View from the cockpit as air tanker assists firefighters on the Comet Fire near Ely, Nevada

September 19, 2020 | 7:55 p.m. MDT

air tanker cockpit view drop wildfire
The view of the Comet Fire from Tanker 871 in Nevada, August 6, 2020. From video by Jim Watson.

Ride with Jim Watson, the pilot of Single Engine Air Tanker 871, as he sizes up and then drops retardant on the Comet Fire near Ely, Nevada, August 6, 2020. You won’t actually see the retardant because it comes out of the bottom of the aircraft. The SEAT is owned by GB Aerial Applications.

Pilots that were killed in mid-air collision of air tankers identified

Updated August 20, 2020 | 7:27 p.m. MDT

Red Canyon Fire
File photo. Air tanker 866 (N8510M) drops on the Red Canyon Fire in South Dakota July 9, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The Sheriff’s Office of Lincoln County, Nevada has officially released the names of the two pilots that were killed in the mid-air collision of two Single Engine Air Tankers that occurred July 30, 2020 that were working on the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada. The aircraft were on contract with the BLM.

They were identified by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office as David Blake Haynes and Scott Thomas. When we asked Sheriff Kerry Lee why it took almost three weeks to release the names, he said that they have four ways to identify deceased individuals — dental, fingerprint, identification by the family either on scene or by photo, or DNA. Because of the condition of the victims they had to use DNA which required obtaining samples from family members then sending those to a lab with samples from the pilots.

A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that one of the two SEATs had fire retardant on the windshield. Both pilots of the aircraft, the only personnel on board, were killed while assisting firefighters on the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada.

The investigators found that the tankers were working in tandem with one close behind the other. After the following aircraft got retardant on the windshield it made a rapid climb then suddenly turned left and collided with the other.

Both of the SEATs were operated by M&M Air Services out of Beaumont, Texas. The aircraft were made by Air Tractor, model AT-802A; N8510M (Tanker 866) and N1558W (Tanker 824).

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and co-workers of Mr. Haynes and Mr. Thomas.

Tanker 824 (N1558W)
File photo: Tanker 824 (N1558W) at Boise, July 19, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The article was updated August 20, 2020 after receiving information from the Sheriff’s office.

Preliminary report reveals one of the SEATs involved in the July 30 mid-air collision had retardant on windshield

Two pilots were killed July 30, 2020 at the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada

NTSB graphic mid-air crash air tanker
NTSB graphic of the last flights of N1558W (Tanker 824) and N8510M (Tanker 866).

A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that one of the two Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) that collided and crashed July 30, 2020 had fire retardant on the windshield. Both pilots of the aircraft, the only personnel on board, were killed while assisting firefighters on the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada.

The investigators found that the tankers were working in tandem with one close behind the other. After the following aircraft got retardant on the windshield it made a rapid climb then suddenly turned left and collided with the other.

Both of the SEATs were operated by M&M Air Services out of Beaumont, Texas but the names of the two pilots have not been released. The aircraft were made by Air Tractor, model AT-802A; N8510M (Tanker 866) and N1558W (Tanker 824).

Below is the complete text of the preliminary NTSB report:


On July 30, 2020, about 1256 Pacific daylight time, two Air Tractor AT-802A airplanes, N8510M and N1558W, were destroyed when they were involved in an accident near Elgin, Nevada. The pilots of both airplanes were fatally injured. The airplanes were operated as public use firefighting flights.

The airplanes were functioning as single-engine airtankers (SEATs) for the Bureau of Land Management providing aerial firefighting services at the time of the accident. According to automatic dependent surveillance broadcast data (ADS-B) and witness statements, the airplanes departed Mesquite, Nevada as a flight of two about 1225 to deploy their third load of fire retardant that day. ADS-B data showed that N8510M was in lead and N1558W was in trail as they flew northeast towards a designated fire traffic area in a climb. At 1252:47, the pilot of N8510M started a descent from 7,100 ft msl accompanied by a slight right turn to the north and then he turned west about 15 seconds later. N1558W followed the movements of N8510M from about 1,500 ft behind him. About this time a lead airplane had begun to escort the flight of two SEATs to their intended drop area. At 1254:37, N8510M turned left to a southeast heading and descended from about 6,000 ft msl, with N1558W still about 1,500 ft in trail. N1558W began a turn to the southeast a few seconds later and descended from 6,100 ft msl, but when they leveled out, N1558W was about 500 ft in trail of and 100 ft below N8510M. The data showed that the airplanes were in a descent about 400 ft above ground level when the ADS-B data ceased temporarily at 1955:23 for N8510M and at 1955:28 for N1558W. The data for N8510M resumed at 1255:38 and showed the airplane in a climb along a southeast heading. The track for N1558W resumed at 1255:45 and showed the airplane in a climb on a similar heading about 70 ft in trail and 125 ft below N8510M.

Video recorded by a ground witness captured both airplanes seconds before their collision, which showed N8510M descend to a low altitude, deploy fire retardant, and then immediately begin a shallow climb. The video showed N1558W following very close in trail of N8510M during this time. N1558W then deployed fire retardant and began a rapid climb. Witnesses in nearby firefighting aircraft stated that they heard the pilot of N1558W announce over the radio that he had retardant on his windshield and was initiating a go-around. According to witnesses on the ground, as N1558W climbed, it suddenly began a left turn and collided with N8510M. Both airplanes then descended rapidly to the ground.

