First drop by a 737 on an active fire

On November 22 Air Tanker 137 dropped on a bushfire in New South Wales

tanker 137 Boeing 737 drop first wildfire bushfire
On November 22 Air Tanker 137 made the first drop by a Boeing 737 on an active fire. It occurred in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. Screenshot from NSW RFS video.

On November 22 Air Tanker 137 made the first drop by a Boeing 737 on an active fire. It occurred in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia.

In these photos the aircraft was dropping gel, which clings to the vegetation and retains the moisture.

Coulson completed the conversion of the 737 a few months ago and it is now working on a contract with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service during their summer. Nicknamed “Gaia”, it arrived at Richmond RAAF Base near Sydney November 11 after a multi-day trip across the equator. It will be primarily based at the RAAF Base along with three other large air tankers from North America — a C-130Q (T-134), and two RJ85s (T-165 and T-166). Two other large air tankers will be based in Victoria at Avalon Airport in Melbourne, a C-130Q (T-131), and an RJ85 (T-163).

Going by the coordinates on the images, the fire T-137 dropped on was very close to the Kurri Kurri Hospital southwest of Heddon Greta. The NSW RFS reported at 8:14 p.m. local time on November 22 that firefighters assisted by aircraft had slowed the spread of the fire. They estimated it had burned 61 hectares (151 acres).

bushfire Kurri Kurri Hospital NSW
The coordinates indicate the approximate location of the drop by Tanker 137. Google Earth.
tanker 137 Boeing 737 drop first wildfire bushfire
On November 22 Air Tanker 137 made the first drop by a Boeing 737 on an active fire. It occurred in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. Screenshot from NSW RFS video.

Study recommends keeping Medford Air Tanker Base open

Medford is 55 miles away from another base at Klamath Falls

Neptune tanker 01 41
Neptune tankers 01 and 41 at Medford Air Tanker Base June 9, 2016. Photo by Kristin Biechler.

A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service recommends keeping the air tanker base at Medford, Oregon open if other agencies can begin paying a portion of the $245,000 annual operating costs. Apparently closing the base was on the table, in part because it is only 55 miles away from another base at Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Local politicians in Oregon have been working to keep Medford open after word spread in March that the study was underway.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Mail Tribune:

“Closure of either base at this time would be counterproductive to ensuring rapid response times to initial attack of fires since both bases are fully functional and in good condition,” Northstar Technology Corp. concluded in the study.

The study found that the savings from closing one base would be gobbled up by the $281,000 increased costs of flying retardant further distances from the one remaining base.

With two open, one base can keep operating if the other is socked in with smoke, the study said.

Forest Service officials said the trend of larger fires appears to be migrating northward, making reliance on the air tanker bases more vital for Western Oregon and Northern California.

air tanker 910 Medford
Air Tanker 910 departs from Medford, July 28, 2017, en route to the Lake Fire in northeast California. Photo by Tim Crippin.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly.
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A fourth large air tanker arrives in Australia

This will be the first time a 737 air tanker has been used on a wildfire

737, an RJ85, C-130 air tanker Sydney Australia
A 737, RJ85, and a C-130 are introduced to the media at Sydney, Australia.

Today the New South Wales Rural Fire Service introduced to the media the fourth large air tanker that will be assisting ground-based firefighters in NSW and other Australian states during their bushfire season that is well underway.

The conversion of the Boeing 737 airliner into what Coulson calls a “Fireliner” was just completed a few months ago and has not yet dropped on a live fire. Tanker 137, nicknamed “Gaia”, arrived at Richmond RAAF Base near Sydney November 11 after a multi-day trip across the equator. It will be primarily based at the RAAF Base along with three other large air tankers from North America — a C-130Q (T-134), and two RJ85s (T-165 and T-166). Two other large air tankers will be based in Victoria at Avalon Airport in Melbourne, a C-130Q (T-131), and an RJ85 (T-163).

air tanker 137 737 fire australia
Air tanker 137, a Boeing 737, after arriving in Sydney, Australia November 11, 2018. Coulson photo.

