Joe “Hoser” Satrapa — RIP

“He never landed with his gear up”

Joe "Hoser" Satrapa
Air tanker 89, the S-2T flown by Joe “Hoser” Satrapa. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

A well known air tanker pilot passed away March 17. Joe “Hoser” Satrapa was known most recently as an S-2T pilot for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection flying Tanker 89 out of Grass Valley, California. But his flying career was much more than that. In the Navy he flew combat missions over Vietnam in an F-8 Crusader and an A-5 Vigilante. Later he moved into EC-121Ks and F-14s and was one of the four developers of the Navy fighter weapons school, Top Gun.

Joe "Hoser" Satrapa
Joe “Hoser” Satrapa, in a screengrab from News10 video.

A few years after retiring from the military and flying air tankers for a while, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman personally called and talked him into returning to the Navy to again teach fighter tactics at Top Gun with the rank of full Commander. After doing that for several years he returned to the cockpit of air tankers.

Below is an interview uploaded to YouTube in 2013 in which Hoser tells a story about losing visibility over a fire when his windscreen was covered by retardant. Dropped by another air tanker, the viscous liquid was was lifted by rising air.

Hoser was a highly skilled pilot and an outspoken and colorful individual, characteristics that generated many stories. Here is a link to one about a simulated aerial battle. While flying an F-14 he scored a kill on an F-15 using his fighter’s 16mm gun, not a missile. The brass at the Pentagon were horrified, worried that if the gun camera’s photos were released the dogfight would scuttle Japan’s plan to purchase 21 of the supposedly more advanced F-15s.

Joe “Hoser” Satrapa F-14 vs F-15
An image from the gun camera on Hoser’s F-14 Tomcat showing a lock on an F-15 Eagle.

Below is an article about Hoser posted on the Facebook page of the Nevada Yuba Placer Unit of CAL FIRE. It includes the fact that he had his tombstone made years ago to ensure it included these words:

Here lies Hoser
A fighter pilot
He never landed with his gear up.

Jimmy Barnes of the Associated Aerial Firefighters wrote the excellent piece below. It is used here with permission.


March 18, 2019 – Thirty-three years ago, I was a Co-Pilot for Chuck Bartak on a DC-6 at Chico Air Attack Base. On the first day of the contract we had our pre work meeting With Chief Don (Bigfoot) O’Connell presiding. Sitting quietly on the couch was a tall, lean gentleman in a tailored orange flight suit. His appearance was so dapper that I naturally assumed that he was a U.S. Forest Service Lead Plane Pilot. Then I noticed that on his name tag, in addition to his name, there was one word in big bold letters. It read, HOSER, with a set of Navy wings affixed to the tag. I introduced myself;

“Hi I’m Jim Barnes, I’m Chuck’s Co-Pilot on the six, who are you with”?

“Just call me Hoser, I’m flying with that big f****r over there”. He pointed to Bigfoot and I realized that he was our new Air Attack Pilot.

“Why do they call you Hoser”?

“Well when I was a new pilot in the Navy, during training in the gun pattern, I rolled in on the target and shot all my ammo in one pass. The instructors called me Hoser after that and it became my handle for the next twenty years”.

“Where did you go to flight school for jet training”?

“Kingsville in Corpus Cristy”.

“Kingsville is Wingsville and at Beeville you attrite with the best”?

“I’ve heard that one before, what’s your story”?

“I fell on my sword in A-4 training for bad procedures and busting an AN-10 instrument check at the wrong time of the fiscal year. I was so close to the end of training that I was slated for C-130 school in Littlerock”.

“C-130s, that’s where all the bottom feeders go. You would have been a shitting post for some grizzly old Major, you’re lucky you flunked out. Flying instruments in an A-4 is hard, I had trouble with it too”.

I thought, this guy is putting me on. A fighter pilot who has both humility and empathy for the less fortunate, how could such a travesty occur?

What he said next convinced me that he was the biggest bullshit artist that I had ever encountered and there was no shortage of bullshit artists in the tanker business.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, the Secretary of the Navy called me and he wants me to come back in the Navy and teach fighter tactics and gunnery as a Flight Duty Officer”.

