A P3 Air Tanker, Tanker 23, made a demonstration water drop at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland, Colorado June 28, 2019 while Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 MultiMission aircraft filmed it from 20,000 feet. The aircraft has a Call When Needed contract with the state of Colorado for fighting wildfires.
The crew will provide intelligence on emerging and existing large fires in central Alaska
One of Colorado’s two Multi-mission Pilatus PC-12 aircraft is being dispatched to Alaska to assist with the wildfires burning in the state. The other will remain in Colorado and continue supporting fires and other incidents there.
The PC-12 will depart Centennial today, July 2, to be based out of Fairbanks, Alaska. The crew consists of two sensor operators, a pilot, and a mechanic. The team will support initial attack firefighters and provide intelligence on emerging and existing large fires in central Alaska.
Meanwhile the other PC-12 in Colorado is on fire detection missions today in Jefferson County, Douglas County, and the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest.
Air tanker 23, a P3 Orion (N923AU), appeared at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland June 28 as promised. The airport conducted what they called a “media day”, allowing media personnel to view the aircraft. The public was not invited.
The video below from Cory Reppenhagen of Nine News (@CReppWx) shows Tanker 23 dropping. The announced plan was for it to drop BLAZETAMER380, a water enhancing gel that looks similar to water when released by an air tanker.
Demonstration today of a new bomber available to fight Colorado wildfires. Nice drop along the still snowy Front Range peaks #9wxpic.twitter.com/GSlTegiEuu
The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control’s Cañon Helitack crew recently conducted Hover Step training and also tested new aerial ignition equipment in partnership with the Forest Service’s Technology and Development program. The aerial ignition devices included the Sling Dragon, developed by SEI Industries, and a modified helitorch assembly.
This is the first time a Type 2 helicopter has tested this equipment. The Technology and Development program provides practical solutions to problems identified by U.S. Forest Service employees and cooperators.
Rick Freimuth sent us these photos and description of a Safety Fly-In that occurred Friday, May 31 at the Durango Air Tanker Base in Colorado. Mr. Freimuth staffs the Benchmark Lookout west of Telluride, Colorado where he normally would have been, starting three weeks ago, but snow on the roads has made that impossible. The tower is at 9,262′ elevation.
Yesterday I attended the San Juan National Forest Safety Fly-In event at the Durango Airtanker Base. It’s an annual event (except last year because of our busy fire season) held for the local jurisdictions – USFS, BLM, NPS, Durango Fire & Rescue and other local towns and counties. The Fly-In is designed to familiarize the firefighters with air-to-ground radio protocol, general aircraft safety, crew loading, hard landings (turning off fuel, electrical and rotor brakes).
Durango Helitack was represented with their Bell 205, pilot, crew manager and crew. They demonstrated sling load loading and hookups, bucket hookups and crew loading. To increase performance for their older ship the 205 is hopped up with wider composite rotor blades, fins along the tail boom and the tail rotor is repositioned on the right side instead of the traditional 205 left side. Interesting. Of course Durango Helitack’s primary mission is IA but they also perform bucket work and rescues with the ability to carry two patients.
Mesa Verde NP Helitack was there with their Bell 407. They gave us a great demonstration of capabilities from their crew manager and one of their IA firefighters. Their primary mission is IA but are also equipped for bucket work and they are the only Short Haul capable crew in the Four Corners area. They’re capable of in-cabin litter transport as well.
Flight For Life’s orange A-Star 350 based at Durango’s Mercy Regional Medical Center was there with pilot, flight nurse and paramedic. They talked about their protocol as well as their A-Star’s excellent capabilities at high altitude rescue in the local San Juan mountain ranges. They gave an excellent demonstration of patient loading with firefighters assisting.
An interesting addition to the Fly-In was a Bell 206 from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad excursion train. Simply referred to as the train helicopter. It’s mission is to follow the train up and down the route for fire suppression in case the coal burning engines ignite fuels in their right-of-way. They carry a 75 gallon bucket filled 3/4 full for several hours a day looking for smoke. The reason for the reduced fill is to increase fuel efficiency during the day at high altitudes.
