Tanker 914, a DC-10, on the Central Fire, June 20, 2020. Photo by JDH Images.

(UPDATE at 4:38 p.m. MDT June 2, 2020)

I asked Mr. Hall if the retardant line created by the DC-10 Saturday held the fire. He said:

I drove by on New River Road yesterday and it looked like that retardant line held.  It kept the fire from spreading laterally, but it *raced* up the steep slope vertically and then crested onto the New River Mesa.  They’ve been chasing it up top since then. I don’t recall seeing any fire burn through any of the retardant lines on Saturday.  Quite the opposite, actually.

Coulson’s ground-based fleet

Coulson Ground Fleet vehicles helicopters CH-47 fire
Coulson Aviation’s maintenance support vehicles and fuel trucks for their CH-47 helicopters. Coulson photo.

Coulson Aviation posted these photos and text on their Facebook page:

Prior to dispatching out the second half of our Rotary Wing fleet this year we took one afternoon to do a photoshoot with N49CU and the rolling stock. Each CH-47 module consists of a brand-new fuel truck that was custom built to our specifications along with a 53’ ex-Nascar truck/trailer combination as a maintenance support vehicle. Great job to the fleet ops team for getting all this built up in time to go on contract!

Coulson Aviation’s maintenance support vehicles for their CH-47 helicopters. Coulson photo.
Coulson Aviation’s fuel trucks for their CH-47 helicopters. Coulson photo.

Air-Crane heading to Italy

Air-Crane N237AC at Medford, Oregon
Air-Crane N237AC at Medford, Oregon June 16,2020. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Tim Crippin sent us these photos:

I captured some pictures of N237AC at the Medford Airport on June 16th doing some ground tests. This S-64 is destined for the Italian Forest Service sometime this year. After doing their ground tests they returned to Erickson’s Willow Springs facility in Central Point, Oregon.

Air-Crane N237AC at Medford, Oregon
Air-Crane N237AC at Medford, Oregon June 16,2020. Photo by Tim Crippin.
Air-Crane N237AC at Medford, Oregon
Air-Crane N237AC at Medford, Oregon June 16,2020. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Thanks Tim!

Photos of aircraft working the Bighorn Fire near Tucson

As of June 17 the fire had burned over 31,000 acres five miles north of the city

Bighorn Fire RJ85
An RJ85 operated by Aero Flite. Ned Harris photo.

Ned Harris sent us these excellent photos of air tankers and helicopters assisting firefighters on the Bighorn Fire, which as of yesterday had burned over 31,000 acres five miles north of Tucson, Arizona. Thanks Ned!

More information about the Bighorn Fire is at Wildfire Today.

Chinook Bighorn Fire
Billings Helicopters and Heligroup Chinooks. Ned Harris photo.
Bighorn Fire Tanker 164, an RJ85
Tanker 164, an RJ85 operated by Aero Flite. Ned Harris photo.
Bighorn Fire Tanker 105 Tanker 10 BAe-146
Tanker 105 (foreground), an MD-87 (N295EA) operated by Erickson Aero Tanker, and Tanker 10, a BAe-146 (N472NA) operated by Neptune Aviation. Ned Harris photo.
Sikorsky UH-60A Bighorn Fire
A Sikorsky UH-60A operated by Coulson/Unical. N160CD. Ned Harris photo.
Bighorn Fire Tanker 910, a DC-10
Tanker 910, a DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier drops on the Bighorn Fire. N612AX. Ned Harris photo.

Judge refuses to reduce sentence for fatal crash on Iron 44 Fire

Seven firefighters and two pilots were killed in the 2008 helicopter crash

Carson Helicopters

A judge has refused to reduce the sentence for Steven Metheny, 50, the former Vice President of Carson Helicopters whose falsification of records for a Sikorsky S-61N helicopter under contract to the U.S. Forest Service led to the deaths of nine firefighters and crew members.

Metheny was accused of falsifying performance charts and the weights of helicopters his company had under contract to the U.S. Forest Service for supporting wildland fire operations. As of a result of his fraud, a Carson helicopter crashed while trying to lift off with too much weight from a remote helispot on the Iron 44 Fire on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Weaverville, California in 2008. He was sentenced to 12 years and 7 months in prison in 2015 for attempting to defraud the government out of more than $32 million and has been serving time in Lompoc, California.

Nine people were killed, including the pilot-in-command, a U.S. Forest Service check pilot, and seven firefighters. The copilot and three firefighters were seriously injured.

Below is an excerpt from a June 16, 2020 article in the Mail Tribune:

…[Metheny] argued last year that he wouldn’t have pleaded guilty in November 2014 to a count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Medford for lying about helicopter weight limits — which caused the Aug. 5, 2008, Iron 44 crash near Weaverville, California — had he known crash victims were going to be allowed to testify at his sentencing, or that he’d be ordered to repay tens of millions of dollars in restitution upon release from prison.

In a 13-page court order filed May 27, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken denied Metheny’s motion to vacate or correct his June 2015 sentence, saying it doesn’t match Metheny’s allegations of ineffective counsel by his defense lawyer, Steven Meyers, nor does it match the court record.

Judge Aiken also presided over Metheny’s trial.

Metheny went to great lengths after the crash to attempt to conceal the fraud. When he knew that investigators would be examining the company’s operations, he directed other employees to remove weight from other similar helicopters, including taking off a fuel cell and replacing a very heavy battery with an empty shell of a battery. Some of the employees refused to participate in that deception, with one explaining that he was done lying about the helicopter’s weight.