I had been around the Navy for quite a while and I had never heard of such a title. He continued on.

“I told him that I would only come back in if I could keep collecting my retirement pay and if he would promote me to full Commander”.

Now I was convinced that this guy was smoking dope.

A while later our phone rang. Chuck, my Captain, picked it up.

“Hoser it’s for you. Somebody from the Department of the Navy”.

Continue reading “Joe “Hoser” Satrapa — RIP”

Flight simulator developed for CL-415 air tanker

CL-415 simulator
Screengrab from Tru Simulation and Training’s video.

Tru Simulation and Training has developed a flight simulator for the CL-415 water scooping air tanker. The description of the video below explains that it covers “water take-offs, taxiing, landing and water collection”, but does not mention dropping water on a fire. However it does display “shifting wildfire conditions; even flames that change in shape and intensity.”

Description from YouTube:
“Introducing the CL-415 full flight simulator, developed in partnership with Ansett Aviation. The first training device of its kind in the world, the CL415 is the result of TRU’s proven expertise in training for aquatic-capable aircraft. Until now, no other simulator existed for this essential wildfire training need. Leveraging insights gained from developing the Viking Twin Otter simulator, TRU designed the CL415 trainer to deliver the ultimate high-fidelity experience—complete with vivid simulations of real pilot challenges.

“Safely inside the simulator, trainees build their skills while performing foundational tasks, such as water take-offs, taxiing, landing and water collection. All while experiencing the most true-to-life environment inside the cockpit—down to the strength of the waves when working near water. Completely unique in its capabilities, the CL415 simulator recreates what no other simulator can. Trainees are faced Three-dimensional, dynamic wind streaks gust above 15 knots to give pilots an incredibly realistic experience.

“TRU’s one-of-a-kind CL415 simulator provides pilots a safe environment to test the limits and build their confidence. Because when the stakes are this high, it takes courage and mastery to pull off a successful mission. And the journey to feeling ready for the challenge…begins here.”

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

A P3 Orion air tanker will be forward deployed to Colorado next month

It will be available on a call when needed contract with the state of Colorado

Air tanker 23 Pe orion
Airstrike’s Air Tanker 23. It will be forward deployed in April in Colorado, ready to be activated on a state CWN contract to fight wildfires. Photo by Sergio Mara, Sacramento McClellan Airport, January, 2019.

Airstrike Firefighters is making progress toward their goal of putting seven P3 Orion air tankers formally owned by Aero Union back into service. The aircraft have not been used on a fire since the U.S. Forest Service canceled the contract July 29, 2011 due to the company “failing to meet its contractual obligations”, according to the agency.

As we reported in August, Airstrike signed a Call When Needed (CWN) contract last year with Colorado for their P3 air tankers to be used as required by the state.

Tanker 23 (N932AU) is presently receiving a few finishing touches at the Airstrike facilities at Sacramento McClellan Airport. Scott A. Schorzman, Airstrike’s VP Business Development, said the tanker will be forward deployed to the Northern Colorado Regional Airport at Fort Collins around the second week of April, ready to be activated on a state CWN contract to fight wildfires.

Airstrike has two other P3 air tankers at their hanger at McClellan that are undergoing inspections, maintenance, and installation of equipment necessary for federal contracts.

P3 Orion air tanker 22
Tanker 22. Photo by Sergio Mara, Sacramento McClellan Airport, January 2019.

Mr. Schorzman expects Tanker 22 to be complete around May of this year. They will be leasing the aircraft from Buffalo Airways who purchased it from Blue Aerospace/United Aeronautical Corporation, the company that acquired seven of the P3s after Aero Union’s bankruptcy.

P3 Orion air tanker 17
Tanker 17. Photo by Sergio Mara, Sacramento McClellan Airport, January 2019.

Then, next out the hangar doors will be Tanker 17 with an expected completion date of early to mid summer. After that Mr. Schorzman said they will begin working on the remaining four P3s.

