Ride with the pilots as C-130 aircraft drop retardant on fires

Video shot from the cockpit as the MAFFS-equipped aircraft battled the fires

MAFFS cockpit video, Calfornia, August 22, 2020 fire
Screenshot from MAFFS cockpit video below, California, August 22, 2020.

Fred Johnson of Airailimages let us know about a video he put on YouTube of California Air National Guard C-130Js fighting fire using a Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS). It was shot by Tech. Sgt. Nieko Carzis of the 146th Airlift Wing as two of the aircraft dropped retardant on multiple fires in California August 22, 2020.

You may hear an audible warning of “Altitude” “Altitude” in the cockpit as the planes descend to make the drop. That warning is much less annoying than the “Landing Gear, Landing Gear, Landing Gear, Landing Gear” warning that the MAFFS crews heard up until around 2014 when the Guard got Lockheed to supply a procedure to turn off the audible Landing Gear warning while making a retardant run. You can hear that warning in video shot in 2013 while MAFFS crews were dropping on the Rim Fire in California.

The recent video has footage shot while the C-130Js are dropping retardant — actually, it is spraying up to 3,000 gallons of retardant powered by compressed air, through a nozzle. Since we’re looking forward through the windshield, we can’t see the retardant of course, but at one point you can hear a sound that I’m guessing is compressed air exiting the nozzle after all the retardant has been expelled.

The footage of the aircraft making the drops is cool, but just as good are the scenes of the fires shot from fairly low level.

MAFFS cockpit video, Calfornia, August 22, 2020 fire
Screenshot from MAFFS cockpit video, California, August 22, 2020.

Two additional MAFFS air tankers mobilized

MAFFS cheyenne
File photo of MAFFS aircraft at Cheyenne, WY for annual training and recertification, April 30, 2014.

Two military C-130 aircraft equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) were mobilized earlier this week to serve with two that were previously activated. Until last month it had been two years since C-130s from the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve had been mobilized.

This year MAFFS have delivered 123 loads of retardant, including several on the Lake Fire north of Los Angeles and the LNU Lightning Complex in Northern California.

A C-130 equipped with a MAFFS can deliver up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft and retardant is sprayed under pressure through a nozzle in the troop door on the left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the civilian airtanker program to slow the spread of wildland fires.

“We’re at our highest level of wildfire preparedness with multiple regions of the country experiencing a significant level of fire activity,” said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the USDA Forest Service. “These aircraft are instrumental in providing increased aerial firefighting capacity on fires across the West.”

Two of the aircraft are from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, Port Hueneme and two are from the ANG’s 153rd Airlift Wing, Cheyenne, Wyoming. The crews rotate out with other Air National Guard or Reserve Wings every week to 10 days. Eighty-seven Department of Defense personnel are mobilized as part of the deployment.

MAFFS C-130 Wyoming National Guard
A MAFFS C-130 from the Wyoming National Guard refills its tank during training at Boise April 21, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(This article was modified to show that the two arriving MAFFS aircraft bring the total up to four.)

Video of National Guard MAFFS air tankers in action

MAFFS air tanker
A MAFFS air tanker approaches a target. Screenshot from the National Guard/Airailimages video.

Fred Johnsen of AIRAILIMAGES sent us information about a video he compiled about the California National Guard C-130s that were activated with the slip-in Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System. The MAFFS can spray up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant using the air-pressurized system.

Fred describes the video:

Here’s a blend of two video B-Roll segments from the California Air National Guard showing the preparation of he 146th Airlift Wing’s C-130s for use as firefighters, and then actual fire duty from the cockpit in July 2020. Look closely and you will see the lead plane put out a stream of smoke where the C-130 is supposed to drop. And listen to the sounds of the drop from the cockpit.

The two C-130s from the California National Guard were replaced after a week as scheduled on July 29 by a Herc from Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing “High Rollers” and one from the Air Force Reserve’s 302 Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base at Colorado Springs.

Two C-130 MAFFS air tankers relieved by another pair

MAFFS C-130
MAFFS C-130 training in Boise April 21, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert

After a week on the job the two California National Guard C-130 MAFFS air tankers that were activated on July 22 are being relieved as scheduled and will return to the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands in southern California.

A Herc from Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing “High Rollers” deployed July 29 to Sacramento McClellan Airport. It will be joined by one from the Air Force Reserve’s 302 Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base at Colorado Springs.

The military C-130s use the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) which can deliver up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. The system slides into the back of the aircraft and retardant is sprayed under pressure through a nozzle in a modified troop door on the left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the civilian airtanker program to slow the spread of wildland fires.

fire wildfire Nevada Air National Guard C-130 MAFFS
A C-130 from Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing “High Rollers” during training in Boise April 20, 2020. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Photos of MAFFS and 747 Supertanker at McClellan July 28, 2020

747 supertanker c-130 national guard fire wildfire MAFFS
The 747 Supertanker is seen July 28, 2020 at Sacramento McClellan Airport with a MAFFS C-130 from California’s 146th Airlift Wing. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson.

Two C-130 aircraft from the California National Guard were activated July 22 to serve as air tankers using the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS).  They have been available for wildfire support at Sacramento McClellan Airport.

