Yesterday the physical process of converting two C-130H aircraft formerly owned by the Norwegian military began when they were towed from the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) in Tucson, Arizona. Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc. purchased five C-130Hs through a complicated procedure that started in March, 2018 and was finalized at the end of 2019.
Thursday the two aircraft were moved from AMARG to a nearby facility where they will be brought back to life, with the goal to fly them both out in March for heavy maintenance and conversion into air tankers capable of fighting wildfires.
A third 737 is being converted In 2017 Coulson purchased six 737-300’s to convert them into 4,000-gallon “Fireliner” air tankers capable of transporting up to 70 passengers. So far two conversions are complete, and Tankers 137 and 138 and have been dropping on fires in Australia during their 2019-2020 bushfire season. New South Wales bought T-137 and Coulson still owns T-138. Britt Coulson, Vice President of Coulson Aviation, told us a third is in the pipeline; all of the parts have been manufactured and their team members are working on it.
Ashlyn Parker, a pilot with Helicopter Express, let us know about an all-female crew on a recent flight while working near North Kaibab, Arizona supporting the Little Springs and Castle Fires:
A helicopter flight on July 14th had an all female crew — (left to right) Ashlyn Parker (pilot), Natalie Bench, Dallas Baca, and Makenzie Mabery. We also had another female helitack crew member who was on the ground staffing the helispot, Mariah Jones. Photo taken at Jacob Lake Helispot by Helitack crewmember JA Ford. Helicopter is a Helicopter Express 407HP.
I would have to think that this has probably happened before — an all-female crew on a firefighting helicopter flight, but probably not often. Anyone have examples?
The Woodbury Fire 12 miles east of the Phoenix suburbs became very active on the northeast side Tuesday beginning at about 2 p.m., sending up another large column of smoke that blew off to the northeast. It added another 3,894 acres to bring the total up to 44,451 acres.
On Wednesday fire crews are preparing for the possibility of the fire moving north towards Roosevelt and east towards the Pinto Mine along Pinto Canyon. Firefighters will be using burnouts and existing black lines to divert fire from the Reavis Ranch, Roosevelt, and mining operations. They will continue the preparations along 500 KV power lines to make them more defensible, masticating brush and building bulldozer lines where appropriate.
The smoke is expected to spread to the east on Saturday, becoming noticeable in Southern New Mexico and Western Texas.
Tom Kurth’s Type 1 Incident Management Team began using drones on fires in 2017. In 2018 they experimented with using one for aerial ignition, lighting burnouts by dropping spheres which burst into flame 30 to 45 seconds after being released.
Last weekend the same type of drone was used for aerial ignition on the Maroon Fire 18 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona.
In this video posted by Kurth’s IMT last August, team members describe how they used drones on the Taylor Creek and Klondike Fires in southwest Oregon for aerial surveying, detecting the location of heat, mapping, and aerial ignition.
The Maroon Fire has burned 5,000 acres on the Coconino National Forest in a cinder basin northeast of Flagstaff. Aerial ignitions are being conducted by helicopter and drones.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chip. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
Above: A K-MAX helicopter lifts a vehicle out of the Grand Canyon, March 29, 2018. NPS photo.
On March 29 a K-MAX helicopter at Grand Canyon National Park lifted two vehicles out of the inner canyon that drove off the edge in 2017. The National Park Service didn’t provide any details about how or why the vehicles ended up there, or if anyone was in them at the time, Thelma and Louise style.
Apparently this is a recurring project, as you can see in the video from 2009:
And in other Grand Canyon aviation news, the park’s contract helicopter has a new paint job. The MD-900/207E recently returned to the park after having all the old paint sanded off by hand. The sanding and painting took about 6 weeks.
The drone that landed, caught fire, and ignited what became a 335-acre fire in Northern Arizona was battery-powered and approximately 16″ x 16″, a spokesperson for the Coconino National Forest said. The operator reported the fire and was later cited for causing timber, trees, slash, brush, or grass to burn. The spokesperson did not know exactly how the drone caught fire.
(Originally published at 4:32 p.m. MST March 6, 2018)
Just a couple of hours ago we wrote about how proud the Department of the Interior is of their drone program (as they should be). And there’s no doubt that Unmanned Aerial Systems can play an important part in improving situational awareness for wildland firefighters.
But today investigators have determined that the preliminary cause of a wildfire north of Flagstaff is a drone that landed and caught fire. At 3:25 p.m. MST Tuesday the Coconino National Forest said firefighters had stopped the spread of the resulting wildfire after it burned 335 acres near Kendrick Park by Forest Roads 514 and 524.
