Interview with a Crew Chief on a C-130 MAFFS air tanker

On April 21, 2017 we interviewed Zach Havel an engine mechanic and former Crew Chief on C-130 Modular Airborne FireFighting System aircraft. The MAFFS converts the aircraft into a 3,000-gallon air tanker. We talked with him at Boise during the annual MAFFS training and recertification.

C-130 MAFFS air tanker Loadmaster Interview

Sgt. Poulsen, a MAFFS Loadmaster, was interviewed April 21 in Boise during training and recertification for MAFFS personnel.

MAFFS air tanker Boise

An interview with Sgt. Phil Poulsen of the California Air National Guard about installing and operating the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) in a military C-130, turning it into an air tanker for fighting wildfires.

Video interview with the Colonel in charge of MAFFS annual training

Colonel Bryan Allen was interviewed during the annual training and recertification for the Modular Airborne FireFighting System crews at Boise, Idaho on April 21, 2017. The MAFFS converts a military C-130 into an air tanker for battling wildfires.

Col. Allen discussed:

  • How playing the recording of the C-130J audible cockpit warning “LANDING GEAR, LANDING GEAR, LANDING GEAR” over the public address system at Lockheed, helped to develop a software modification that enabled the pilots to turn off that voice while they were on final approach to drop retardant on a wildfire.
  • The number of sorties and description of the training the MAFFS personnel received during the annual session.
  • How the crash of MAFFS 7 in 2012 affected the training.
  • The origin of the MAFFS equipment.

Interview with lead plane pilot Jamie Tackman about the 747 air tanker

Jamie Tackman

On January 24, 2017 the 747 SuperTanker left its base in Colorado Springs, Colorado for an assignment in Chile. It returned on February 13 after dropping on many wildfires in the South American country, making as many as seven sorties in a day each with 19,200 gallons of water enhanced with an additive to help make the water more effective, since long-term retardant was not available.

After 17 years as a ground based wildland firefighter, with much as it as a smokejumper, Jamie Tackman transitioned to the air, becoming a lead plane pilot. He has worked off and on with the 747 air tankers since Evergreen converted the first one. Now retired from the U.S. Forest Service, he traveled to Chile to provide lead plane services for the huge aircraft operated by Global SuperTankers. This time he had a different role, or at least a different platform, flying ahead of the air tanker as usual but in an aircraft flown by military pilots.

Bill Gabbert interviewed Jamie, who began by describing the situation. Chile has no infrastructure for supervising, using, or refilling large or very large air tankers and they were unfamiliar with the concept of lead planes. In spite of these challenges the personnel working with the 747 and the other aircraft developed procedures to fight the fires from the air, while the local firefighters improvised a system on the ground for refilling the 747 and the IL-76 with water.

If you don’t have time to see the entire video, start at 15:30 where Jamie describes the benefits of having a lead plane work with an air tanker.

Jim Wheeler of Global SuperTanker, interview

Mr. Wheeler is the President and CEO of Global SuperTanker. The interview was conducted at the Santiago, Chile Airport January 25, 2017 just after the 747 air tanker was flown down to Chile to assist the firefighters on the ground who were dealing with many, many wildfires.

Interview with Wayne Coulson: gel vs. retardant, and their plans for more C-130 air tankers

This is a video interview with Wayne Coulson, CEO of the Coulson Group. The company operates two C-130 firefighting air tankers. Mr. Coulson talked about the use of gel for direct attack on fires, and how in some cases the local fire managers in Australia prefer that rather than indirect attack with long term fire retardant. He also discussed their plans for the company to add more aircraft to their fleet.

Interview with Rick Hatton of 10 Tanker Air Carrier

On Tuesday we interviewed Rick Hatton, the President and CEO of 10 Tanker Air Carrier. Mr. Hatton talked about the beginnings of the company and their plans for building additional DC-10 air tankers, the largest-capacity tankers currently in service.

Interview with Jim Fournier, air tanker pilot

Jim Fournier of New Frontier Aviation flies a Dromader single engine air tanker (SEAT) for the state of South Dakota. On September 1, 2015 we caught up with him at the SEAT base in Hot Springs a couple of hours after he dropped a load of retardant on the Bitter Creek Fire which enabled the firefighters on the ground to tie in the last piece of open fireline, stopping it at 87 acres. Tanker 455 put one 550-gallon load on the fire, split into two drops.

Bitter Creek Fire
Bitter Creek Fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
T-455 Bitter Creek Fire
Tanker 455 orbits, sizing up the Bitter Creek fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
T-455 Bitter Creek Fire
Tanker 455 descending on final to make a drop on the Bitter Creek Fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert..
T-455 Bitter Creek Fire
Tanker 455 completing a drop on the Bitter Creek Fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
T-455, Dromader
Tanker 455, a Dromader. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
T-455, Dromader
Jim Fournier with Tanker 455, a Dromader. Photo by Bill Gabbert.