The 747 Supertanker has been flying firefighting missions out of McClellan almost every day for the last week.

c-130 national guard fire wildfire MAFFS
Looking at the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System in the interior of a C-130 operated by California National Guard 146th Airlift Wing. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson, July 28, 2020.
c-130 national guard fire wildfire MAFFS
Retardant residue on a MAFFS C-130 from California’s 146th Airlift Wing. Up to 3,000 gallons of retardant can be sprayed under pressure through the pintle nozzle on the left which exits the aircraft through a modified troop door. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson, July 28, 2020.

Two National Guard C-130 aircraft mobilized as MAFFS air tankers

Will be on duty in Sacramento July 23

MAFFS test Colorado Springs
File photo. A 302nd Airlift Wing Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System equipped-C-130 Hercules aircraft performs a system test at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, July 22, 2019. The aircrew later demonstrated the MAFFS at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Oshkosh air show in Wisconsin July 23-28, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anthony Pham)

Two C-130 aircraft from the California National Guard have been activated to serve as air tankers using the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS).

The C-130s from the 146th Airlift Wing will be available for wildfire support at Sacramento McClellan Airport beginning Thursday, July 23. This is the first MAFFS activation since July of 2018.

A C-130 equipped with a MAFFS can deliver up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft and retardant is sprayed under pressure through a nozzle in the troop door on the left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the civilian airtanker program to slow the spread of wildland fires.

Annual training and certification was held for crews of three Modular Airborne FireFighting Module (MAFFS) aircraft

Photos from Peterson Air Force Base and the training event near Denver

MAFFS training Peterson AFB Colorado fire aerial firefighting
Members of the 302nd Airlift Wing load a U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Firefighting System unit into a C-130 Hercules aircraft April 23, 2020 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. On the left is the nozzle that is attached at the left side troop door. The MAFFS unit is used during annual aerial firefighting training requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Norton)

Last weekend members of the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing from Colorado Springs with Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing out of Cheyenne began a weeklong aerial wildland firefighting training and certification session hosted at the air tanker base at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport  (Jeffco) near Denver, Colorado. Two C-130s from Colorado Springs and one from Cheyenne were on hand.

The C-130 Hercules aircraft can be equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), which can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft and retardant is sprayed under pressure through a nozzle in the troop door on the left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the civilian airtanker program to slow the spread of wildland fires.

MAFFS training Peterson AFB Colorado fire aerial firefighting
Members of the 302nd Airlift Wing push a U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Firefighting System unit into the bay of a C-130 Hercules aircraft April 23, 2020 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The unit holds 3,000 gallons of fire retardant and can discharge all of it in less than 5 seconds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Norton)

The training was originally scheduled to take place in Boise at the end of April, but that was cancelled because of COVID-19. There may be another MAFFS training event in a month or so out west for the crews from Reno and southern California.

Interagency MAFFS training begins
Members of the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing and the Forest Service prepare a C-130 carrying a modular airborne fire fighting system at Jeffco Airtanker Base to participate in MAFFS training and certification April 27, 2020. (U.S. Forest Service Photo by Laura McConnell)
MAFFS training Jefferson County Airport Colorado fire aerial firefighting
MAFFS 2 is being observed by visitors at Jefferson County International Airport, April 29, 2020. Photo by Andrew Morton.
MAFFS training Peterson AFB Colorado fire aerial firefighting
Aircrew from the 302nd Airlift Wing aboard a C-130 Hercules aircraft taxi toward the Peterson Air Force Base runway with Pikes Peak in the background April 27, 2020. The aircrew are bound for Jefferson County, Colo., to conduct annual aerial firefighting training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Norton)
MAFFS training Peterson AFB Colorado fire aerial firefighting
Members of the 302nd Airlift Wing load a U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Firefighting System unit into a C-130 Hercules aircraft April 23, 2020 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. In the foreground is the nozzle that is attached at the left side troop door on the C-130. The MAFFS unit was being used during annual aerial firefighting training requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Norton)

Military C-130 crews train for fighting wildfires

At Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport near Denver

MAFFS aircraft at Boise C-130
MAFFS aircraft at Boise, April 20, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Military crews and C-130 aircraft are training in Colorado so that they can assist with wildfires.

Members of the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, and other firefighting agencies today began a weeklong aerial wildland firefighting training and certification session hosted at the air tanker base at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport  (Jeffco) near Denver, Colorado.

The 302nd Airlift Wing and 153rd Airlift Wing C-130 Hercules aircraft are equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), which can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft and retardant is sprayed under pressure through a nozzle in the troop door on the left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the civilian airtanker program to slow the spread of wildland fires.

Training drops with water will be conducted in the nearby Arapaho and Roosevelt and Pike-San Isabel National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands using potable water. Residents in those areas may see low-flying C-130 aircraft and U.S. Forest Service lead planes throughout the week. MAFFS aircraft will load water from Jeffco and will start and end their days at their home units.

The three Air National Guard wings tasked with conducting MAFFS missions include: the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands, California, 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nevada and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyoming. The 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is the only Air Force Reserve unit tasked with the MAFFS mission.

Each base has two MAFFS units that can be activated for firefighting, usually in pairs with a third C-130 carrying additional personnel and equipment. The Forest Service or other land management agencies have to reimburse the Department of Defense for the costs of the three aircraft and personnel.

The certification training sponsored by the US Forest Service includes classroom sessions, as well as flying and ground operations for Air Force aircrews, civilian lead plane pilots, support personnel from the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other state and federal firefighting agencies.

Having military C-130s that can be converted into airtankers provides a “surge” capability to augment wildfire suppression efforts when there are not enough privately owned air tankers available on Forest Service contracts.