(Originally published at 2:32 p.m. PDT September 11, 2019)
Tim Crippin shot these photos of air tankers that were working on the Lime Fire and reloading at Medford, Oregon on September 7 and 9. They were all departing when the pictures were taken.
The Lime Fire, according to a mapping flight at 1:42 a.m. Wednesday morning, has burned 2,011 acres, but it was reported to be 1,911 acres at about 10 a.m. Wednesday by the Incident Management Team. The blaze is in Northern California 32 miles south of Medford, west of I-5, and just north of Highway 96. The fire has been fairly quiet for the last 24 hours. Fixed wing and satellite overflights Tuesday night did not detect a great deal of heat.
This is the first photo we have published of Tanker 167, an Aeroflite RJ85, and we have very few of Tankers 93 and 96.
Little information is available about a reported forced landing made last week by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) air attack plane, 52 Uniform.
The Cessna 206 was on a fire recon mission when the pilot reported a mechanical malfunction and was forced to set down in the Black Bear Swamp northeast of Butte Falls. Both occupants of the aircraft escaped injury, but the plane was severely damaged.
There is a report that both men walked away, literally hiking out to meet personnel on the way to assist them.
The accident occurred around August 9. We will update this article when personnel at the ODF return our calls.
Todd McKinley sent us these photos taken Saturday, August 10, 2019 in Oregon. He said the AS350 B3 was at Ritter Butte in northern Grant County and at a nearby fire in the Ritter/Long Creek area. The Huey was at the Grant County Regional Airport Helibase in John Day.
Tim Crippin got these excellent shots of air tankers that were at Medford, Oregon July 27, 2019 supporting the Milepost 97 Fire south of Canyonville. Thanks Tim! The fire has burned 12,578 acres since it started on July 24, 2019.
Medford is 55 miles away from another base at Klamath Falls
A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service recommends keeping the air tanker base at Medford, Oregon open if other agencies can begin paying a portion of the $245,000 annual operating costs. Apparently closing the base was on the table, in part because it is only 55 miles away from another base at Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Local politicians in Oregon have been working to keep Medford open after word spread in March that the study was underway.
“Closure of either base at this time would be counterproductive to ensuring rapid response times to initial attack of fires since both bases are fully functional and in good condition,” Northstar Technology Corp. concluded in the study.
The study found that the savings from closing one base would be gobbled up by the $281,000 increased costs of flying retardant further distances from the one remaining base.
With two open, one base can keep operating if the other is socked in with smoke, the study said.
Forest Service officials said the trend of larger fires appears to be migrating northward, making reliance on the air tanker bases more vital for Western Oregon and Northern California.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
On August 7, 2018 while attempting a landing at the end of a mission on the Graves Fire in Oregon, an Insitu ScanEagle X200 unmanned aircraft came in too low resulting in a low capture on the suspended rope. The payload and the left wing sustained visible damage.
According to the preliminary report, the flight crew believes the failure of the aircraft to correct the errant glide path was caused by turbulence generated by terrain at the recovery site.
After the incident the ground control software was upgraded to improve the glide path tracking. In addition, the site lead reemphasized the decision making process for initiating a timely go-around.
An article by Gareth Corfield in The Register describes how a newer model of the aircraft, an Insitu ScanEagle3, is recovered after a mission:
“Insitu craft are recovered from the air by the simple process of commanding them to fly at a rope suspended from a crane-type contraption fitted with a hydraulic damper system;
the aircraft’s swept wings are both fitted with titanium carabiners at their tips that grip the rope tightly, suspending the Scaneagle in mid-air until the ground crew lowers it. An onboard accelerometer senses the violent yaw when the wing is caught by the rope (the aircraft cartwheels sideways when it hits) and cuts the engine. The process was described as “very dynamic” by Insitu personnel, an assessment El Reg agreed with.
“The unmanned aircraft flies itself autonomously to the point where it returns back to its Skyhook (Insitu’s trade name for the crane-rope capture affair) using differential GPS with the ground beacon being placed under the rope. All human involvement is limited to pressing the required buttons to start the landing sequence and getting the UAV off the rope afterwards. Though the craft can be flown on barometric altitude (as manned aircraft typically use), it is launched and recovered on GPS altitude. We were told that the UAV is programmed to approach the rope at a height of 33 feet with a two-foot lateral offset to increase the chances of a wing meeting the rope rather than the nose.”