Video shot from above a DC-10 dropping on the Pole Creek Fire

The fire eventually burned 120,000 acres south of Provo, Utah

DC-10 drop Pole Creek Fire 2018
Screenshot from the video below.

In this video a DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker drops fire retardant on the Pole Creek Fire that eventually burned 120,000 acres south of Provo, Utah. The video was shot September 20, 2018 from a mapping aircraft operated by Owyhee Air Research, Inc.

The video can also be seen at YouTube.

According to the long/lat information on the screen, this is the location where it was filmed.

A Facilitated Learning Analysis was conducted about the management of the Pole Creek Fire, since initially it was not aggressively suppressed, but it was hoped that the fire would accomplish some resource management objectives.

Impressive video of DC-10 drop

DC-10 air tanker drop Idaho
A DC-10 dropping on a fire, possibly in Idaho. Screen shot from the BLM video below.

The video below was tweeted by BLM Idaho July 13, 2019 but they did not say when or where it occurred. It may have been at the Ridgeline Fire 5 miles northeast of Albion, Idaho the same day.

It is interesting that the lead plane was much lower than the DC-10. If the tanker had dropped at that height it would have been an extremely low drop and the retardant would have been rapidly moving forward when it impacted the ground. Maybe the lead was low to give the following air tanker pilot a better 3-D perspective of what piece of ground it was over when they released smoke or said “start here”, and they have already agreed on the drop height.

CAL FIRE paints one of their HC-130H air tankers

The aircraft still needs a retardant delivery system

CAL FIRE T-118 HC-130H
CAL FIRE’s Tanker 118 at Sacramento McClellan Airport July 12, 2019.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has taken one visible step toward incorporating the seven HC-130H aircraft into their air tanker fleet. One of them, Tanker 118, showed up at Sacramento McClellan Airport today sporting new livery. And it’s clearly identifiable as a CAL FIRE aircraft, with CAL  FIRE in bold letters behind the cockpit, and below the wing is the state flag. The paint design is similar to that on their S-2T air tankers.

S2 air tankers CAL FIRE facilities McClellan
File photo of S2 air tankers at CAL FIRE facilities at McClellan, March 24, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

In 2013 the U.S. Forest Service was given seven former U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft and Congress appropriated up to $130 million for maintenance and to convert them into air tankers. But after millions were spent the FS lost interest and in August of 2018 they were transferred to the State of California to be used eventually as air tankers.

tanker 118
Tanker 118 at McClellan Air Field, May 3, 2017 when it was operated off and on by the U.S. Forest Service. Photo by John Vogel.

The aircraft was operated off an on for a couple of years by the FS using a slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) retardant system. It was borrowed from the program of using military C-130s during busy portions of fire seasons when a surge capacity was needed. All seven HC-130H aircraft were supposed to receive retardant tanks, but the U.S. Air Force, responsible to see that it was done, dithered on that program for years and it never happened.

T-118 will be getting the rudder painted soon, and one day may receive a conventional internal gravity-powered retardant delivery system.

Chief of CAL FIRE Thom Porter said he expects it to be ready to fight fire in 2021.

If you ever need to kill some time, you can read through the 40 or so articles on Fire Aviation about the troubled U.S. Forest Service HC-130H program. The are all tagged HC-130H.

P3 Air Tanker Water Drop Filmed from 20000 feet

Demonstration water drop Tanker 23, P3 Orion
Demonstration water drop by Tanker 23, a P3 Orion operated by Airstrike. June 28, 2019 at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland, Colorado. Filmed by Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 MultiMission aircraft. Screenshot from the video below.

A P3 Air Tanker, Tanker 23, made a demonstration water drop at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland, Colorado June 28, 2019 while Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 MultiMission aircraft filmed it from 20,000 feet. The aircraft has a Call When Needed contract with the state of Colorado for fighting wildfires.

You can also watch the video on YouTube.

More information about the demonstration, including a video shot from the ground.

A long drop by a DC-10

The Horse Butte Fire has burned 9,400 acres approximately 18 miles northwest of Aberdeen, Idaho. The lightning-caused fire has been moving actively through brush and tall grass. Firefighters are expecting to have it contained by the end of the day on Monday.

The photo below shows a DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker, Tanker 912, dropping on the fire.

Tanker 912 Horse Butte Fire Idaho
Tanker 912, a DC-10, dropping retardant on the Horse Butte Fire in Idaho. Photo by Mike Krupski. Via @GreatBasinCC

SEAT crashes in lake in Portugal

The pilot was not injured

air tanker crash Portugal
Recovery of a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.

A single engine air tanker (SEAT) crashed while scooping water on a lake in Portugal on July 3, 2019. It happened near Trizio, in the municipality of Sertã, in Castelo Branco.

Just after the aircraft’s pontoons made contact with the water the aircraft tipped forward and may have flipped once or twice. It settled upright for a short while as the uninjured pilot self-extricated, then it sank in 25 meters of water.

The aircraft had been based at Proença-A-Nova, in Castelo Branco district.

It appears in the video below that the landing gear was down as it began scooping.


