Senators ask USFS to keep operating the HC-130H air tanker until end of year

The USFS plans to shut down their HC-130H air tanker program September 17, 2018

Above: Three of the four former Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft that have recently been at Sacramento McClellan Airport. Seen here: T-118 (in USFS livery), and two ships still with Coast Guard livery, 1709 and 1714.  Photo by Drew P. Hansen.

(Originally published at 3:07 p.m. PDT September 8, 2018)

Two Senators from California have written a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue imploring him to retain until the end of the year two former U.S. Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft that the U.S. Forest Service decided they no longer want. Legislation passed a few weeks ago directed that seven Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft, originally intended to be used by the USFS, be transferred to the state of California after work is complete by the Air Force to convert them to air tankers with conventional gravity-powered retardant tanks.

Below is an excerpt from the Senators’ letter, dated August 30, 2018:

…The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (Public Law 115-232) authorizes the transfer of seven HC-130H aircraft to the State of California for firefighting purposes. Two of these seven aircraft are currently in use in California by the Forest Service. While they will eventually be outfitted with a gravity retardant delivery system, there is no need to pull these two aircraft from California’s front lines for many months. Instead, these aircraft should remain actively engaged in California as we approach the historically most active months of the fire year.

Given the continuing threat of catastrophic wildfires in California, we ask that you continue operating the two HC-130H aircraft in California to ensure that every asset is available to protect lives and property. Thank you for considering our request.

To be clear, today there are four former Coast Guard HC-130Hs at Sacramento McClellan Airport. Two of these four have been painted in USFS livery, Tankers 116 and 118, and two ships still have Coast Guard livery, 1709 and 1714. A third ship has been painted, Tanker 119, and it is already in long term storage. None of them have conventional gravity-powered retardant delivery systems. The Air Force should have installed them by now but had contracting difficulties which they did not solve.

The USFS has “borrowed” one of the Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that is assigned to the Air National Guard base in Reno, Nevada — one of eight distributed by the USFS to four military bases (two each) that operate C-130s. They can be installed in a matter of hours in a C-130. The MAFFS units are owned and maintained by the USFS for the purpose of having access to a surge capacity of eight additional air tankers operated by the military.

One of the aircraft, T-116, made 330 drops in 2017.

But the USFS is only using one MAFFS unit, the one from Reno, so they can only operate one of the former Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft at a time as an air tanker. The USFS has not used the aircraft on a routine basis for other duties, such as hauling fire equipment or firefighters, so right now the USFS can see no use for the additional HC-130H aircraft, except as possible spares if maintenance or other issues keep the primary ship on the ground.

The USFS plan is to return the borrowed MAFFS unit to the Reno Air National Guard base on September 17, effectively shutting down the program.

Contractors have been operating and maintaining the aircraft, similar to the CAL FIRE model for their 23 air tankers. But the USFS contract for the flight crew will be cancelled on September 20, 2018. The maintenance contract will remain in effect.

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

Photos of air tankers at McClellan

Above: Air Tankers 102 (MD-87) and 134 (C-130)

Don Hosford took these photos of firefighting aircraft at Sacramento McClellan Airport August 31, 2018.

air tankers sacramento mcclellan airport
Air Tankers 23 (P-3) and 944 (747)
air tankers sacramento mcclellan airport
Air Tanker 914, a DC-10
air tankers sacramento mcclellan airport
Air Tanker 118, an HC-130H

Continue reading “Photos of air tankers at McClellan”

Photos of P-3 Orion air tankers at McClellan

Also: A DC-10 and Coulson’s most recently converted C-130

Above: Air tanker 23 testing at McClellan.

When Sergio Maraschin saw our article about Airstrike Firefighters signing a call when needed contract with Colorado for their P-3 air tankers, he realized we needed some more current photos of the recently refurbished aircraft. He took these at various times over the last six weeks at Sacramento McClellan Airport.

The article linked to above has the details about Airstrike’s recent projects.

Thanks Sergio!

