Videos of firefighting aircraft in action

air tanker 137 737 wildfire
This is not a video, but it is a screengrab from the video below of Air Tanker 137, a 737, dropping on the Bruxner Highway Fire (Tenterfield LGA) in New South Wales, Australia. Usually it is not obvious when an air tanker drops simultaneously from more than one tank, but on the 737 the tanks are not adjacent to each other, making it possible to see the separation when the drop begins.

The video below shows Air Tanker 137, a Boeing 737, dropping on the Bruxner Highway Fire (Tenterfield LGA) in New South Wales, Australia.

A Blackhawk and an Air-Crane can be seen in the video below working on a wildfire in New South Wales, Australia.

Next, a Blackhawk in New South Wales.

Below, two helicopters work a fire north of Canadian, Texas.

Below, CAL FIRE helicopter 301 makes a swift water rescue.

Deal to purchase Columbia Helicopters canceled

The Bristow Group paid Columbia a $20 million fee in order to terminate the acquisition agreement

Columbia BV-107
Columbia helicopter, N192CH, at Custer, SD July 31, 2011. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The $560 million deal that the Bristow Group had to purchase Columbia Helicopters has been cancelled, the two companies announced Monday.

As required in the agreement Bristow paid $20 million to Columbia as a termination fee.

Columbia’s CH-47D helicopters with 2,800-gallon internal water tanks or external buckets are frequently seen over wildfires assisting firefighters on the ground.

Bristow had hoped that merging the two companies would open opportunities for their underemployed Airbus H225s to compete for military contracts using Columbia’s U.S. Department of Defense Commercial Airlift Review Board certificate. Columbia’s ships may have found work in the 10 countries in which Bristow maintains air operator certificates.

The plan was for Columbia to be a wholly owned subsidiary operating as a separate company with its own board and management structure, and would remain in Oregon, retaining the Columbia name and the aircrafts’ livery.

Bristow’s stock price dropped sharply both when the purchase agreement was announced the week of November 5 and again Monday when the termination of the purchase was revealed, losing 87 percent in the three months since disclosing the planned acquisition.

Bristow has not filed as required their final financial results for the quarter that ended December 31, 2018, and released only preliminary figures, explaining that since March 31, 2018 they have not have adequate monitoring control processes in place.

Thomas C. Knudson, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Bristow, stated, “The decision to enter into a mutual termination of the purchase agreement was based on a number of developments following the entry into the agreement, which led both Bristow and Columbia to conclude that it was not possible to combine the two companies at this time. We continue to value our relationship with Columbia and look forward to having the opportunity to work together in the future.”

Steve Bandy, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Columbia, stated, “We continue to believe in the potential for collaboration between Bristow and Columbia, and the companies are actively considering mutually beneficial opportunities to work together.”

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

Tire failure damages DC-10 air tanker in Chile

Air Tanker 910 drops wildfire Chile
Air Tanker 910 drops on a wildfire in Chile, February 8, 2019. Screengrab from T13 video.

(UPDATED at 1:08 p.m. MDT February 11, 2019)

A DC-10 very large air tanker was damaged when a tire failed upon landing at the Carriel Sur airport in Concepción, Chile Friday November 8. The tread separated on a main landing gear tire and damaged an inboard flap. John E. Gould, President of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said the crew immediately began repairing the flap and that work will be completed Monday afternoon.

Damaged tire Tanker 910
Damaged tire on Tanker 910. TodayChile photo.

When tires on a race car or aircraft disintegrate at high speed as shown in the photo, chunks of rubber flying off the tire can damage sheet metal and other components.

Very roughly translated news reports indicate that the aircraft completed either four sorties or four drops on its first day of operations in Chile before the tire failed. 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.

Mr. Gould said a second DC-10, Tanker 914 has been ordered and is en route, expected to arrive in Santiago, Chile Monday afternoon. It is not necessarily to replace T-910; CONAF, the contracting organization, wanted a total of two very large air tankers under contract.

The video below shows both a Russian IL-76 and the DC-10 making drops. It is possible that a water enhancing chemical has been added to the water to increase its effectiveness in suppressing the wildfires. The DC-10 can carry up to 9,400 gallons. The IL-76 footage may be from 2017.


The article has been edited to correct the date the DC-10 first arrived in Chile.

DC-10 air tanker en route to Chile

DC-10 air tanker
Tanker 910 at McClellan October 10, 2017. Photo by Sergio Maraschin

One of 10 Tanker Air Carrier’s DC-10 very large air tankers is en route to Chile. Tanker 910, N612AX, departed from San Bernardino, California Wednesday. It made a stop at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala later in the day, and information on Flight Aware appears to indicate that it will also stop at Pisco, Peru.

