An S-2 air tanker is ready to fight fire in Kansas

Kansas S-2 air tanker
Bill Garrison’s S-2 air tanker. Screenshot from the KWCH video below.

The owner of a crop dusting service in Kansas has acquired an S-2 air tanker formerly operated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

Bill Garrison, owner of Ag Air Service out of Nikerson, Kansas, said that after he used his crop dusters in 2017 to aid firefighters by dropping water on wildfires, he decided he wanted a bigger airplane.


KWCH reported that the Kansas Forest Service has a call when needed agreement to use the plane on fires for $4,000 an hour.

The aircraft was constructed as an S-2A, according to aerialvisuals.ca, with the BuNo 136508. CAL FIRE operated it as Tanker 81 and 93 with registration number N477DF. At some point the tanker number changed to 95 and was owned by Yesterday’s Flyers and later, Cactus Air Force, both in Nevada. The current registration number is N508JR under the ownership of Mr. Garrison, with a certificate issue date of February 14, 2019.

The aircraft can carry up to 800 gallons and still has the radial engines, unlike the S-2s operated by CAL FIRE today that have been converted to turbine engines.

Mr. Garrison said he used one of the company’s planes in 2017 to drop 20,000 gallons of water on the Highlands Fire in Reno County, chipping in to help when the Kansas National Guard Blackhawk helicopter pilots ran out of duty time. Below is an excerpt from Hutch News published March 12, 2017:

Because of the high winds he was forced to fly into – the same winds whipping the fire out of control – he had to fly as close to the ground as possible, or the wind would blow the water off the fire, he said. “At times, I had fire above the aircraft,” Garrison said. “We were pushing the upper limits with the wind Monday night.”

Click here to see the CAL FIRE air tanker that today has the T-95 designator.


(UPDATED at 2:05 p.m PDT July 31, 2019)

After we posted this article, JD Davis sent us the two photos below of CAL FIRE air tankers with registration number N477DF. Thanks JD!

S-2 air tanker N477DF
CAL Fire Air Tanker N477DF at Hemet, CA June 10, 1979. JD Davis Photos.
S-2 air tanker N477DF
CAL Fire Air Tanker N477DF at Hemet, CA October 23, 2003. JD Davis Photos.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Matt. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

More air tankers becoming available in Kansas

map wildfires kansas
The red areas represent wildfires in Kansas detected by a satellite at 4:07 p.m. MST March 6, 2017.

After numerous devastating wildfires in 2017 the Kansas Forest Service began a program to make more single engine air tankers (SEAT) available to assist firefighters on the ground.

Below are quotes from a KSN interview of agricultural pilot Bill Garrison, one of the seven pilots that Kansas can draw upon to operate a SEAT as needed now that they have gone through a day of field and tactical training.

The quicker you are on top of the fire, fighting it, the better results you have.

When we get a phone call, we go dump water on the fire.

Flames were over the cockpit of the airplane. I was flying at night.