DynCorp awarded Customs and Border Protection contract

The contract could be worth up to $1.4 billion

DynCorp logoOn May 31, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), awarded DynCorp International a contract to provide national aviation maintenance and logistics services. This hybrid Firm Fixed Price, Cost Plus Incentive Fee and Cost Reimbursables contract is estimated at more than $1.4 billion and consists of a base year plus nine and a half option years.

DynCorp is familiar with many of Fire Aviation’s readers due to their contracts with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) for maintaining and flying the agency’s nearly two dozen S-2T air tankers. CAL FIRE hires their own pilots for their 11 UH-1H Super Huey helicopters, but they are also maintained by DynCorp.

At the 2014 Aerial Fighting Conference DynCorp and Coulson Aviation announced a strategic alliance to work together to bid on aerial fighting contracts and provide those services if selected.

DynCorp will provide aircraft maintenance and logistics support services for CBP’s diverse fleet of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft to ensure that the Government has the numbers and types of properly configured aircraft available to meet operational commitments. CBP’s aviation assets consist of approximately 211 aircraft at multiple locations in the Western hemisphere. The fleet is a mix of military and non-military, fixed- and rotary-wing, single- and multi-engine aircraft, including some modified and equipped with state-of-the-art, highly sophisticated sensor equipment.

DynCorp is based in McLean, Virginia and has 11,500 employees.

TBT: 16 facts you may not know about CAL FIRE’s aerial firefighting program

For ThrowBack Thursday we’re revisiting a piece we wrote in March, 2016.


The aerial firefighting program in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has grown over a couple of decades into a highly respected, professionally managed organization. After spending some time at their aviation headquarters at McClellan Air Field on Thursday  [March 24, 2016] in Sacramento, I developed as list of 16 facts that you may not know about the program:

1. CAL FIRE has 22 S-2T fixed wing air tankers that can carry up to 1,200 gallons of retardant. They are presently converting an aircraft to replace the one destroyed in the October 7, 2014 crash that killed Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt. That process should be complete in 18 to 24 months.

S-2T air tanker
S-2T air tankers at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

2. They have 15 OV-10 Air Attack fixed wing aircraft.

OV-10
A lineup of OV-10 air attack ships at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

3. And 12 Super Huey helicopters.

super huey
Super Huey at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

4. All of the above aircraft were discarded by the military.

5. The S-2T air tankers were designed to be based on aircraft carriers, and therefore have wings that fold. They still retain this feature, which makes it possible to cram more aircraft into a hangar.

S-2T folded wings
An S-2T with the wings folded. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Continue reading “TBT: 16 facts you may not know about CAL FIRE’s aerial firefighting program”

16 facts you may not know about CAL FIRE’s aerial firefighting program

The aerial firefighting program in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has grown over a couple of decades into a highly respected, professionally managed organization. After spending some time at their aviation headquarters at McClellan Air Field on Thursday in Sacramento, I developed as list of 16 facts that you may not know about the program:

1. CAL FIRE has 22 S-2T fixed wing air tankers that can carry up to 1,200 gallons of retardant. They are presently converting an aircraft to replace the one destroyed in the October 7, 2014 crash that killed Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt. That process should be complete in 18 to 24 months.

S-2T air tanker
S-2T air tankers at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
2. They have 15 OV-10 Air Attack fixed wing aircraft.

OV-10
A lineup of OV10 air attack ships at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
3. And 12 Super Huey helicopters.

super huey
Super Huey at McClellan Air Field, March 24, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
4. All of the above aircraft were discarded by the military.

5. The S-2T air tankers were designed to be based on aircraft carriers, and therefore have wings that fold. They still retain this feature, which makes it possible to cram more aircraft into a hangar.

S-2T folded wings
An S-2T with the wings folded. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Continue reading “16 facts you may not know about CAL FIRE’s aerial firefighting program”

CAL FIRE extends contract with DynCorp

CAL FIRE OV-10A
CAL FIRE OV-10D (with the upgraded engines) at Redding, California, August 7, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

CAL FIRE has extended it’s contract with DynCorp for another year for maintaining and operating their S-2T air tankers and OV-10s, and for maintaining their UH-1H helicopters. The agreement has a total value of $27.8 million.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has extended its contract with DynCorp International (DI) to continue supporting its aviation program to help suppress and control wildfires.

“The partnership between CAL FIRE and DI allows us to meet our mission and keep the residents of California safe.”

“Our aviation fleet is a critical component to our ability to contain wildfires in California,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director. “The partnership between CAL FIRE and DI allows us to meet our mission and keep the residents of California safe.”

Through this contract, DI team members pilot and maintain CAL FIRE’s modified S-2T air tankers and OV-10A aircraft. Air tankers are used to drop fire retardant to help battle wildfires, while the OV-10A aircraft support aerial firefighting operations by directing the air tankers and monitoring critical areas. DI also provides maintenance support for CAL FIRE’s UH-1H helicopters that are used to transport fire fighters and equipment. Aircraft maintenance services include repair, overhaul, modification, and manufacturing of airframes, engines, propellers, helicopter rotating components, and various aircraft parts and components.

