YouTuber Juan Browne, “blancolirio”, has an update on the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s progress in converting seven former Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft into firefighting air tankers. It was filmed at Sacramento McClellan Airport and posted to YouTube June 28, 2020.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dave. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
One of CAL FIRE’s seven HC-130H air tankers, T-119, was spotted by John Vogel at Sacramento McClellan Airport on May 5. This is the first report we have seen about the aircraft since it was in storage in Tucson at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, often called The Boneyard, in September, 2018.
Coulson Aviation has received a contract from the U.S. Air Force to install retardant delivery systems on the seven HC-130H aircraft that will be operated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). Coulson teamed with Lockheed Martin who will install the tanks at Lockheed’s facility in Greenville, SC.
Coulson has been installing their version of a 3,500-gallon gravity-powered internal RADS retardant system in C-130Q and C-130H aircraft since at least 2013. It can be installed or removed in a few hours after the modifications are made to the plane.
On December 27, 2013 President Obama signed the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act which directed the Coast Guard to transfer seven HC-130H aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service. The legislation also directed that the Air Force spend up to $130 million to perform needed routine and heavy maintenance on the aircraft and to convert them into air tankers.
In November Coulson bought five C-130H transport planes from the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency (NDMA) and will convert them into firefighting air tankers. The formal takeover is planned for the end of this year or early in 2020.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Brett and Kevin. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc. has bought five C-130H transport planes from the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency (NDMA) and will convert them into firefighting air tankers. The formal takeover is planned for the end of this year or early in 2020.
The NDMA is Norway’s commercial and technical designated procurement and divestment authority for their Department of Defense.
In March 2018, the NDMA sales process began with a Request for Proposal. Six companies responded, however only Coulson Aviation was able to provide the required documentation, including the current government contracts, which was part of the sales regulations. The sales have been approved by U.S. Authorities, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Norwegian Ministry of Defense.
“These C-130H’s have been maintained to the highest standard and with our modifications, along with a new glass cockpit, they will continue to serve the public for years to come,” said Britt Coulson, President of Coulson Aviation.
The five C-130Hs have been stored at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.
“These airplanes have been very important for the Norwegian Defense, and I am pleased that they will now also be useful for civilian purposes, said Frank Bakke-Jensen, Minister of Defense in Norway. Mette Sørfonden, Director General for NDMA, added “This is the most significant material sales project finalized after the establishment of NDMA, and it has been an important achievement […].”
The Air Force has removed from service 123 C-130s after “atypical” cracking was found in the lower center wing joint, or “rainbow fitting”, in some aircraft. This affects C-130H and J-model aircraft that have not received the extended service life center wing box and that have greater than 15,000 equivalent flight hours.
The Air Force will inspect all 123 aircraft which takes about eight hours. Replacing the fitting, if necessary, will take 1 to 2 months after the work can be scheduled for depot level maintenance.
This issue does not affect the seven HC-130H aircraft the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will be receiving from the Coast Guard since none of them have more than 15,000 equivalent flight hours, according to Dennis Brown CAL FIRE’s Chief of Flight Operations. Those seven aircraft, slated for conversion to air tankers since Congress passed the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act in December, 2013, are still the property of the Coast Guard and have not been officially transferred to CAL FIRE, in spite of the fact that at least one is sporting CAL FIRE livery. The HC-130Hs are waiting for the Air Force to have retardant delivery systems installed in addition to other maintenance requirements.
Over the weekend Coulson Aviation inspected the only C-130 type aircraft they have under U.S. Forest Service contract, Tanker 131, a C-130Q, and no cracking was found, according to Kaari Carpenter, Public Affairs Specialist for the agency.
Coulson also has a C-130Q, T-134, under contract with CAL FIRE that is being used train the agency’s pilots for the transition from S-2Ts to HC-130Hs. Dennis Brown of CAL FIRE said the aircraft is under the 15,000-hour requirement but will be inspected tonight, regardless.
In 2018 Coulson had a civilian version of a C-130, an L-382G, under USFS Call When Needed Contract, but that air tanker has been replaced on the list with a B-737, Tanker 137, which was on contract in Australia during their summer. It was used on a fire in the United States last week, which may be the first time a 737 air tanker has dropped on a fire in North America.
Thanks and tips of the hat go out to Bean and Jim. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has taken one visible step toward incorporating the seven HC-130H aircraft into their air tanker fleet. One of them, Tanker 118, showed up at Sacramento McClellan Airport today sporting new livery. And it’s clearly identifiable as a CAL FIRE aircraft, with CAL FIRE in bold letters behind the cockpit, and below the wing is the state flag. The paint design is similar to that on their S-2T air tankers.
The aircraft was operated off an on for a couple of years by the FS using a slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) retardant system. It was borrowed from the program of using military C-130s during busy portions of fire seasons when a surge capacity was needed. All seven HC-130H aircraft were supposed to receive retardant tanks, but the U.S. Air Force, responsible to see that it was done, dithered on that program for years and it never happened.
T-118 will be getting the rudder painted soon, and one day may receive a conventional internal gravity-powered retardant delivery system.
Chief of CAL FIRE Thom Porter said he expects it to be ready to fight fire in 2021.
If you ever need to kill some time, you can read through the 40 or so articles on Fire Aviation about the troubled U.S. Forest Service HC-130H program. The are all tagged HC-130H.
Action News Now interviewed Shem Hawkins, the CAL FIRE Battalion Chief at the Chico Air Attack Base. One S2T air tanker and an Air Attack ship are stationed at the airport.
CAL FIRE is in the process of replacing their aging fleet of 12 Super Huey helicopters with new Sikorsky S-70i Firehawks from United Rotorcraft.
The interviewer misquoted Chief Hawkins in one respect. CAL FIRE is getting seven HC-130H aircraft which will be converted to air tankers, but they are 31 to 35 years old — not “brand new”. The U.S. Coast Guard gave them to the U.S. Forest Service, but the FS quickly changed their mind before the conversions to air tankers were complete, and regifted them to CAL FIRE. Much work still needs to be done to perform heavy maintenance on the ships and install retardant delivery systems.
Chief Hawkins’ fire career began as a volunteer firefighter at Magalia, CA in 1992. After being hired at CAL FIRE, he served as a Firefighter, Paramedic, Engineer, Fire Captain, and Field Battalion Chief. His father is John Hawkins who retired in December as the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Chief.
The first of the seven HC-130H former Coast Guard aircraft that Congress sent to the U.S. Forest Service in 2013, which were then rejected and regifted to CAL FIRE, will not be fully converted into a firefighting air tanker until 2021. The remaining six will be finished in the following years. The aircraft need various levels of depot level maintenance, some need new wing boxes, and they all need retardant delivery systems.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein and nine other members of California’s congressional delegation sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson several months ago in an attempt to motivate them to quit dragging their feet on the project.