John Gould, President of 10 Tanker said the aircraft is expected to arrive at Santiago, Chile early Thursday morning. He said it will be working for the National Forest Corporation, or CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal), which is a Chilean private, non-profit organization, through which the Chilean state contributes to the development and sustainable management of the country’s forest resources. CONAF is overseen and funded by Chile’s Ministry of Agriculture. There is no one governmental agency that has the authority, responsibility, and resources to manage wildfires in the Country.

On Tuesday Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of catastrophe in some regions of the country due to unusually hot weather and numerous wildfires. Below is an excerpt from Prensa Latina:

[Undersecretary of the Interior, Rodrigo] Ubilla said that this extreme measure seeks to strengthen the network of logistical support to deal with these disasters, and that these commanders will be responsible for ‘controlling public order, operationally support the tasks of prevention, fire fighting and adopt all necessary measures to avoid risks to the population.

More than 8,000 hectares [19,000 acres] of forests and pastures have already been burned by flames, dozens of homes have been destroyed and hundreds of people evacuated, according to reports from the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) and the National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior (ONEMI).

Two years ago Global Supertanker’s 747 very large air tanker spent a month or so fighting fires in Chile working out of Santiago. Andrea Avolio, a vice president of the company, said their aircraft is presently down for several weeks undergoing heavy maintenance. She said the company has not received any inquiries from officials in Chile about it being deployed.

Dan Snyder, CEO and President of Neptune, said he has recently had some informal discussions with folks in Chile but no orders have been placed. Neptune sent one of their BAe-146s, Tanker 03, to Concepción, Chile two years ago at the same time the 747 was farther north in Santiago.

A spokesperson for Aero-Flite said as far as she knew the company has no plans to send one of their RJ85 large air tankers to South America. Currently three of them are working in Australia.

Last month an IL-76 airplane hauled a Kamov Ka-32A11BC helicopter to Chile to fight fires. And on Christmas Eve Billings Flying Service unloaded one of their CH-47D Chinooks off a ship in Chile.

Billings Flying Service CH-47D helicopter
Billings Flying Service’s Helicopter 03, a CH-47D Chinook, being unloaded from the ship in Chile. Billings Flying Service photo.

Helicopters and airplanes reseed burned areas in Idaho

helicopter reseed Idaho
A helicopter is outfitted with a hopper to reseed areas burned in wildfires in Idaho. BLM photo.

After being delayed by the partial government shutdown the Bureau of Land Management has completed a large reseeding project in Idaho. The agency treated 52,000 acres of land that burned in wildfires during the last two years including portions of the 99,502-acre Grassy Ridge fire northwest of St. Anthony and other fires near Atomic City and Menan Buttes. Helicopters and fixed wing planes dispersed the seed.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Idaho State Journal:

Experts on the subject say the best time to reseed is when there’s snow on the ground.

“If you have a sunny day when you’re applying, the seed will heat up and melt below the snow layer,” Ben Dyer, BLM fire ecologist, said. “You try to have it put down when a storm is predicted in the near future so you can cover it up with another layer of snow.”

If all goes well, the snow melts in spring and provides the seeds with wet soil to germinate and flourish. There is currently 6 to 8 inches of snow on most of the ground where the Grassy Ridge Fire occurred last summer, Dyer said.
Dyer said the hope is that grass and sagebrush seed will establish itself before cheatgrass does and also help prevent soil erosion.

“We include a mixture of native grasses and forbs and we also have some introduced (seeds) that are a little more aggressive at choking out and competing against cheatgrass,” he said. “In the event that our native components don’t do well, at least we have that non-native component that has a little bit better chance.”

Grassy Ridge Fire
Grassy Ridge Fire, July, 2018. InciWeb.

Helicopter crashes into lake while fighting wildfire in Australia

The crew of three swam to shore

Christine 341 Air-Crane crash
File photo of Air-Crane 341, known as “Christine”. Photo taken in November, 2018 by Uniform Photography.

(UPDATED at 8:49 p.m. MT [USA] January 28, 2019)

9 News has an update on the crash of an Erickson Air-Crane in Victoria, Australia on January 28, 2019. Video shows the Air-Crane on its side with a portion of the tail boom and main landing gear protruding above the water. Also the white skimming tube is visible which can be lowered as the helicopter flies near the surface of a body of water, using the same principle to refill the tank as the Be-200, Fire Boss, and CL-215/415. Drafting or skimming with the Air-Crane takes 45 seconds. It is unlikely that the aircraft was skimming when the accident occurred due to the lack of sufficient space. The Air-Crane also has a snorkel or drafting hose that is more often used for refilling while hovering over water.

Below is an excerpt from an article at ABC News Australia that was updated Monday evening, US time:

Five similar Air-Cranes — in NSW, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria — were grounded while the crash was investigated.

Kestrel Aviation managing director Ray Cronin, whose company manages the fleet, said the ground was a “precautionary measure” while the company interviewed the crew and determined a probable cause.