“The true heroes are the firefighters that work on the ground to stop these wildfires, and we are honored to work alongside them. DI has supported CAL FIRE since 2001, and our team members take great pride in being able to augment the efforts that save lives, property, and natural resources throughout the state of California,” said James Myles, DynAviation senior vice president, DynCorp International. “Our partnership with the CAL FIRE team has helped DI become a true leader in aerial firefighting.”

Pilot in Yosemite crash identified

crash site
The crash site a few minutes after impact. Much of the wreckage fell down the rock face, with some of it landing on the highway below. Photo by Ken Yager.

The pilot of the S-2T that died in the air tanker crash on October 7 has been identified as Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt, age 62, of San Jose. He was a 13 year veteran pilot with DynCorp International. DynCorp has the contract to maintain and operate the 23 S-2T air tankers for CAL FIRE. Mr. Hunt was attempting to drop retardant on the Dog Rock Fire near Yosemite National Park in California when the accident occurred.

Geoffrey "Craig" Hunt.
Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt.

“We continue to mourn the tragic loss of Craig,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director. “We know wildland firefighting is an inherently dangerous job, but Craig made the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Craig’s family during this difficult time,” said Jeff Cavarra, program director for DynCorp.

Mr. Hunt’s body was watched over Tuesday night by fire and rescue personnel and was recovered Wednesday morning. A National Park Service honor guard then transferred Mr. Hunt to CAL FIRE personnel.

Immediately after the crash, CAL FIRE grounded their remaining air tankers, which is standard procedure after a serious accident.

A graphic photo of the flaming wreckage falling down the steep slope has been posted at a rock climbing forum.

The S-2T air tanker, registration number N449DF, was designated Tanker 81, one of 23 S-2Ts that are maintained and flown by DynCorp for CAL FIRE. The agency also has one spare that is used to fill in as needed when an aircraft is undergoing maintenance. CAL FIRE hires their own pilots for their 11 UH-1H Super Huey helicopters, but they are also maintained by DynCorp.

The last time a CAL FIRE air tanker crashed was in 2001, when two tankers collided while fighting a fire in Mendocino County, killing both pilots, Daniel Berlant, spokesperson for CAL FIRE said.

The agency had another plane crash in 2006, when a battalion chief and a pilot were killed in the crash of an air attack plane in Tulare County.

The S-2 first flew in 1952 and the U.S. Navy discontinued the use of them in 1976. They were used for detecting enemy ships and submarines and for dropping torpedoes. The ones currently being used by CAL FIRE were converted from piston to turbine engines between 1999 and 2005. Some media outlets are incorrectly reporting that the Tanker that crashed on Tuesday was built in 2001. That may be the date that it was converted to turbine engines and was given the new model name S-2F3 Turbo Tracker. They are now commonly referred to as S-2T, with the “T” standing for turbine engine.

More information about the crash and the Dog Rock Fire is at Wildfire Today.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of Mr. Hunt.

Firewatch Cobras at Redding

Two Firewatch Cobras
Two Firewatch Cobras going through their 150-hour service at Redding, California, August 8, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

While we were at Redding on August 8 the two U.S. Forest Service Firewatch Cobra helicopters were both going through their 150-hour service. Dan Johnson, the Regional Aviation Group Supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service’s North Zone in California, told us that they have both been heavily used in recent weeks and the 150-hour came due quickly.

The helicopters are retrofitted Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, two of the 25 that the U.S. Forest Service acquired from the military. Most of the other 23 are at the aircraft boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson. A couple that are used for spare parts are sitting outside the hangar at Redding.

Spare parts Cobras
Cobras used mostly for spare parts at the Redding Airport. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

We first wrote about the Firewatch program in 2010 at Wildfire Today. The USFS has them outfitted with infrared and other sensors so that they can be used for close-in intelligence support for ground troops, such as GIS mapping, real time color video, geo-referenced infrared, and infrared downlink. In addition to intelligence gathering, they are also used as a platform for an Air Attack Group Supervisor (ATGS) or a Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO). Mr. Johnson said it would be possible to use them as lead planes, but he feels fixed wing aircraft are better suited for that role.

Sensors on Firewatch Cobra
Sensors on Firewatch Cobra. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Continue reading “Firewatch Cobras at Redding”

DynCorp and Coulson announce cooperative venture

Tonight at the Aerial Fighting Conference DynCorp and Coulson are announcing a strategic alliance. They intend to work together to bid on aerial fighting contracts and will provide those services if selected.

Coulson has operated air tankers and helicopters in North America and Australia for years, and DynCorp currently has a contract to provide maintenance and pilots for CAL FIRE’s S2T air tankers and maintenance for their helicopters.

CAL FIRE and DynCorp receive award from FAA

For a third year in a row the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) presented CAL FIRE and DynCorp International with the FAA’s Diamond Award of Excellence for Aviation Maintenance. The award recognizes CAL FIRE’s aviation maintenance unit after all maintenance technicians pass a rigorous and specialized aircraft safety training program.

CAL FIRE’s current support contractors are DynCorp and Logistics Specialties Incorporated (LSI). DynCorp provides airtanker and airtactical plane pilot services, and all aircraft maintenance services. All CAL FIRE helicopters are flown by CAL FIRE pilots. LSI provides procurement and parts management services.