During the Aerial Firefighting conference in Sacramento this week I interviewed Mikey McBryan, the General Manager of Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories which was founded by his father,”Buffalo” Joe McBryan. He talked about the company’s P3 air tanker, their numerous other air tankers, their 11 DC-3’s, his father’s 10,000 flight hours in a single DC-3, the history of Buffalo Airways, and the additional aircraft in their fleet. And he gets in a plug for “Ice Pilots” on Netflix.
One of Air Spray’s L-188 air tankers, Tanker 481, was struck by lightning after taking off from the airport at Williams Lake, British Columbia. Thankfully, there were no reported injuries to the two-person crew or the aircraft.
The amazing photo was taken by Amanda Beddington.
Here is a link to a photo of T-481 sitting safely on the ground.
Above: Tanker 47 (a Convair 340-31), Tanker 49 (a Convair 440-580), an F-18, and a couple of fire engines at Whitehouse International Airport, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada June 6, 2017. Photo by Doug Cote.
Doug Cote sent us this photo and said the annual migration of air tankers to Alaska is ongoing. He shot this photo today of an assortment of emergency equipment at Whitehorse.
Northwest Territories has awarded a contract to Buffalo Airways to operate their eight new Air Tractor 802F FireBoss single engine air tankers. The government of the NWT inherited six CL-215 piston-powered scooper air tankers. They are being replaced by the FireBoss scoopers at a cost of about $26 million. Buffalo Airways scored a five-year contract to operate the new turbine-powered SEATs.
This seems be a trend. In 2015 the state of Minnesota sold their two CL-215s and replaced them with four FireBoss SEATs.
The FireBoss is amphibious, able to take off from a runway and land or scoop water on a lake.
Buffalo Airways previously operated the CL-215s for NWT. In their own fleet the company has eight air tankers: a Lockheed Electra, three Douglas DC-4s, and four CL-215s. As far as we know they have not yet starting operating the P3 they bought in 2014 as an air tanker. The last we heard it was receiving some maintenance in Florida.
On July 14, 2016 the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada released the Investigation Report about the crash of a Conair Air Tractor AT-802A that occurred August 14, 2014. The crash took place as the air tanker was attempting to lift off after scooping water on Chantslar Lake in British Columbia. The pilot incurred minor injuries and the aircraft sank.
The investigators concluded that a wing stalled either independently or in combination with an encounter with a wing-tip vortex generated by another aircraft.
Below is the TSB’s Summary of the incident:
An Air Tractor AT-802A on amphibious floats (registration C-GXNX, serial number AT- 802A-0530), operating as Tanker 685, was carrying out wildfire management operations during daylight near Chantslar Lake, British Columbia. Three similar aircraft were working as a group with Tanker 685, which was second in line on a touch-and-go to scoop water from Chantslar Lake. Upon liftoff, control was lost and the aircraft’s right wing struck the water. The aircraft water-looped, and the floats and their support structure separated from the fuselage. The aircraft remained upright and slowly sank.
The pilot received minor injuries, egressed from the cockpit, and inflated the personal flotation device being worn. The third aircraft in the formation jettisoned its hopper load as it continued its takeoff and remained in the circuit. The fourth aircraft jettisoned its hopper load, rejected its takeoff, and taxied to pick up the accident pilot. There was sufficient impact force to activate the on-board 406- megahertz emergency locator transmitter, but the search-and-rescue satellite system did not detect a signal from the emergency locator transmitter until the wreckage was being recovered 6 days later.
The TSB’s findings, in part:
1. A wing stalled either independently or in combination with an encounter with a wing-tip vortex generated by the lead aircraft. This caused a loss of control moments after liftoff, and resulted in the right-hand wing tip contacting the water and in a subsequent water-loop.
2. The operator’s standard takeoff procedures did not specify a liftoff speed for scooping operations. Lifting off below the published power-off stall speed contributed to a loss of control at an altitude insufficient to permit a recovery.
3. The takeoff condition, with the aircraft heavy, its speed below the published power-off stall speed, and a high angle-of-attack contributed to the loss of control.
4. An understaffed management structure during organizational changes likely led to excessive workload for existing managers. This contributed to risks, contained within the standard operating procedures, not being addressed through the operator’s safety management system, resulting in continued aircraft operations below published minimum airspeed limitations.
The report states that Conair hired a safety manager and a company check pilot for the Fire Boss fleet before the 2015 spring training season started. And, Conair adopted a risk mitigation plan for 2015–2016, applicable to the company’s AT-802 fleet. The plan addresses issues mentioned in the TSB report, plus an additional issue identified in-house.
The year following the August 14, 2014 crash on Chantslar Lake there were three incidents that we are aware of that involved Conair AT-802’s:
- 2015, April 11: An engine failure on Air Tanker 699, an Air Tractor AT-802A, during training resulted in damage to a float upon landing. The incident occurred April 11, 2015 on Harrison Lake, BC, 33 nm NNE of Abbotsford.
- 2015, May 22: A Conair 802-F Fire Boss crashed in Alberta, killing the pilot, William Hilts.
- 2015, July 10: A Conair Air Tractor 802-F Fire Boss was scooping water from Puntzi Lake in B.C. (map) when the plane had some sort of difficulty and sank.
Coulson has been working on both of their Martin Mars aircraft, the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars. At one point this week both of them were floating in Sproat Lake adjacent to the Coulson facility for the flying boats.
The company has repainted the Philipine Mars. It no longer has the red and white air tanker colors and now resembles its original military paint scheme. Coulson is still pursuing a plan to sell or trade the aircraft.
The Hawaii Mars is scheduled to make its first trip to the Oshkosh air show July 25 through July 30.
If you like the sound of four 18-cylinder big-ass radial engines, turn up the sound for this video.
Reuters is reporting that the Alberta Government will use drones to help narrow down the point of origin of the huge wildfire that has burned 157,000 hectares (387,000 acres) at Fort McMurray and forced the evacuation of the entire city of more than 80,000 residents.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
…Elevated Robotic Services, which has also deployed drones for mining and construction companies, has contracts with the Alberta government and insurance broker Hub International Ltd [HBINT.UL], said Mat Matthews, the Edmonton company’s operations and safety manager.
The drones use cameras outfitted with infrared, ultraviolet and traditional optical cameras to pinpoint the hottest part of the fire and trace it to its source based on time, wind and other factors. The cameras will shoot about 800 images, which are then stitched together in a process called fire-mapping.
The work begins on Tuesday, coordinated with the other air traffic, including air tankers and helicopters.
The images, if successful, will zero down to a spot on the ground with about a 30-foot (9-meter) radius where the fire is believed to have started. From there, investigators will search on foot for the cause, such as a lightning strike or campfire.
Using the more traditional method of gathering images from helicopters, the fire’s cause could be narrowed only to half an acre, a much larger area to search on the ground, said Ron Windmueller, owner of Droneology, which supplies equipment and other services to Elevated.
Downward wind from helicopter blades can disturb the scene, forcing the pilot to stay about 1,000 feet in the air. A drone can capture images from 100 feet.