The Durango-LaPlata County airport showcased one of their two, huge Oshkosh fire engines including a thorough discussion of the airport firefighters duties and responsibilities for the myriad aircraft that may land at the field in emergency situations.
The most interesting aircraft, for me, was the State of Colorado’s Multi Mission Aircraft (MMA). The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control has two Pilatus PC-12 airplanes that have been outfitted with state-of-the-art fire detection infrared (IR) and color sensors (EO) operated by sensor operators from the Division of Fire Prevention and Control Wildland Fire Management staff. The pilot, Carl Gordon and sensor operator, Jesse, gave us a complete description of their real-time fire mapping capabilities. Jesse said they were able to send their maps to the ICs and firefighters within twenty minutes of flying the fire. The firefighters are then able to access the up-to-date fire maps on Avenza.
The retardant base was an interesting station at the Fly-In. We were given a thorough explanation of mixing Phos-Chek with water to create the loads appropriate to fuels and elevation. Durango Airtanker Base is the highest elevation tanker base at 6,685′. The retardant loads have to be altered to the summertime temperatures, high elevation of the airport and the, possibly, higher elevations of the fires. Durango Airtanker Base’s retardant base is now able to fill two air tankers at a time.
The last station at our Fly-In event was the sand table (sand box in our case). Jerran Flinders, the San Juan National Forest’s Aviation Officer and Mike Bryson, the Durango Airtanker Base Manager gave the attending firefighters scenarios of making a resource order for air tankers or helicopters on an active fire. The sand box had a fire climbing a slope through timber and approaching a ridge-top structure. Jerran lead the scenarios through requesting aircraft, communicating with air attack and delivering the retardant load. This was an excellent demonstration, for green firefighters, of what to do and what not to do during a wildfire event.
The Safety Fly-In was attended by roughly one hundred fire staff including firefighters, fire overhead, and one lookout.
It will be available on a call when needed contract with the state of Colorado
Airstrike Firefighters is making progress toward their goal of putting seven P3 Orion air tankers formally owned by Aero Union back into service. The aircraft have not been used on a fire since the U.S. Forest Service canceled the contract July 29, 2011 due to the company “failing to meet its contractual obligations”, according to the agency.
Tanker 23 (N932AU) is presently receiving a few finishing touches at the Airstrike facilities at Sacramento McClellan Airport. Scott A. Schorzman, Airstrike’s VP Business Development, said the tanker will be forward deployed to the Northern Colorado Regional Airport at Fort Collins around the second week of April, ready to be activated on a state CWN contract to fight wildfires.
Airstrike has two other P3 air tankers at their hanger at McClellan that are undergoing inspections, maintenance, and installation of equipment necessary for federal contracts.
Earlier this week a family wanted to thank a helicopter pilot who was helping to suppress the Black Mountain Fire in Colorado by dropping water. There was apparently no way they could make a billboard-sized sign, so they arranged their bodies, spelling out “THANKS”.
The photo was taken by Joseph Mutchler of Billings Flying Service and posted on Twitter by Air Attack pilot Ron Hauck.
Flew on the Black Mountain Fire in Colorado Monday. As the helicopter was dipping water a family came out to the pond laid down on the ground to spell “Thanks” to the crew. pic.twitter.com/PPEyk5jsMy
Here is an enlarged version of the family’s message:
The Black Mountain fire is 14 air miles southwest of Kremmling, Colorado in the southeast corner of Routt County. We can’t find it listed on any official government lists of wildfires, but it created a small heat signature on September 25 during a 3 a.m. satellite overflight.
And here is another great way to thank firefighters!
The creativity of the thank you cards never ceases to amaze us! A group of young women delivered these crafty posters tonight to the #BaldMountainFire camp.The meaning was heartfelt, and the laughter was sincere 😂 Thanks to all the communities for their support. pic.twitter.com/0JDnQdTHXa