The Forest Service has activated two Call When Needed large air tankers for a 90-day Mandatory Availability Period.
Tanker 104 (an Erickson Aero Tanker MD-87) is scheduled to start today, May 30, and Tanker 137 (a Coulson B-737) will start June 1. Their administrative bases will be Porterville and McCall, respectively.
After these are on board, there will be 15 large and very large federal air tankers on duty. For the United States. In 2002 there were 44 on exclusive use contracts.
Air Tanker 101, an MD-87, has been working on several wildfires in Florida over the last week.
May 7-8: repositioned from Alamogordo, New Mexico to Lake City, Florida, then delivered four loads of water on the Moonfish Fire in Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida, one on May 7 and three on May 8. It was dropping plain water, rather than retardant or another chemical, due to the sensitivity of the Everglades ecosystem. (about 320 miles south of the Lake City Airport)
May 11: Made six drops on the High Hill Fire in the Apalachicola National Forest in the Florida panhandle southwest of Tallahassee. (about 134 miles west of the Lake City Airport)
May 14: Two drops on the 36th Ave. SE Fire east of Naples in south Florida.(about 281 miles south of the Lake City Airport)
A problem with an engine on April 21 resulted in an unscheduled landing for an Erickson Aero Air MD-87 air tanker.
While Tanker 101 was returning to Alamogordo, New Mexico after dropping retardant on the Holcombe Road Fire in Crockett County Texas, the left, or number 1, engine went into an overspeed condition and had to be shut down. Matt Isley, General Manager at Erickson Aero Tanker, said as that was being done the auto-throttle decreased the thrust in the other engine. The pilot then had to override the auto-throttle to power up that engine again.
The crew declared an emergency and landed safely on one engine after diverting to Midland, Texas (MAF) as airport crash-rescue trucks stood by.
Mr. Isley said the engine itself did not fail, the problem was caused by an engine control cable.
We received a report that a lead plane followed Tanker 101 while it was en route to Midland, but Mr. Isley said he had not heard anything about that.
The company’s maintenance personnel are on scene to begin the process of replacing the engine. Erickson stores most of their spares at their facility in Madras, Oregon.
Mr. Isley said they have had an air tanker working out of Alamogordo, NM since the beginning of March.
This is the fourth MD-87 air tanker engine related failure of which we are aware. The other three:
Engine problems on the MD-87 are noteworthy because when they began there was an issue of retardant dispersing over the wing which left open the possibility of it being ingested into the engines. The company had an external tank, or pod, fabricated and installed below the retardant tank doors in 2017, which lowered the release point by 46 inches, mitigating the problem Kevin McLoughlin, Erickson’s Director of Air Tanker Operations said at the time.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Doug. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The Woodbury Fire 12 miles east of the Phoenix suburbs became very active on the northeast side Tuesday beginning at about 2 p.m., sending up another large column of smoke that blew off to the northeast. It added another 3,894 acres to bring the total up to 44,451 acres.
On Wednesday fire crews are preparing for the possibility of the fire moving north towards Roosevelt and east towards the Pinto Mine along Pinto Canyon. Firefighters will be using burnouts and existing black lines to divert fire from the Reavis Ranch, Roosevelt, and mining operations. They will continue the preparations along 500 KV power lines to make them more defensible, masticating brush and building bulldozer lines where appropriate.
The smoke is expected to spread to the east on Saturday, becoming noticeable in Southern New Mexico and Western Texas.
Above: Air tankers 101 and 103 at Durango, CO May 28, 2018. Photo by Dave Herdman.
Dave Herdman took these photos of the air tankers that were working out of Durango, Colorado May 28 during the Horse Park Fire. Thanks Dave!
And speaking of the Horse Park Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have released more details about the near miss that occurred on the fire May 27 in a remote area of Southwest Colorado. The report disclosed that in addition to the two firefighters that had to abandon a stuck truck, a lookout in another location also fled on foot and ignited an escape fire at a potential fire shelter deployment site as the fire approached. According to the information released there were no injuries.
The four aircraft working on this fire represented 30 percent of the large air tankers that are on USFS exclusive use contracts this year.
Above: Air Tanker 163, an RJ85, at Rapid City December 12, 2017.
(Originally published at 12:15 p.m. MST December 13, 2017)
When the Legion Lake Fire broke out in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota December 11 it grew quickly in strong winds. The Incident Commander didn’t hesitate to order additional resources, including two large air tankers. Tankers 101, an MD-87, and 163, an RJ85, responded from Southern California, arriving late in the afternoon. They were not used that day since the lead plane did not arrive until much later. The tankers also were not used the following day. But the fire blew up the night of the 12th, expanding from 4,000 acres to over 40, 000 acres. As this is written around noon on December 13, the Incident Management Team said they will be used if needed.
On December 12 we visited the Rapid City Air Tanker base while the tankers were parked there. We talked with MD-87 pilot Brent Connor who told us Erickson Aero Tanker expects to have their fifth MD-87 in service by the 2018 fire season. Tanker 101 was the first they built; the others are 102, 103, 105, and 107.
Each of the recently developed jet-powered air tankers have unique retardant delivery systems, and the MD-87 is no exception. As you can see in the photo gallery (click on the photos to see larger versions) it has two imposing tubes (for lack of a better term) in addition to a tank under the cabin floor and a pod under the plane’s belly. Those three reservoirs hold 3,000, 1,000, and 700 gallons, respectively, for a total of 4,700 gallons.
Mr. Connor said that at this time they are limited to dropping 3,100 gallons, and they never have to download due to density altitude. After modifications are made to the system, they expect to be cleared to carry 4,000 gallons. He said that to get to the present stage of development the FAA required 80 hours of flight testing.