One of the speakers at the welcoming ceremony said one feature that separates the 737 from the other air tankers is that when it is not carrying 4,000 gallons of fire retardant, it can transport up to 70 firefighters or other passengers.

The NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Troy Grant, announced that $23.6 million will be available for a large air tanker to be permanently based in NWS. This will be a first for the state and the country.

Great video of drop by a DC-10

DC-10 retardant drop
Screengrab from the video below of a drop from a DC-10. Check out the shadow.

In the image above the shadow is very cool.

10 Tanker Air Carrier just sent out a tweet with a link to the video below that is on a Facebook page. It is titled “Rocky Fire”, but had no description. I am unaware of a current fire with that name. I thought it looked familiar, and I found that we had a YouTube copy of it in August, 2015. The Rocky Fire burned almost 70,000 acres near Clear Lake, California. At any rate, it’s a great video, so you’re getting another opportunity to see it — the YouTube copy — which is the same as the one on Facebook.

Another RJ85 arrives in Australia

air tanker 166 new south wales
Tanker 166 is officially welcomed in New South Wales, November 5, 2018. NSWRFS photo.

Another Avro RJ85 air tanker has arrived in Australia for their summer bushfire season. Conair’s Tanker 166, named Hunter, was officially greeted by Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and others on November 5 a few days after it began assisting firefighters on a fire near Tamworth.

There will be six large air tankers from North America working in New South Wales and Victoria this summer. Not all have arrived yet — T-137 and T-131 should be there soon. Here is the list:

  • RJ85, T-165  (Aeroflite/Conair via FieldAir) based in Sydney (Richmond);
  • B-737,  T-137 (Coulson)  based in Sydney (Richmond) – subject to  regulatory approvals;
  • RJ85, T-166  (Aeroflite/Conair via FieldAir) based in Sydney (Richmond)/Dubbo;
  • C-130Q, T-134 (Coulson) based in Sydney (Richmond);
  • RJ85, T-163  (Aeroflite/Conair via FieldAir) based in Melbourne (Avalon);
  • C-130Q, T-131 (Coulson) based in Melbourne (Avalon)

Air tankers support firefighters at the Deep Space Network near Canberra, Australia

Air tanker 165.

A fire that was a few kilometers away from NASA’s Deep Space Network of satellite antennas near Canberra, Australia was attacked by firefighters on the ground assisted by large air tankers that have migrated below the equator for the Australian summer.

Seen in these photos are a C-130Q (T-134) and an RJ85 (T-165). In the video below is the C-130Q.

All photos are by the Canberra DSN. The video is by @nascom1.

Air tanker 134.
Air tanker 134. This is Coulson’s most recently converted C-130. They have not had time yet to paint it. This was the first live fire it has dropped on.
Air tanker 165.

The NASA Deep Space Network facilities at Canberra, Australia, seen below in a file photo, are managed by CSIRO.

NASA Deep Space Network facilities at Canberra, Australia
File photo of the NASA Deep Space Network facilities at Canberra, Australia. DSN photo.

High-speed taxi test for China’s new amphibious air tanker

AG600 high-speed taxi test
AG600 high-speed taxi test. Xinhua.

China’s new AG600 amphibious air tanker recently completed a high-speed taxi test. The first flight for the aircraft was December 24, 2017 at Jinwan Civil Aviation Airport in Zhuhai, Guangdong.

The AG600 can carry up to 3,000 gallons of water, and like the CL-215/415 and Air Tractors it can scoop water from a lake and drop it on wildfires. When not fighting fires it holds 50 passengers in a military or civilian role, and has a range of 5,500 km (3,418 miles). It has four turboprop engines, can handle a wave height of two meters, and will have a maximum speed of 354 mph (570 kph, 308 knots).