P3 Orion air tanker 17, 22, 23
Tankers 17, 22, and 23, all P3 Orions. Photo by Sergio Mara, at Sacramento McClellan Airport, January 2019.
P3 Orion air tanker 17, 22
Tankers 17 and 22. Photo by Sergio Mara, Sacramento McClellan Airport, January 2019.

Thanks go out to Sergio Mura. He took all of these P3 photos in January of this year.

In March of 2018 when I visited Airstrike’s hangar the only P3 present was Tanker 23. You can see that article and the photos here.

Deployments for the two DC-10 air tankers in Chile drawing to a close

T-910 is en route back to U.S.

air Tanker 910 in Chile, 2019
Tanker 910 in Chile, 2019. Photo by Diego Cuadra.

One of the two DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers that deployed to Chile is en route back to the United States now that the wildfire activity has slowed and the contract has ended. It is scheduled to land at San Antonio at 6:59 p.m. CST today, March 2, after a stop in Manta, Ecuador. On FlightAware it is operating as TNKR910, N612AX. 10 Tanker Air Carrier’s headquarters is at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

T-910 departed from San Bernardino, California on February 6, arrived in Chile the following day, and went to work dropping on wildfires February 8. During its first day on the job in the country a tread separated on a main landing gear tire and the debris damaged an inboard flap. The crew completed repairs three days later.

Air tanker 910 DC-10
Air tanker 910, a DC-10, en route back to the United States. FlightAware.

The second DC-10, Tanker 914, arrived in Chile on February 11. Its contract ends next week and then it will be heading back north.

The two DC-10s have been working out of three airports stretched across 572 miles of the long, narrow country — Santiago, Concepción, and Puerto Montt.

As of March 1, the two aircraft have completed 133 missions dropping a total of 1.2 million gallons, an average of 9,022 gallons per mission, said John Gould, President of 10 Tanker Air Carrier. For the first week or two they were dropping plain water since there is no fire retardant in Chile, but later fire officials requested they use BlazeTamer, a concentrated water enhancer that can be injected into the tank using the existing equipment on the air tankers. The product was used on 33% of the missions.

air Tanker 914 in Chile, 2019
Tanker 914 dropping in Chile, 2019. Photo by Giovanni Inostroza Umana.

Photos and videos of DC-10 air tankers working wildfires in Chile

Two DC-10s air tankers from the United States are in Chile: T-910 and T-914

Air Tankers 910 and 914 Chile fires
Tankers 910 and 914 at the Carriel Sur airport near Concepción, Chile. Photo: Mauricio Henriquez

Two DC-10s are under contract in Chile, Tanker 910 and Tanker 914.

In the first of two videos below, a DC-10 is flying alongside the lead plane. Below that one of them can be seen in a very shaky video dropping behind the Chilean Navy lead plane.

A Chilean Navy P-295 (as seen below) is serving as a lead plane for the DC-10. Also known as a Casa, a P-295 served as a lead plane ahead of the 747 when it worked in Chile in 2017. He was not allowed to fly it, but former smokejumper and lead plane pilot Jamie Tackman went along as a passenger in the Casa in 2017, kneeling between the pilots, giving them instructions on where and when to drop. This year there are no U.S. lead plane pilots in the P-295.

The video below shows the DC-10 on its first day of work in Chile.

Continue reading “Photos and videos of DC-10 air tankers working wildfires in Chile”

More air tankers becoming available in Kansas

map wildfires kansas
The red areas represent wildfires in Kansas detected by a satellite at 4:07 p.m. MST March 6, 2017.

After numerous devastating wildfires in 2017 the Kansas Forest Service began a program to make more single engine air tankers (SEAT) available to assist firefighters on the ground.

Below are quotes from a KSN interview of agricultural pilot Bill Garrison, one of the seven pilots that Kansas can draw upon to operate a SEAT as needed now that they have gone through a day of field and tactical training.

The quicker you are on top of the fire, fighting it, the better results you have.

When we get a phone call, we go dump water on the fire.

Flames were over the cockpit of the airplane. I was flying at night.