Divers with the Humanitarian Association of Volunteer Firefighters of Cernache do Bonjardim (BV Cernache do Bonjardim) recovered the aircraft from the lake bottom by attaching air bags. When it surfaced it was towed to the shore. These photos by BV Cernache do Bonjardim are used with their permission.

air tanker crash Portugal
Recovery of a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.
air tanker crash Portugal
Recovery of a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.
pontoons air tanker crash Portugal
Pontoons from a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.
sonar air tanker crash Portugal
Sonar was used in the recovery of a Single Engine Air Tanker that crashed in a Portugal lake, July 3, 2019. Photo by BV Cernache do Bonjardim.

Paracargo delivery on the Mendocino National Forest

The BLM in Alaska defines paracargo:

Paracargo is the rigging, loading, and safe aerial delivery of a wide variety of supplies and equipment in support of wildland fire operations.

Most any supply or piece of fire equipment can and has been delivered by paracargo. Packages range from 10 to 1500 lbs in size and large orders are typically palletized for delivery. Typical delivered supplies include food, water, pumps, hose, chainsaws, 4-wheelers, zodiacs, and 55-gallon fuel drums.

Paracargo can deliver goods over long distances and is usually faster and more cost efficient than rotor aircraft. Close to 300,000 lbs. of cargo are delivered in a typical season with over 715,000 lbs. delivered in the busy 2009 season.

Looking back at Air Tanker 127, a PB4Y-2

PB4Y-2 Air Tanker 127 N6884C
PB4Y-2 Air Tanker 127, N6884C, at the Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting, Greybull, WY, May 26, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

In our continuing series of looking back at photos of historic air tankers, today we are featuring Tanker 127, a PB4Y-2 Privateer (N6884C, B. 59701). All of these photos of the aircraft were furnished by the Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base except for the one at the top of this article.

Unlike many of the aircraft that were converted into air tankers from what would now be 50 to 70 year old former military war birds, Tanker 127 still exists today and can be seen at the Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting west of Greybull, Wyoming. Just looking at the external appearance of T-127 it almost appears like it could take to the air again, at least when viewed from a distance. But apparently it has had quite a bit of cosmetic surgery done on its nose.

Consolidated Aircraft produced 739 PB4Y-2s from 1943 until 1945, mostly for the U.S. Navy, but also for the U.S. Coast Guard. Its primary function was as a long-range patrol bomber. Defensive armament included twelve .50-in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in six power operated turrets (two dorsal, two waist, nose, and tail)

PB4Y-2 Tanker 127 N6884C
PB4Y-2 Tanker 127, N6884C, in flight near Reno, 1976.

The Navy and the Coast Guard retired the model in 1954 and 1958, respectively. In the 1950s and early 1960s many of the PB4Y-2s were converted to a drone configuration as P4Y-2Ks to be used as targets.

PB4Y-2 Tanker 127 N6884C
PB4Y-2 Tanker 127 ,N6884C, August, 1975 at Reno-Stead AFB. Photo by J.B. Handwriting on the back of the photo says, “The new N6884C formerly N7962C.”

According to, this aircraft was “up for disposal, circa 1959”, and was later owned by Allied Metal Industries, International Air Applicators, Rosenbalm Aviation, Hawkins and Powers Aviation, Pride Capital Group LLC, and Bob J. Hawkins/D & G Inc.

PB4Y-2 Tanker 127 N6884C
PB4Y-2 Air Tanker 127, N6884C, July 1976. The handwriting on the back of the photo says, “Nose is T-33 canopy cut and turned upright. In fact this nose is new (2 yr) for N6884C and may be from 92 Charlie.”

Quite a few PB4Y-2s were converted into air tankers but their firefighting careers came to an end after the second in-flight major structural failure of Hawkins & Powers air tankers in 2002. The first was T-130, a C-130A working on the Cannon Fire near Walker, California on June 17, killing all three crew members after both wings folded upward and separated from the aircraft.

The second was T-123, a PB4Y-2 on the Big Elk Fire east of Estes Park, Colorado on July 18. From Wikipedia:

The aircraft, operating with the call sign Tanker 123, was loaded with 2,000 US gallons (7,600 L) of retardant. At the time of the accident, it was in a left turn to line up for its eighth drop of the day on the Big Elk fire. While still in the 15–20° left bank, witnesses on the ground and in another tanker observed the left wing separate from the aircraft and “fold upwards”, followed almost immediately by the initiation of a fire. The aircraft continued to roll left, impacting the ground at a 45° nose down attitude, starting a large fire at the wreck site. Both crewmen were killed in the crash.

After those two crashes and five fatalities, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management commissioned a Blue Ribbon Panel to evaluate, “the airworthiness of aircraft that were operating outside of their original intended design”. After the report was released in March, 2003 the USFS and BLM  declined to renew the contracts on nine C-130A and PB4Y-2 airtankers. In a 2003 hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Larry Hamilton of the BLM testified, “The report also identified a lack of training in contemporary aviation management areas that has contributed to an unacceptable accident rate.”

In 2002 44 large air tankers were on exclusive use contracts but after the two accidents the fleet atrophied, reaching a low of 9 in 2013. In 2014 “next-generation” air tankers began receiving contracts and the numbers increased, with 10 to 20 on EU contracts, but only 13 in 2018. The USFS has been using Call When Needed air tankers much more often than before, even though they are much more expensive to operate. The 2017 average daily rate for large federal CWN air tankers was 54 percent higher than aircraft on exclusive use contracts.

PB4Y-2 Air Tanker 127 N6884C
PB4Y-2 Tanker 127, N6884C, at Reno, July, 1976. Photo by Babcock.

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