There is no information yet about the operator of the drone or if it was powered by a battery or gasoline.
All of these photos were provided by the Coconino National Forest.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
While CAL FIRE embraced the DC-10 and used it extensively until the state ran out of money, the USFS was very skeptical, to say the least. The agency is extremely slow in making any changes to their aerial firefighting program. They appear to have a bias against Very Large Air Tankers, like the DC-10 and 747, and water-scooping air tankers, even though they have all been used very successfully by other agencies. Finally after it had proven itself over a few years, a DC-10 received a Call When Needed contract, and later an Exclusive Use Contract, and Incident Commanders and Air Operations personnel were often very happy to see it in the air over their fires.
A lot of people, including some who leave comments on this site, have viewpoints about the effectiveness and performance of specific models of air tankers. Some of them are based on indisputable facts, and others are opinions developed from…. something else. So, like reading political news, be careful when consuming information.
On July 24, 2012 we wrote an article on Wildfire Today with quotes from evaluations of a DC-10 that were written by lead plane pilots hours after they had directed it on fires. The DC-10 almost always carries at least 11,600 gallons of retardant, rarely having to reduce the load because of density altitude issues.
Here’s the article:
Evaluations of Tanker 911, one of the DC-10 very large air tankers
We have seen the written evaluations of Tanker 911, one of the DC-10 very large air tankers, for some of the retardant drops the aircraft completed on fires in Arizona and Utah in June and July. The forms were signed by individuals identifying themselves as lead plane pilots.
The evaluation form consists of two parts; a narrative section, and assigning a grade for specific aspects of performance: Reload Turn Times, Maneuverability, Steep Terrain Operations, Drop Patterns, and Uniformity of Coverage. All of the grades were “Above Average” or “Exceeded Expectation”.
Here are the details that were hand written in the narrative section on the forms:
Poco Fire, Phoenix, Arizona; Gallons Delivered 11,700 x 6; June 16-19, 2012
All drop patterns were good and uniform. Flat and steep terrain – excellent performance in all profiles.
CL [Coverage level] 6 utilized in timber and mixed brush.
Quantity and mass of load delivered allowed for higher than standard drop altitudes to minimize exposure in challenging terrain and still achieve good pattern on the ground.
Quantity delivered also means 1 pass, 1 exposure instead of 7 from a legacy platform carrying 2,000 gallons!
Very uniform and consistent pattern on the ground. Very accurate starts. Performed some split loads as needed.
Fox Fire, Tucson, Arizona; Gallons Delivered 11,700 x 2; 2 loads; 3 drops; June 18, 2012
1 – CL 6 – Split Load – Started and stopped to tie in a road in front of structures. Very accurate start and stop. Last 2,000 gal reinforced first drop.
2 – CL 4 – One drop. Excellent coverage! It would have taken 6 or 7 loads from a legacy platform to get same length of line.
Quick effective line production.
Six Shooter Fire, Globe, Arizona; Gallons Delivered 11,700; 1 load; 8 drops; June 17, 2012
This was an initial attack fire. The location of this 5-acre fire, 1,500 to 2,000 ft below a ridge line, necessitated a substantial decent profile to get over the target on speed and altitude. The DC-10 was very capable and provided excellent coverage on and around the entire fire. The fire was successfully stopped at the same perimeter when the tanker dropped!
Excellent drops and performance.
Shingle Fire, Cedar City, Utah; Gallons Delivered 11,700 x 4; 4 loads; July 2-3, 2012
Good coverage and line production. Excellent pattern on the ground and saved lots of time vs utilizing smaller aircraft. We would not have been able to get the line needed done without this tool.
Long turn arounds loading at [illegible; looked like “IVA”, “IWA”, or “IUA”]. 2 hour flights but dollars/gal still comperable considering speed and gallons!
**** DC-10 air tanker delivers 373,600 gallons of retardant
One of the DC-10 air tankers has dropped about 373,600 gallons of retardant during 33 sorties on seven wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico over the last 10 days. The fires were: Little Bear fire, 257 fire, Grand fire, Poco fire, Six Shooter fire, Fox fire, and 177 fire. They were all in Arizona except the Little Bear which was in New Mexico.
Eight of the nine air tankers currently on exclusive use contracts with the U.S. Forest Service are 50+ year old P2Vs designed for maritime patrol. Their average retardant load is 1,948 gallons according to a 2007-2009 air tanker study. If all of those 373,600 gallons the DC-10 dropped in those 10 days had been delivered by a P2V it would have taken about 192 round trips to the fires.