Postaccident examination of the accident site revealed that N8510M was mostly consumed by a postimpact fire. The wings and forward fuselage of N1558W came to rest about 315 ft beyond N8510M and did not burn. The tail section of N1558W, was located about 450 ft northwest of the forward fuselage and was partially damaged by postimpact fire.

The wreckages were retained for further examination.


Red Canyon Fire
File photo of air tanker 866 (N8510M) dropping on the Red Canyon Fire in South Dakota July 9, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Tanker 824 (N1558W)
File photo of tanker 824 (N1558W) at Boise, July 19, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dale.

Two air tankers collide near Bishop Fire in Nevada

UPDATED at 10:15 p.m. MDT July 30, 2020

map Bishop Fire
Map showing heat detected by satellites on the Bishop fire as late as 3 a.m. MDT July 30, 2020.

Two air tankers collided July 30 while working on the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada.

The Air Tractor Single Engine Air Tankers, SEATs, were involved in a mid-air collision Thursday afternoon according to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Claire Morville. There was one person on board each aircraft.

At 10 p.m. MDT July 30 a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management, Chris Hanefeld, confirmed that the collision occurred earlier in the day at about 12:55 p.m. He said both pilots were killed in the crash. Recovery operations are currently underway and initial notifications are still being made.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the two pilots and to all those working with the BLM Nevada Ely District,” said BLM Nevada State Director Jon Raby.

The Bishop fire, reported July 29, has burned 500 acres 14 miles south-southwest of Caliente, Nevada.

The accident occurred near the intersection of Kane Springs Road and Riggs Road, Ms. Morville said.

The fire is on land managed by the BLM. The two privately owned aircraft were under contract to the agency.

SEATs are small airplanes used to support wildland firefighters on the ground. They can deliver up to 800 gallons of fire retardant and operate in areas where larger airtankers cannot.

The names of the pilots have not been released.

Our sincere condolences go out to the pilots’ family, friends, and coworkers.

Bishop Fire
Bishop Fire, from Ella Mountain Lookout July 29, 2020. InciWeb photo.
map Bishop Fire
Bishop Fire map. Data from 7:53 p.m. MDT July 29, 2020. BLM.

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

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.

A CL-415EAF was used for the first time on a fire near Elko, Nevada

Tanker 281 Cedar Fire Nevada
Air Tanker 281 completed over 60 water drops in support of firefighters at the Cedar Fire on its first ever mission. Photo July 21, 2020 by K Mita, Bridger Aerospace.

A CL-415EAF was used for the first time on a fire Sunday, July 19.

The first CL-415EAF was delivered to Bridger Arospace’s facility in Bozeman, Montana in April, 2020 as part of a contract that with all options exercised is valued at $204 million covering the purchase of six of the amphibious scooping air tankers.

The first use of one on a wildfire was Tanker 281 on the Cedar Fire 15 miles south of Elko, Nevada Sunday where it completed over 60 water drops in support of firefighters. The fire has burned 6,000 acres and is being fought by 8 hand crews, 10 fire engines, 2 helicopters, and various air tankers for a total of 258 personnel.

The CL-415EAF modification program consists of converting CL-215 airframes to turbines using Viking-supplied conversion kits and replacing all obsolete components. It features a new Collins Pro Line Fusion® integrated digital avionics suite, Pratt & Whitney PW123AF turbine engines, and increased water tank capacity with a higher delivery two-door water drop system. The work is done in Canada by Longview Aviation Services in collaboration with Cascade Aerospace.

Impressive video of downhill drop by DC-10

Saturday evening on the Long Valley Fire north of Reno

DC-10 drops Long Valley Fire
DC-10 drops on the Long Valley Fire, August 25, 2019. Screenshot from Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District video.

The video below shows a Very Large Air Tanker, a DC-10, making  a downhill retardant drop Saturday evening on the Long Canyon Fire.

As of Saturday evening the fire had burned about 1,500 acres north of Reno between Highway 395 and Red Rock Road.

Multiple aircraft seen over the Goose Fire in Northeast Nevada

The fire may burn from Nevada into Idaho

(This article was first published at Wildfire Today)

Little Goos Fire map
Map showing the location of the Goose or Little Goose Fire in Northeast Nevada at 1:36 p.m. MDT August 5, 2019.

A fire that was reported at 6:23 p.m. Sunday August 4 in the Northeast corner of Nevada has been burning vigorously on Monday. Heat detected by a satellite at 1:36 p.m. (see map above) showed it to be moving north and had spread to within a mile of the Nevada/Idaho border. In later satellite photos it appeared to have approached the border and was generating pyrocumulus clouds. By the time you read this there is a good chance it will have burned into Idaho.

The BLM reported at about 6 p.m. Monday that it was a full suppression fire and had burned 3,500 acres.

At various times it was called “Goose Fire” and “Little Goose Fire”. Just plain “Goose Fire” seemed to be winning out by late Monday afternoon.

At about 4:40 p.m. MDT FlightRadar showed four single engine air tankers from Twin Falls and Tanker 911, a DC-10 from Pocatello, flying in the vicinity of the Goose Fire. A NOAA research Twin Otter also showed up, flying a grid pattern — NOAA46 (N46RF), that was most likely analyzing the atmosphere over the fire. NOAA has a fleet of nine aircraft that conduct airborne environmental data gathering missions. Later after the first NOAA Twin Otter departed, another NOAA Twin Otter was over the fire, NOAA48.

Little Goose Fire map aircraft
Map showing aircraft near the Little Goose Fire in Northeast Nevada at 5:37 p.m. PDT August 5, 2019. NOAA46 (N46RF)