Air Tanker 32 and 40, an F7F-3

F7F-3 N7195C, air Tanker 32
F7F-3, N7195C, air Tanker 32 at Santa Rosa, Calif. May, 1973.

We are adding four more photos today from the Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base — F7F-3 (N7195C). It was operated by Sis-Q Flying Service as Tanker 32  in May, 1973, and as Tanker 40 in August, 1975.

F7F-3 N7195C, air Tanker 40
F7F-3, N7195C, air Tanker 40 at Lancaster, Calif. August, 1975.
F7F-3 N7195C, air Tanker 40
F7F-3, N7195C, air Tanker 40 at Lancaster, Calif. August, 1975.
F7F-3 N7195C, air Tanker 40
F7F-3, N7195C, air Tanker 40 at Lancaster, Calif. August, 1975.

From Wikipedia:

The Grumman F7F Tigercat is a heavy fighter aircraft that served with the United States Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) from late in World War II until 1954. It was the first twin-engine fighter to be deployed by the USN. While the Tigercat was delivered too late to see combat in World War II, it saw action as a night fighter and attack aircraft during the Korean War. Armament was heavy: four 20 mm cannon and four 50 caliber (0.50 in; 12.7 mm) machine guns, as well as underwing and under-fuselage hardpoints for bombs and torpedoes.

The F7F-3 Tigercat variant:

Single-seat fighter-bomber aircraft, powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W radial piston engines and featuring an enlarged tail fin for improved stability at high altitudes, 189 built.

Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat
Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat, 2007. Photo by Dziban303.

Surviving aircraft:

Beginning in 1949, F7Fs were flown to the then-U.S. Navy storage facility at Naval Air Station Litchfield Park, Arizona. Although the vast majority of the airframes were eventually scrapped, a number of examples were purchased as surplus. The surviving Tigercats were primarily used as water bombers to fight wildfires in the 1960s and 1970s and Sis-Q Flying Services of Santa Rosa, California, operated an F7F-3N tanker in this role until retirement in the late 1980s.

About the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W radial piston engines

The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 (US military designation) Double Wasp (civil designation) is an American twin-row, 18-cylinder, air-cooled radial aircraft engine with a displacement of 2,800 in³ (46 L), and is part of the long-lived Wasp family.

The R-2800 saw widespread use in many important American aircraft during and after World War II. During the war years, Pratt & Whitney continued to develop new ideas to upgrade the engine, including water injection for takeoff in cargo and passenger planes and to give emergency power in combat.

Air tanker demonstrations for media planned at airport in Coloradoo

Plus, an opinion about keeping the public away from the static displays

Air Tanker 23, a P3 Orion
File photo of Air Tanker 23, a P3 Orion. Airstrike Firefighters photo.

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) is planning a media day on June 28 at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland, Colorado (map). Two air tankers will be making demonstration drops — an Airstrike Firefighters P-3 Orion and a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT). They will be dropping BLAZETAMER380, a water enhancing gel that looks similar to water when released by an air tanker.

The DFPC  has a summer-long exclusive use contract for the SEAT and a Call When Needed (CWN) contract for Airstrike’s large four-engine P3 air tankers.

The airborne demonstrations are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. MDT June 28, with static displays to follow.

The event is for the media, who will be escorted out to the ramps to get a close up look at the aircraft on static display. We were told by Shawn Battmer, the Airport Executive Assistant, that the public will not be allowed to approach the planes but may be able to see them through a fence near the Fort Collins-Loveland JetCenter. Ms. Battmer did not say anything about being able to see the water drops, but they will presumably be from 100 to 200 feet above the ground so sightseers may be able to find a spot where they get a good view of the demonstrations.

In August of last year the DFPC signed a CWN agreement with Airstrike Firefighters to provide large airtanker services for wildland fire suppression.  The agreement will allow the State of Colorado to access Airstrike’s P-3 airtankers to help combat wildfires in the State.

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

An Opinion:

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and the Northern Colorado Regional Airport are missing what could have been a grand public relations opportunity by not allowing the public to get close to the static displays of the aircraft. It will be a lost opportunity to educate the public about aerial firefighting. They could at least set up a designated location outside the secure fence where the taxpayers who fund these aircraft could be ENCOURAGED to see how their money is spent as the air tankers make their drops. And further, it would have been possible to allow the public to go 150 feet or so out onto the ramp where they could walk around the three of four aircraft and talk to the pilots and crews. Air shows do this, and the Aerial Firefighting Conferences at Sacramento, Europe, and Australia do it as well, allowing hundreds of people out on the ramp. Portable barriers could be set up and volunteers or wildland firefighters could ensure that the visitors stay within the established viewing areas.

As you can see in the photo below, it is possible for the media to record interviews while others walk around the aircraft.

Attendees at the Aerial Firefighting Conference in Sacramento were allowed within a designated area of the ramp to examine the aircraft and talk to the flight crews while the media was conducting interviews. Photo By Bill Gabbert, March 12, 2017.
tour 747 Supertanker
At the Aerial Firefighting Conference in Sacramento on March 12, 2017 people lined up to tour the 747 air tanker. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

First of six Q400 air tankers delivered to France

Q400MR air tanker delivery France Iqaluit
Air Tanker 74, a Q400MR, stopped at Iqaluit on Baffin Island in Canada June 17, 2019 on the way to delivery in France. Photo by @tattuinee.

