Georgia buys two single engine air tankers

Above: File photo of two Thrush 510G aircraft, a standard model and one with a dual cockpit. Thrush photo.

(Originally published at 6 p.m. MDT December 27, 2017)

The state of Georgia’s Forestry Commission has purchased two Thrush 510G Switchback single engine air tankers (SEATs).

The 510G model was introduced by Thrush in 2012 featuring a redesign of everything forward of the firewall including a different engine, the 800 shp GE H80 turbine.

The version acquired by Georgia has a dual cockpit and control systems, unusual in a SEAT, but it enables the aircraft to serve in a training role for Georgia Forestry Commission pilots.

The “Switchback” part of the name is an option which means in addition to delivering 500 gallons of water or fire retardant, it has the ability to switch from agricultural spray duties to firefighting capabilities in a matter of minutes thanks to its unique fire gate delivery system. These were the first Switchbacks delivered by Thrush, even though they have sold more than 100 510G’s.

“We’re extremely proud to be adding the Switchback to our aerial firefighting fleet,” said Georgia Forestry Commission’s director, Chuck Williams. “It boasts many advantages for our firefighting efforts and heralds an exciting new chapter in our commitment to protect and conserve the more than 24 million acres of timber land across our state. You’ll see these aircraft deployed not just for rapid fire suppression – but also in the very important role of rapid fire detection, which can sometimes make all the difference in being able to contain a wildfire, versus having it become uncontrollable.”

Specifications of the 510G:

  • Working speed: 90-150
  • Stall speed as usually landed: 55 mph
  • Take-off distance at 10,500 pounds: 1,500 feet
  • Landing Distance as Usually Landed w/Reverse: 350 feet
  • Cruising speed at 55% power: 159 mph

DC-10 tanker joins West Mims Fire efforts

Above: A helicopter makes a water drop next to the road in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the West Mims Fire. Photo via InciWeb.

Additional air resources arrived on Tuesday to join crews battling the 140,000-acre West Mims Fire on the Georgia-Florida border.

The Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), a DC-10 fitted with a retardant delivery system, arrived Tuesday afternoon but was only able to make one fire retardant drop before low visibility due to settling smoke made subsequent air operations unsafe, officials said. The aircraft is capable of dumping 11,600 gallons (44,000 liters) of chemical fire retardant in a single run, and it joins more than 700 firefighters and support personnel working to contain the blaze with bulldozers, helicopters and smaller planes.

The DC-10 is stationed in Chattanooga, Tenn., hundreds of miles away from the fire. Though clear across the entire state of Georgia, that location is the closest airport rated to handle the needs of a place its size, officials said.

Crews caught a break on Tuesday — the fire wasn’t as active as it had been of late, though temperatures still hit 96 degrees with relative humidity hovering about 19 percent.

“For the first time in 3 days, the fire was not as aggressive as was anticipated,” incident commanders wrote in the Tuesday evening update, posted to InciWeb. 

Hotter conditions and gusty winds are forecast for Wednesday.

Eight heavy helicopters and six heavy air tankers will be supporting ground operations Wednesday, as conditions allow.

The lightning-sparked fire started April 6 has burned 140,400 acres and remains just 12 percent contained.

DC-10 air tanker Utah
A DC-10 on a fire in Utah. Posted on Twitter by the Alpine Hotshots September 4, 2016.

Air tanker working West Mims Fire experiences problem releasing retardant

An inadvertent release of retardant occurred along a five-mile long path near Lake City, Florida.

Neptune's air Tanker 41
File photo of Neptune’s Tanker 41 at Boise, July 19, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
(UPDATED at 4:09 p.m. MDT April 19, 2017)

On Tuesday April 18 one of the three large air tankers working on the West Mims Fire on the Georgia/Florida border reported issues while in flight and could not actuate the gate which allows retardant to be released. While returning to the tanker base, one of the tank’s gates had a malfunction, allowing approximately 40 gallons of retardant to be released intermittently along a five mile path, Dan Synder, President of Neptune Aviation told us.

The aircraft that had the problem was Neptune’s Tanker 41, a BAe-146, according to Mike Terry, the Air Operations Branch Director on the fire. On Tuesday it dropped 5,951 gallons. It’s not clear if that included the inadvertent drop. The BAe-146’s can carry up to 3,000 gallons.

The Incident Management Team is advising anyone who was affected by the retardant to call the West Mims Fire Information Line at 904-452-4627.

The West Mims Fire has burned 21,790 acres in Florida and Georgia since it started April 6, 2017. Most of the fire is in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, John M. Bethea State Forest, and Osceola National Forest.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Willard and Tom.

Typos or errors, report them HERE.