Tanker 101’s first drop on a fire

T-101 first drop, 6-7-2014
T-101 first ever drop on a fire, June 7,2014 on the Two Bulls Fire near Bend, Oregon. Photo by Jim Hansen from an air attack ship. (Click to enlarge.)

Tanker 101, an MD-87 operated by Erickson Aero Tanker, showed up for its first day of work at Redmond, Oregon June 4 and made its first ever drop on a fire three days later on June 7 when the Two Bulls Fire started west of Bend, Oregon. Jim Hansen grabbed the photo above as it made its inaugural drop.

Its sister ship, Tanker 105, began work on June 8 at Redmond, and the two of them were busy working the fire that day.

Kevin McCullough, the President of Erickson Aero Tanker, told us the air tanker delivered 12 loads of retardant in 3.9 hours of flight time. It was reloading at the Redmond air tanker base, 17 miles northwest of the fire. I don’t know if that’s a record for an air tanker that is not a 747 or DC-10, but there can’t have been many that dropped 48,000 gallons of retardant in less than four hours. Mr. McCullough said it carried 4,000 gallons on each sortie. The Martin Mars which holds 7,000 gallons of water may have hit that number or maybe even a lot more if a scoopable lake was close.

Earlier today we posted a video showing the two MD-87s and other air tankers taking off at Redmond to work the Two Bulls Fire.

We asked Mr. McCullough if there were any problems with ingesting retardant into the engines and he said there were not.

DC-7s

Two of Erickson Aero Tanker’s DC-7 air tankers will begin their contract with the Oregon Department of Forestry in the first part of July. They are waiting for the final paperwork but it appears that their third DC-7 will start a 120-day contract with CAL FIRE at about the same time.

Erickson purchased the air tanker operations of Butler Aircraft from Travis Garnick in December of 2012. The deal included three DC-7s.

MD-87 at Redmond needs a wash

MD-87 at Redmond, June 9, 2014
MD-87 at Redmond, June 9, 2014. Photo by Jeff Ingelse. (Click to enlarge.)

Jeff Ingelse took this photo of an Erickson Aero Tanker MD-87 parked at Redmond, Oregon Monday morning. He said both of the MD-87s at the airport had similar stains on the fuselage approximately the color of fire retardant. The air tankers made multiple sorties to the Two Bulls Fire over the weekend, dropping retardant.

Earlier on Fire Aviation the question was raised about the possibility of retardant being ingested into the engines. From the photo above, we of course can’t tell if that is an issue or not. Maybe Erickson Aero Tanker has it all figured out and it is not a problem.

Below are photos we ran on January 6, 2014 and January 17, 2014 of the MD-87 dropping water and retardant.

Erickson Aerotanker MD-87
Erickson Aerotanker (Aero Air) MD-87 test drop in early 2013. Screen grab from Erickson Aerotanker video. (click to enlarge)
Tanker 101, an MD-87
Tanker 101, an MD-87, during the grid retardant test, January 15, 2014. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman. (click to enlarge)

A video of the MD-87 being tested. It was uploaded to YouTube April 15, 2013.

Video of air tankers departing Redmond

This video uploaded to YouTube on June 8 shows several different air tankers taking off at Redmond, Oregon to work on the Two Bulls Fire three miles west of Bend, Oregon. The aircraft seen in the video include MD-87s (T-101 and 105), a P2V (probably T-06), and a BAe-146. At first the video looks like a still photograph, but the first aircraft can be seen about 12 seconds in.

It is interesting seeing the different routes taken after takeoff, the speed of the aircraft, and the altitude at the end of the runway.

MD-87s work Two Bulls Fire in Oregon

air Tankers 105, 06, and 101
Tankers 105, 06, and 101 (L to R) at Redmond, Oregon June 8, 2014. They all made several drops on the Two Bulls Fire. Photo by Jeff Ingelse. (Click the photo to see a larger version.)

The two MD-87 air tankers that just entered service both worked the Two Bulls Fire west of Bend, Oregon today. June 8 was the first day on duty for T-105; its sister T-101’s first day was June 4. Earlier we had a photo of T-101 taken shortly after it reported for duty.

Jeff Ingelse took the photo above and said all three ships, including T-06, the P2V, flew several loads of retardant to the fire today. Thanks Jeff!

 

Incredible rescue in Yosemite earns valor awards

Park Rangers Jeffery Webb and David Pope
Park Rangers Jeffery Webb and David Pope suspended below a hovering helicopter, pull themselves up against a rock face to rescue an injured climber. If you look carefully, you can see the small red line between the helitack personnel and the climbers. DOI photo.

(Revised on June 7 to include the pilot in the list of people who received awards.)