P-3 Orion air tanker T-23 T-17 T-912
Air tankers 17, 23, and 910.
P-3 Orion air tanker T-23
Air tanker 23, over McClellan.

Coulson’s T-134, a C-130Q, has come a very long way since April, 2017. Check out these photos, here and here, taken as the project was just getting started. It is amazing what private industry can do in 16 months when they want to convert an aircraft into an air tanker. The Air Force dithered for almost five years when they were supposed to be converting seven former Coast guard HC-130H aircraft into air tankers for the U.S. Forest Service, and never fully completed any of them. Now it appears the state of California will get the reborn air tankers, when and if the USAF completes the work.

T-134 C-130 Coulson
This is T-134, Coulson’s most recently converted C-130Q air tanker. Brett Coulson told us as far as they are concerned it is ready to fight fire. They intend to wait until after the fire season to paint it.

Photos from the MAFFS training

The annual training was held this week at Sacramento McClellan Airport

The annual training and recertification for the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130 crews has wrapped up. Held at Sacramento McClellan Airport this year, it was attended by all four of the airlift wings that operate the systems: three Air National Guard units from California, Nevada and Wyoming, and one U.S. Air Force Reserve unit from Colorado.

All of these photos were taken by Bob Martinez. Thanks Bob! You can see more of his work at SmugMug.

MAFFS aircraft air tanker military

MAFFS aircraft air tanker military

MAFFS aircraft air tanker military

Continue reading “Photos from the MAFFS training”

Aircraft at McClellan, March 26

Above: Air Attack 140, an OV-10 Bronco, at MCC March 26, 2018. Photo by Sergio Maraschin.

Sergio Maraschin, always on the alert for firefighting aircraft, took these photos March 26 at Sacramento McClellan Airport.

S-2T MCC
Air Tanker 85, an S-2T, at MCC, March 26, 2018. Photo by Sergio Maraschin.
T-23 MCC
Air Tanker 23 being worked on outside the AirStrike hangar at MCC, March 26, 2018. Photo by Sergio Maraschin.

Photos of aircraft at Aerial Firefighting conference

In addition to the static display, three air tankers made demonstration drops.

Above: Air Spray’s Air Tanker 481, a Lockheed Electra L188 on static display at McClellan, March 12, 2018.

On March 12, 2018 two large busloads of attendees at the Aerial Firefighting Conference at Sacramento McClellan Airport were transported from the meeting facility to a nearby ramp where more than a dozen aircraft were on static display. At the conference two years ago the lead bus driver got lost on the three-block drive, but thankfully there were no mishaps this year.

In addition to the static display, three air tankers made demonstration drops with water, one RJ85 and two Fire Boss Single Engine Air Tankers.

Click on one of the small images immediately below to see large versions.

Here is a link to photos we took at the static display during the 2014 conference.

Photos of DC-10 air tankers at McClellan

And, a 737 air tanker

Above: T-911, a DC-10, at McClellan October 13, 2017, by Sergio Maraschin.

Sergio Maraschin sent us these photos that he took of DC-10 air tankers at Sacramento McClellan Airport in 2017.

DC-10 air tanker
T-910 at McClellan October 10, 2017, by Sergio Maraschin
DC-10 air tanker
T-910 at McClellan July 30, 2017, by Sergio Maraschin

Thanks Sergio!

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UPDATED at 11:40 MT February 16, 2018. 

A person who prefers that we not disclose their name sent us this photo of one of Coulson’s freshly painted 737 air tankers at McClellan.

Air Tanker 138 737
Coulson’s Air Tanker 138, a 737, at McClellan, January 30, 2018.

Articles on Fire Aviation tagged 737.

Photos of the 747 SuperTanker at McClellan

Sergio Maraschin sent us these photos that he took of Air Tanker 944, a 747 SuperTanker, at Sacramento McClellan Airport in 2017. He believes the water drop was a demonstration at the airport.

Thanks Sergio!T-944 Supertanker 747 Sergio Maraschin T-944 Supertanker 747 Sergio Maraschin T-944 Supertanker 747 Sergio Maraschin