On June 18, 2019 Conair delivered the first of six Dash 8-Q400MR air tankers to the Sécurité Civile base at Nimes-Garons in France. On the long ferry flight from British Columbia it made at least three stops — Iqaluit on Baffin Island in Canada, Reykjavic in Iceland, and Jersey, an island off the northwest coast of France. It may have stopped one more time between BC and Iqaluit.

Q400MR air tanker delivery France
The last leg, Jersey to Nimes, of Tanker 75’s ferry across the Atlantic from B.C. to Southern France.

Sécurité Civile placed the order for the six air tankers with Conair who purchased them from Bombardier. Conair is converting them into multi-role aircraft capable of transporting passengers and dropping fire retardant, water, or foam.

Initially the aircraft will be handled by the Direction Générale de l’Armement for acceptance procedures prior to beginning active duty. It is expected to make an appearance over Paris at the Bastille Day parade July 14.

The Q400 MR can carry up to 10,000 liters (2,600 gallons) of water or retardant. The “MR” stands for multirole, meaning the aircraft can be converted in a few hours to carry passengers or cargo. It can cruise at 372 mph and has a range of 1,118 miles. The aircraft is equipped with the AN Enhanced Flight Vision System, providing an image in the visible or infrared spectrum.

In a medevac configuration it can accommodate six stretchers along with the necessary nurses stations and life support equipment, or it can transport 9 tons of cargo.

For several years Sécurité Civile had been pondering what to do about replacing their nine S-2s that are approaching their structural life limit of 25,000 hours, according to the agency. Their plans announced in 2016 were to retire the S-2s between 2018 and 2022 which would require a two-year extension of the type certificate. The goal was to acquire aircraft that could carry more water or retardant, would reduce operating costs, and would be multi-role.

In addition to the nine S-2s and two Q-400s, France also has twelve CL-415s and 40 helicopters.

Q400MR dropping retardant
File photo of a Q400MR dropping retardant. Conair photo.

Photos from the early 1970s of Tanker 31, an F7F-3

air tanker F7F-3 N6177C
Tanker 31, F7F-3, N6177C. May, 1973.

(Originally published at 6:17 p.m. MDT June 24, 2019)

Today we have four more photos from the Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base — Tanker 31, an F7F-3 (N6177C). The hand-written notes on the back of the pictures say “Owned by Sis-Q Flying Service, Santa Rosa, California”. The photo from October, 1971 also says “Aero Union Corp., Chico, California”.

air tanker F7F-3 N6177C
Tanker 31, F7F-3, N6177C. October, 1971. The initials “JB” are on the back of the photo.
air tanker F7F-3 N6177C
Tanker 31, F7F-3, N6177C. March, 1972. The initials “JB” are on the back of the photo.
air tanker F7F-3 N6177C
Tanker 31, F7F-3, N6177C. May, 1973.


Air tanker makes emergency wheels-up landing at Red Deer, Alberta

The landing was caught on video

air tanker l-188 wheels up landing red deer alberta
Tanker 490, an L-188, made an emergency landing June 22, 2019 at Red Deer Regional Airport when it had problems with the landing gear. Screenshot from the video below just before it touched down on the runway.

One of Air Spray’s four-engine L-188 Electras had a problem with its landing gear June 22 and had to make an emergency wheels-up landing at Red Deer Regional Airport in Alberta.

Red Deer News Now reported that according to Graham Ingham, CEO at the airport, the incident happened around 12:20 p.m.

“We had an Air Spray air tanker, an Electra-type aircraft, perform an emergency landing due to the fact it couldn’t get its main landing gear down. After a couple of attempts, they decided that it would be safer to do a wheels up landing, and subsequently they did. Thankfully they came to a complete stop. There were no injuries, no fire and it was the best outcome for everyone.”

Mr. Ingham said two pilots and two other people on board walked away from Air Tanker 490 without any injuries.

The video below shows what looks like an excellent landing, considering the circumstances.

air tanker 490 landing gear Red Deer Airport
Air Tanker 490 had a problem with the landing gear at Red Deer Airport, June 22, 2019 and had to make an emergency landing. Photo courtesy of Red Deer Airport.
Air tanker 481 Lockheed Electra L188
File photo of another Air Spray L-188, Air Tanker 481, at McClellan, March 12, 2018. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The cause of the landing gear problem has not been released.

Other firefighting aircraft have had landing gear problems:

NWCG and NIFC video about air tankers

CAL FIRE S2T air tanker
One of CAL FIRE’s S2T air tankers. Screenshot from the video.

This 13-minute video is basically, Air Tanker 101 — a general introduction to the world of fixed wing aerial firefighting. It was produced by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group and the National Interagency Fire Center and first released in 2013. One of the clues to the date is that one of the models it covers is the P2V that retired in 2017.