Four park rangers and a helicopter pilot at Yosemite National Park received awards on May 8, 2014 from Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell for an incredible rescue which required suspending personnel 150 feet below a helicopter that was hovering for an extended period of time close to the vertical rock face of El Capitan in California.

On September 26, 2011 a climber suffered a lead fall which resulted in the amputation of his thumb. Miraculously, the thumb fell onto a nearby ledge and was recovered by the climber’s partner. A traditional rescue from that location involves inserting a team onto the summit, lowering a rescuer 1,000 feet to the injured climber, and then lowering the injured climber and rescuer an additional 2,000 feet to the ground. That takes many hours, would have been complicated by darkness, and would have significantly reduced the chance of successfully reattaching the thumb. Instead, an advanced and experimental technique was used which involves establishing a tag line from the helicopter to the vertical wall. This technique, practiced but never before employed in an actual rescue, requires a long hover time by the pilot while spotters and riggers on board the helicopter establish a fixed line and monitor the helicopter’s position.

Assistant Helitack Foreman Jeff Pirog rigged the tag line and monitored tail and rotor clearances while the helicopter hovered in close proximity to the wall. Yosemite Helitack Foreman, Eric Small, established the tag line from the helicopter by throwing a weighted ball with an attached string from the open door of the helicopter to the injured climber. Once the tag line was established, Mr. Small dropped his end of the tag line down the 150-foot long short haul line to the rescuers suspended blow.

At the end of the short haul rope, Jeffery Webb and David Pope used the tag line to pull themselves over to the climbers and prepared the injured person for evacuation. When they were ready, Mr. Pope and the injured climber were released from the wall and onto the short haul system. The helicopter, piloted by Richard B. Shatto, transported them to El Capitan Meadow where the injured climber and his amputated thumb were transferred to an air ambulance. Later that night doctors successfully reattached the thumb.

Mr. Webb remained on the wall with the injured climber’s partner overnight; they were evacuated the following morning.

Department of Interior Valor Awards were given to the four NPS personnel mentioned above: Jeff Pirog, Eric Small, Jeffery Webb, and David Pope. The pilot, Mr. Shatto, was not a DOI employee and therefore not eligible for a Department Valor Award, but he did receive a Citizens Award for Bravery from Secretary Jewell.

Yosemite awards
L. to R.: Jeff Pirog, David Pope, Eric Small, Secretary Jewell, Jeff Webb, and Richard Shatto.

Our thoughts

The amount of expertise required to accomplish something like this is mind-boggling — the training, planning, helitack skills, pilot skills, and rock climbing experience. And to pull it off expertly during an emergency is very impressive and certainly worthy of a major award. Congratulations to all five.

National Park Service pilots

NPS pilots

The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Magazine has an interesting article about pilots who fly for the National Park Service. Here’s how it begins:

The chance to see from the air some of Earth’s most beautiful places is the most obvious reward of flying for the U.S. National Park Service. But the job also has unique risks, as Weino “Tug” Kangus, the most experienced airman in park service history, can attest. Now 72 with 39 years as a pilot, Kangus still flies five days a week over Lake Powell’s breathtaking 185-mile-long expanse of rock and deep water in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah and Arizona.

I ask him about a particularly memorable moment in his career. “Some Navajo bad guys shot two officers and burned their bodies on the San Juan River,” he says of a 1987 incident. “We spent time flying with the FBI looking for those guys, and we found out about two years later that one of them was hiding out in a hogan [adobe dwelling] on the reservation. We dropped down low enough where we could look right in the door of that hogan, and there he was, standing in the doorway with a high-powered rifle with a ’scope, pointed right at us. I’ve been in on scores of those things—that’s what we do.”

Law-enforcement missions, Kangus says, require precision flying. “You’re not going to arrest anybody from the air, though I have pulled them over and have them spread-eagle on the ground. The thing is, if you can’t control your aircraft in a 30-degree [bank], low enough that you can read a license plate or follow footprints in the desert, you should be in a different business.”

 

Tanker 101’s first day on the job

Tanker 101
Tanker 101, operated by Erickson Aero Tanker, at Redmond, Oregon, June 4, 2014.

Erickson Aero Tanker’s T-101 photographed June 4 at Redmond, Oregon, its first day on the job. Its sister, T-105, is scheduled to begin work Sunday, June 8.

Congratulations to all the folks at Erickson Aero Tanker. It is a long, complicated, expensive, arduous, bureaucracy-laden process to bring an air tanker from a concept, to sitting on the ramp at an air tanker base waiting for its first fire.

Shouldn’t there be a ceremony on an air tanker’s first day on the job? Like, taxiing under fire hose streams, breaking a bottle of champagne over some hard point on the aircraft, or cutting off the shirt tails of the crew?