He said after an initial investigation, the company and authorities had agreed that the grounding of the Aircrane fleet would be lifted.

“The Aircranes will return to service almost immediately,” Mr Cronin said.

“The crews are with the aircraft ready to rejoin the fire fight in Victoria.”

He said while he did not want to pre-empt the outcome of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) investigation, he understood “the serviceability of the Aircrane” was good at the time of the crash.

Air-Crane crash Australia
Parts of the Air-Crane can be seen above the water in this screengrab from the 9 News video.
Air-Crane crash Australia helicopter
The Air-Crane crashed in a valley surrounded by rising terrain. Image from ABC Australia video. Arrow added by Fire Aviation.

(Originally published at 12:47 MT [USA] January 28, 2019)

A helicopter crashed into a lake while fighting a wildfire Monday in Victoria, Australia. The Erickson Air-Crane had a crew of three, two pilots and an engineer, while it was working on the Thomson Complex Catchment fires in Gippsland. The personnel are safe after swimming to shore. Ambulance Victoria will assess the crew members. Emergency Management Victoria said the helicopter was Air-Crane HT 341, known as “Christine”.

The aircraft was one of ten aircraft working on the fire. The site of the crash, in the Yarra Ranges National Park, is about 50km (31 miles) south of Benalla.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said that he was grateful that the crew are safe.

The Flight Safety Foundation reports the helicopter is “damaged beyond repair”.

The two Air-Cranes under contract in Victoria can carry more than 2,500 gallons of water or retardant. The state also has 47 other aircraft on contract.

A total of six large fixed wing air tankers from North America have been working in Australia during their 2018-2019 summer.  Tankers with their primary base at Richmond, New South Wales include a RJ85, (Tanker 166); a  737 (T-137); a C-130Q (T-134); and another RJ85 (T-165). Based at Avalon in Victoria are a C-130Q (T-131); and an RJ85 (T-163).

The accident is being investigated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The agency expects to complete their report during the third quarter of 2019.

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

Ventura County is converting military Blackhawks into FIREHAWKS

FIREHAWK blackhawk Ventura County
Ventura County is converting military HH-60L Blackhawks into FIREHAWKS. VCSO photo, Capt. Romano Bassi.

Ventura County has purchased three military HH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and is in the process of converting them into FIREHAWKS that will be used for fighting wildland fires, personnel transport, search and rescue, law enforcement, and medical evacuation.

Ventura County Battalion Chief Gary Monday said heavy maintenance and minor modifications were completed on the aircraft at HSI Sikorsky in Huntsville, Alabama, then two of the helicopters were painted at the United Rotorcraft facility in Decatur, Texas. One of them is now being ferried to United Rotorcraft in Englewood, Colorado to receive navigation and communication systems, cabin interiors, and a 1,000 gallon external fixed water tank with a retractable snorkel system. The landing gear will be replaced with higher gear to enable the installation of the belly tank.

FIREHAWK blackhawk Ventura County
A Ventura County HH-60L Blackhawk before being painted and converted into a FIREHAWK. VCFD photo.

The military had the aircraft originally configured by United Rotorcraft as dedicated MEDEVAC helicopters with medical equipment and patient litter systems, some of which will be repurposed in the new FIREHAWK configuration.

Ventura County, in Southern California, has a joint Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department Aviation Unit. In addition to the FIREHAWKS, they have one Bell 206 Jet Ranger, one 212 HP, one 205B, and two UH-1A Hueys.

“We are a full service 24/7 operation capable of Night Vision Goggle rescues and firefighting”, Chief Monday said, “with three 375 simplex tanks for nighttime water dropping missions, S & R missions, LE missions, and anything else.”

FIREHAWK blackhawk Ventura County
Ventura County is converting military HH-60L Blackhawks into FIREHAWKS. VC FD photo.

In 2016 one of the Hueys, Copter 7, developed a mechanical problem while fighting the Pine Fire on the Los Padres National Forest. It had to be stripped down in order to transport it via truck on a route that included a tunnel with a height restriction.

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

Beriev made deals to sell up to 15 Be-200ES amphibious air tankers

Two companies in the U.S. and South America will be purchasing the aircraft

Be-200ES air tanker
Be-200ES air tanker. Beriev photo.

Beriev PJSC has signed orders for up to 15 Be-200ES amphibious air tankers, which are manufactured in Taganrog, Russia. The sales documents were signed at the Hydroaviasalon amphibian air show in Gelendzhik, Russia in September, 2018.

Two are being purchased by a private company, CBP Asesorías Aeronáuticas. The aircraft will be civilian registered and leased to the government of Chile during the wildfire season. The company has options to buy three more. Work has already started on the first two at PJSC Taganrog Aviation Scientific-Technical Complex n.a. G.M. Beriev, Russia. Beriev expects to deliver them in 2021.

