Above: The Russian IL-76 very large air tanker taxis at Santiago, Chile, January 30, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
The Russian IL-76 air tanker has completed its assignment in Chile, dropping water to assist the firefighters on the ground who were dealing with a fire season much busier than usual. The aircraft arrived in Santiago on January 30, 2017 and left today, February 27. It can hold up to 11,574 gallons of water that with the assistance of gravity pours through two huge flapper valves into two large tubes on the rear cargo ramp.
While in the country it conducted 41 sorties and made 80 drops for a total of 449,092 gallons, according to the Russian agency EMERCOM. That organization provided the video below which includes some interesting shots inside the aircraft while dropping and of the water delivery system.
Above: Tanker 03, a BAe-146, in Chile. Neptune photo.
(This article first appeared on WildfireToday.com)
The number of active wildfires in Chile has varied from week to week depending on the weather, but the drought-driven situation that has plagued Chile since December is still of great concern to the residents of the country — especially since more than 1,000 homes burned in Santa Olga on January 25.
The tweet below refers to a fire in the Maule Region.
The 747 Supertanker returned to Colorado Springs on February 13 after being in Chile for three weeks. The Russian IL-76 is still there but is expected to depart on February 25.
Neptune’s Tanker 03, a BAe-146, arrived in the country February 4. It has completed 20 missions dropping on fires, but a spokesperson for the company told us today it has not flown since February 14. It is committed to remain in Chile through the end of this month.
The Russian-made IL-76 air tanker was parked near the 747 SuperTanker at Santiago, Chili today January 30. The 747 was off duty to take care of some maintenance, while the IL-76 went on two missions, dropping water on fires south of Santiago.
Above: The IL-76 on the ramp at Santiago, Chile January 30, 2017. Photo by Tom Parsons.
While the 747 air tanker is taking a day off in Chile for maintenance the Russian IL-76 went to work about 9 hours after arriving at Santiago early Monday morning. FlightRadar24 showed the aircraft (RA76841) flew to and concentrated on a point northeast of Concepción near Portezuelo, an area that has had fires in recent days. As this is written at 4:08 p.m. Chile time it appears to be returning to Santiago at 15,000 feet and 343 mph.
Today Tom Parsons and Marcos Valdez, pilots of the 747 air tanker, swapped tours of their aircraft with the crew of the IL-76 before the Russian air tanker took off on a fire mission.
Above: The IL-76 and 747 SuperTanker (L to R) at Santiago, Chile airport, January 30, 2017. Concierto.cl photo.
At 5 a.m. Monday morning an IL-76 very large air tanker arrived in Santiago, Chile after 9,300-mile flight that included three refueling stops. It was welcomed in the darkness by officials from the Chilean government.
According to the Russian news service Sputnik International the aircraft can carry up to 42 metric tons of water which converts to about 11,574 gallons. In comparison, most of the air tankers in North America carry 1,400 to 4,000 gallons. The DC-10 holds 11,600 and the 747 has a 19,200-gallon capacity.
Accordign to T13.cl (in an automatic translation from spanish by Google):
Alexander Markov, the colonel and group leader who will operate the ship in Chile, said that the year the aircraft was used in operations in Israel, Portugal, Greece and Indonesia and that the pilots of the aircraft have extensive experience in fighting fires.
There were no reports Monday morning that it brought two helicopters or came with a second IL-76 as was speculated.
The air tanker was expected to remain in Santiago for most of the morning before moving on to its temporary base at La Araucanía International Airport, also known as Temuco Airport, in southern Chile.
The extended drought and a siege of wildland fires has brought to light the fact that Chile does not have any large air tankers or an infrastructure for supporting the aircraft. However the bomberos (firefighters) have done an outstanding job creating a very elaborate temporary water system for refilling the 747 SuperTanker at Santiago. Now that the the aircraft has been in the country since January 25 and proven to be a valuable tool in the firefighters toolbox additional air tankers are reportedly enroute to assist those on the ground. Most of the following information is preliminary and subject to change.
Russian Ilyushin IL-76
There is no doubt at least one Russian IL-76 is en route but we have not confirmed the number. It appears there will be two of the planes with a slip-in 11,574-gallon tank (43,812 liters) with each aircraft bringing two helicopters in their cavernous cargo holds. Instead of working out of Santiago along with the 747 it may be based at La Araucanía International Airport, also known as Temuco Airport, in southern Chile.
On July 1, 2016 an IL-76 working on a fire in Russia was reported missing. Two days later the wreckage was found. Ten people died in the crash.
An aviation publication in Chile, TallyHo, is reporting that the Brazilian Air Force is sending a C-130 with a slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS). From the description, it must be a MAFFS Version 1.0 since it has multiple retardant tanks, no built-in air compressor, and the retardant exits through two tubes sticking out of the rear cargo ramp. Brazil is also bringing a second C-130 carrying a compressor and portable water tanks.
(UPDATE 1446 January 30, 2017: the Brazilian C-130’s arrived Sunday and are expected to move to Concepción today.)
Coulson’s Tanker 132
Coulson’s Tanker 132, an L-382G commercial variant of the C-130 platform, has worked in New South Wales Australia during their last two summer bushfire seasons. Their current contract began September 6, 2016 and was extended for a month and since then has been extended week by week. Amid reports in Chile that T-132 was going to be working in the country, we checked with Britt Coulson who told us that their company has been contacted about sending one of their C-130 class air tankers to Chile but they are still under contract. He said “it’s really heating up in Australia” and it seems unlikely they will release them. The company’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q, is also under contract in Australia, in Victoria.
There has also been talk about bringing in Air-Crane helicopters, but nothing is confirmed yet.