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.

Agreement sought to manufacture Be-200 air tankers in California

The aircraft would be manufactured in Santa Maria, California.

A businessman in Santa Maria, California, who has long been interested in the Russian-made Be-200 scooping air tanker, is pursuing still another avenue to use the aircraft in the United States.

David Baskett is the director of Santa Maria’s airport, president of TTE International, and is associated with International Emergency Services (IES).  Campaigning for years to import the 3,000-gallon Be-200 air tanker, in 2010 he arranged for one of the aircraft to visit the United States. It was on display at Santa Maria, California and made a demonstration water drop. Mr. Baskett said then that his plan was to purchase 10 of the aircraft and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States.

Be-200ES
A Be-200ES rolls out for the public while another makes a demonstration water drop. May 30, 2016 at the Beriev factory in Taganrog, Russia.

Now he says he is working with the Beriev Aircraft Company (that makes the aircraft), Global Seaplanes, and Airbus to manufacture the aircraft in Santa Maria. He hopes that the air tanker will receive FAA certification.

Several years ago some U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganrog, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 could be approved by the Interagency AirTanker Board (IAB). At the time, we heard unofficial reports that it met the criteria for water-scooping air tankers, but tests were not completed for dropping fire retardant.

This is not the first announcement that the Be-200 would be manufactured in the United States. In 2014 USA Firefighting Air Corps (USAFAC) said they signed a collaboration agreement with IES to produce the Be-200 in Colorado. USAFAC co-founder Chris Olson told the Colorado Wildfire Matters Review Committee that the company was in discussions with international financiers to back the initiative’s $500 million proposition.

USAFAC at the same time was proposing to convert the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt into an air tanker.

New agreement to produce US-built Be-200 amphibious air tanker

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

The Colorado company that proposes to convert the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt into an air tanker announced on September 26 that they signed an agreement to produce the until now Russian-built amphibious water-scooping Beriev 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.

USAFAC co-founder Chris Olson made the announcement before the Colorado Wildfire Matters Review Committee saying the company was in discussions with international financiers to back the initiative’s $500 million proposition.

David Baskett of IES has been campaigning for years to import the 3,000-gallon Be-200 air tanker, and in 2010 arranged for one of the aircraft to visit the United States. It was on display at Santa Maria, California and made a demonstration water drop. Mr. Baskett said then that his plan was to purchase 10 of the aircraft and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States.

A couple of years ago some U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganrog, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 met the criteria established by the Interagency AirTanker Board (IAB). At the time, we heard unofficial reports that it met the criteria for water-scooping air tankers, but tests were not completed for dropping fire retardant.

There are quite a few videos of Be-200s dropping water, but the four-second one below is my favorite.

USAFAC has made a splash recently with proposals about the A-10 and now the Be-200. The company, which first registered its web domain on August 9, 2014, has ambitious goals. It will be interesting to see if their talk translates into something flyable.

BE-200 air tanker at Santa Maria, California
BE-200 air tanker at Santa Maria, California, April 10, 2010. Photo by Michael Lynn.

Before we created Fire Aviation, we wrote several stories about the Be-200 at Wildfire Today. Here is a link to articles there tagged Be-200.