During the trial defense lawyer Steven Myers argued that the helicopter pilot could have avoided the crash by doing a standard maneuver on takeoff, where the pilot hovers and checks his gauges.

Judge Aiken dismissed that argument, noting her father had flown helicopters in the Korean War, crashing 13 times. “Whether the gauges were right or not, the pilot didn’t have the right information,” Aiken told Metheny.

The Forest Service awarded contracts to Carson, including option years, amounting to over $51,000,000. Carson received $18,831,891.12 prior to the FS canceling the contracts.

Levi Phillips, 45, the former maintenance chief of Carson Helicopters, agreed to cooperate with authorities in the case against Mr. Metheny and pleaded guilty to a single charge of fraud. He was sentenced to 25 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised probation.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, there was “intentional wrong-doing” by Carson Helicopters that under-stated the weight of the helicopter and over-stated its performance in the documents they provided to the U.S. Forest Service when bidding on their firefighting contract. The NTSB estimated that the actual empty weight of the helicopter was 13,845 pounds, while Carson Helicopters stated in their contract proposal that the weight was 12,013 pounds. For the purpose of load calculations on the day of the crash, the pilot assumed the weight to be 12,408 pounds, which was 1,437 pounds less than the actual weight estimated by the NTSB. According to the NTSB, for the mission of flying the firefighters off the helispot that day, the helicopter was already over the allowable weight even without the firefighters on board.

In Mr. Metheny’s plea agreement there was an admission that the helicopters had not actually been weighed.

Killed in the crash were pilot Roark Schwanenberg, 54; USFS check pilot Jim Ramage, 63; and firefighters Shawn Blazer, 30; Scott Charlson, 25; Matthew Hammer, 23; Edrik Gomez, 19; Bryan Rich, 29; David Steele, 19; and Steven “Caleb” Renno, 21. The copilot and three other firefighters were seriously injured.

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

Photos of firefighting aircraft on the Elizabeth Fire in southern California

Elizabeth Fire helicopter
This is a new-to-them HH-60L Blackhawk operated by the Ventura County Fire Department.

Jay Widdows sent us these photos he shot June 10 on the Elizabeth Fire north of the city of Ventura in southern California. The fire burned 289 acres. Thanks Jay!

Elizabeth Fire helicopter
Bell 205A-1, Coastal Helicopters.
Elizabeth Fire dozer
This photo by the Ventura County FD is included here to provide a glimpse of the terrain and vegetation.
Elizabeth Fire helicopter
Los Angeles County Firehawk.
Coulson Air Tanker 137
, a B-737.
CAL FIRE's Air Tanker 78
CAL FIRE’s Air Tanker 78, an S2-T
Elizabeth Fire dozer
A Ventura County Fire Department EH-1H.

Colorado to hire an exclusive use large air tanker for the first time

This would be an upgrade over the existing CWN contract. One aircraft that might be considered is a P3 Orion.

air tanker 23 P3 orion dropping
File photo of one aircraft that might be considered for an EU contract for the state of Colorado, a P3 Orion, which made a demonstration drop at Northern Colorado Regional Airport June 28, 2019. It has been under a CWN contract with Colorado. Screengrab from Nine News video.

The state of Colorado intends to contract for an exclusive use (EU) large air tanker. In 2018 they signed a Call When Needed (CWN) contract for a P3 operated by Air Strike Firefighters, but the deal they are negotiating now would be the first time the Division of Fire Prevention and Control has hired an EU large air tanker.

“We are currently working with a vendor to contract one of their large air tankers,” Phillip Daniels said on June 11. He is the agency’s Deputy Chief of the Wildland Fire Management Section.  “It is our desire for the contract to begin soon for 75 days exclusive use, however, we are still in the contracting and inspecting phase of the procurement process. This would be the first occurrence of Colorado contracting [an EU] large air tanker and are ensuring that we are doing it right!  Previously we have only contracted Single Engine Air Tankers and Helicopters.”

This year, as usual, Colorado has EU contracts for two Single Engine Air Tankers and two Type 2 helicopters. The state also owns two Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-Mission” (MMA) fixed wing aircraft used for detection, mapping, and coordination.

Mr. Daniels said his understanding is one of the pilots is initial attack qualified, which means a lead plane will not be required unless there are multiple air tankers working the fire. He said if a lead plane is needed, they will order one through the interagency process.

“And while we occasionally have an ATGS [Air Tactical Group Supervisor] on board the MMA, it’s primary mission is recon,” he explained. “We try not to assign it to missions where it can’t easily be reassigned for detection.”

PC-12 Colorado aircraft MMA
File photo of one of Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft” at Sacramento McClellan Airport March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The first short-haul rescue completed at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Short-haul rescue
Short-haul rescue in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, June 2, 2020. NPS photo by Tom Schaefer.

After training for years, on June 2 park rangers at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park executed their first short-haul rescue in the park.

It involved a man who had taken a 50-foot lead climbing fall on the Scenic Cruise climbing route in Cruise Gully. Despite having a broken ankle, the 43-year-old climber from South Jordan, Utah was able to rappel to the base of the route. Rangers responded to the scene and arranged for a short haul rescue to the south rim helicopter landing pad.

Short haul is the transportation of personnel suspended under a helicopter on a fixed line. Black Canyon rangers have been training with Mesa Verde Helitack for the last two years.

The park is in southwest Colorado northeast of Montrose.