Be-200ES
In September, 2018 the Beriev Company signed contracts with companies in the USA and Chile to deliver a total of up to 15 Be-200ES amphibious aircraft. In the photo on the left, going left to right: the Regional Governor; Patrick Massardy, Airbus executive and president of Seaplane Global Air Services; David Baskett, Seaplane Global Air Services; and Yuri Grudinin, General Designer Beriev. In the photo on the right, Yuri Grudinin, General Designer of Beriev; and presumably two executives of CBP Asesorías Aeronáuticas. Beriev photo.

U.S.-based Seaplane Global Air Services ordered four and has options for an additional six. Patrick Massardy of Airbus and David Baskett of Seaplane Global Air Services signed the agreement with Beriev in September.

Beriev began manufacturing the Be-200 in 2003. It is one of the few purpose-built air tankers, designed primarily for fighting wildland fires. The aircraft can land or take off on water or land, and the firefighting version can scoop water to refill its tanks which can carry up to 3,167 gallons near the end of the fuel cycle.  Within two hours it can be converted to haul passengers or serve as a search and rescue aircraft, landing on water to retrieve personnel if necessary.

David Baskett, who has been associated with Pacific Skyway Airline, International Emergency Services, TTE International, and Seaplane Global Air Services has been attempting to gain support for and purchase Be-200s since at least 2009.

In 2010 he arranged to have the aircraft at Santa Maria airport in Southern California where it made a demonstration water drop. The late Walt Darran, a former CAL FIRE S-2T pilot, flew the aircraft, as did Robert Forbes. Walt was favorably impressed with the power and maneuverability and hoped at some point to see it being given a fair evaluation in the U.S.

Mr. Baskett told us in 2012 his plan was to purchase 10 of the aircraft and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States.

In 2012 the manufacturer of the aircraft, Beriev, covered the costs for two U.S. Forest Service employees to travel to Taganro, Russia, the home base of the Beriev company, to determine if the Be-200 met the criteria established by the Interagency Airtanker Board. IAB approval is necessary in order to qualify for an air tanker contract with federal agencies in the U.S. There are reports that they evaluated water drops from the Be-200 and found that it performed well. They did not test the performance with retardant.

In 2014 a Colorado company that proposed to convert the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt into an air tanker announced that they signed an agreement to produce the Be-200 in the United States. USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) said they signed a collaboration agreement with California-based International Emergency Services, Inc. (IES) to develop a U.S.-built Beriev Be-200 in Colorado.

In 2016 Mr. Baskett announced that he was working with the Beriev Aircraft Company, Global Seaplanes, and Airbus to manufacture the Be-200 in Santa Maria after the first 10 aircraft were delivered.

As far as we can tell there have been no concrete on-the-ground results from these proposals. However the agreement that Mr. Baskett and Airbus signed with Beriev in September, 2018 appears that it will result in an actual purchase of at least four Be-200ES-E aircraft.

Some Airbus personnel are involved with the project.

“They are authorized and supported by Airbus to work on the Be-200 program, which has long term recognition, and they help in development issues,” Mr. Baskett said. “Airbus is not a formal shareholder in Global.”

Mr. Baskett told us that he expects delivery of the first two in the Spring of 2020, with the next two arriving later in the year. Four more are scheduled for 2021, to be followed by the last two. The plan is for Seaplane Global Air Services to lease them to International Emergency Services for operation in the United States.

Knowing that the Be-200 does not have FAA or IAB certification I asked Mr. Baskett what he planned to do with the aircraft after receiving them.

“I plan on flying them on fires around the Western Hemisphere”, he said. “In Australia, to here, and over in Europe. So it’s a joint effort between the Europeans, the Australians, and us on using these 10 aircraft when they come off the production line. We’re in the process right now of bidding [on contracts for] the use of the aircraft with various governments.” He declined to specify which governments, other than to say it is “western governments”.

Don Oaks, the former Fire Marshall for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, is working with Mr. Baskett and Seaplane Global Air Services, providing advice and serving as a wildland fire subject matter expert for the company. He said they expect the aircraft to follow the fire seasons around the world, moving from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere and to Europe.

When I asked him what the chances are of receiving FAA approval, he said “Very high”.

Explaining what work, if any, would have to be done to the Be-200 to facilitate the approval, he said, “No, there’s no additional work that would have to be done. The aircraft is approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, certified by them. The FAA has told me, and they authorized me to report what they told me, that they want 110 percent to certify the aircraft. And that was the head of the FAA International Certification Division.”

Mr. Baskett said the contract for the 10 aircraft requires that they have English language cockpits and for them to have FAA certification.

Training for two mechanics and five pilots will begin in May of this year in Russia. Mr. Baskett said engineers are working on plans for a Be-200 heavy support base that he intends to build in Santa Maria.