Above: File photo of Air Tanker 260, a CL-415, scooping water at Castaic Lake December 6, 2017. Photo by Robert Schwemmer.
(Originally published at 6:40 p.m. PDT August 10, 2018)
Two water scooping air tankers are being used on the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest northwest of Lake Elsinore, California. After seeing Cathy Gregg’s tweet about the scoopers we checked Flight Radar 24 and spotted two of the CL-415’s, Tanker 261 (N392AC) and Tanker 260 (N389AC).
At about 6 p.m. local time both aircraft appeared to be headed to San Bernardino Airport. I don’t know which lake they are scooping out of but if it is Lake Elsinore, about a mile from the fire at its closest point, they could have some very short turnaround times dropping up to 1,600 gallons at a time. The Martin Mars, even though it was based at Elsinore, didn’t scoop water there — it got it from another lake in Riverside County; was it Perris or Diamond Valley?
If you want to see more file photos of these two air tankers, we’ve tried to tag them every time they showed up here: Tanker 260, and Tanker 261.
The exclusive use contracts that the U.S. Forest Service had for four CL-415’s were cancelled for this fiscal year which began in October, 2017. But they remained on Call When Needed Contracts, at a substantially higher daily and hourly rate. It is easy to blame the USFS for this decision since they issue the contracts, but the most likely guilty parties are our Representatives, Senators, and President, who did not supply adequate funding to maintain the same numbers of air tankers (large, very large, and multi-engine scoopers) that we had in FY 2017.
Above: Aero-Flite’s Tanker 260, a CL-415, at McClellan Air Field, March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
The daily availability rate for the two Aero-Flite CL-415 air tankers will be $42,285 with an hourly rate of $13,299. That daily rate is higher than all of the 21 large air tankers on contract. And only two large air tankers have a higher hourly rate — one of the DC-10s and the USFS/Coast Guard C-130.
The maximum five-year value of the contract is $142,524,440 for the two aircraft.
It is our understanding that the contract used last year expired. This new solicitation specified that the USFS would hire “up to two” aircraft for a period of time “not to exceed five years”. Obviously the agency made a decision and settled on two scoopers. We checked with Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, who told us that it is definitely a five-year contract.
One Aero-Flite CL-415 was on USFS contract in 2015, Tanker 260 (N389AC). The two this year are N386AC and N392AC. We don’t yet have their tanker numbers.
In past years the Bureau of Indian Affairs contracted for one or two twin engine water scoopers, CL-215s I believe, but no longer. This year they will have at least one amphibious water-scooping Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT), an Air Tractor 802F (N6159F) supplied by Aero Spray, and expect to add one more, Robyn Broyles, spokesperson for the BIA, told us earlier this month.
There will also be a large number of non-water-scooping SEATs, perhaps dozens, on exclusive use. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for that contract and we hope to hear in April or May how that turned out.
Air Tanker 260 has been assisting firefighters in Oklahoma for the last several days. It was also used in Oklahoma in 2014.
The CL-415 is operated by Aero-Flite under a U.S. Forest Service contract.
These photos taken at Ardmore, OK were provided by Oklahoma Forestry Services.
Tanker 06, one of Neptune’s P2Vs, is also en route to Oklahoma. We’re pretty sure the photo below is a file photo, and was not taken in Oklahoma. 😉
T-06 is headed to Oklahoma as fire season gets started for Neptune Aviation. Hats off to the dedicated Neptune maintenance team who ensures Neptune is ready for action. None better! Photo courtesy of Al Golub
The only water-scooping air tanker that the U.S. Forest Service has under exclusive use contract will be based at Lake Tahoe, California this summer at the South Lake Tahoe Airport. It recently returned from spending several weeks working on wildfires in Alaska.
The CL-415 can skim across the surface of a lake and scoop 1,600 gallons of water to fill its tank. If a suitable lake is near a fire, this capability can result in large quantities of water helping firefighters on the ground suppress a blaze — especially if two are working in tandem as they usually do in Canada. Water scooping air tankers are also used extensively in several European countries.
In October, 2013, the contract for the aircraft, with a potential value of $57 million, was awarded to Aero-Flite. It is a five year deal with a provision to add a second aircraft if both parties agree.
The CL-415 is leased from TENAX Aerospace by Aero-Flite. It is a brand new aircraft and is the only CL-415 in the United States.
Doug Cote with Yukon Wildland Fire Management sent us this photo of Tanker 260, a CL-415. It was taken today, July 16, at Whitehorse International Airport, Yukon Territory (map). (I fixed the date on the photo.)
Because of the recent high fire danger, additional resources, including three air tankers and 16 smokejumpers, have arrived in Alaska to bolster the aircraft fleet and jumpers already in place. These photos were taken and portions of the captions were written by Sam Harrel of the Bureau of Land Management/Alaska Fire Service.
These photos of Aero-Flite’s brand new CL-415, Tanker 260, were taken May 7 by Chet Dodrill of Chloeta Fire. The aircraft was at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City along with a King Air 200 air attack platform.
The word of mouth in the area is that the local firefighters were very pleased with the work T-260 did on the recent fires near Guthrie and Woodward, Oklahoma. One of the lakes it was scooping from on the Guthrie fire was five to ten miles away from the fire, which allowed quick turnarounds.
The registration number on the plane is N389AC.
UPDATED May 9, 2014: The photo below was posted on the Oklahoma Forestry Services Facebook page today, with this caption: “The aircraft, a CL415 Airtanker, a Single Engine Airtanker (SEAT) & an air attack platform lined up for the Media Day today.”
Below is the text of a press release issued by Bombardier in November when the sale of the aircraft was announced. It was posted on the Tenax website:
“Today, Bombardier celebrated the sale and delivery of its 50th iconic Bombardier 415 superscooper aircraft assembled at its North Bay, Ontario facility. The aircraft, purchased by a partnership led by Tenax Aerospace, LLC of Ridgeland, Mississippi, will be used under contract to the United States Forest Service starting next month. Based on the list price, the Bombardier contract is valued at approximately $34.5 million USD.
The Bombardier 415 superscooper aircraft is a world-renowned firefighter and adapts to the roughest terrain and the only aircraft specifically built as an aerial firefighting airplane. It is able to land on unpaved runways, lakes, rivers and seas, enabling both rapid initial attacks to extinguish fires and sustained attacks to contain fires.
“Today, we are celebrating two milestones: the 50th Bombardier 415 aircraft assembled in North Bay, Ontario as well as the first United States Bombardier 415 aircraft sale and delivery,” said Michel Bourgeois, President, Specialized and Amphibious Aircraft, Bombardier Aerospace. “I want to congratulate the employees for this achievement and to welcome the Tenax team to the amphibious aircraft family. This is yet another testament to the true value of the expertise of our employees and of our superscooper aircraft that remains the top aerial firefighting choice around the world,” he continued.
While the 50th Bombardier 415 aircraft to roll out of North Bay, Ontario is the first to be sold to a United States customer, a total of five State and privately owned CL-215 aircraft, the predecessor to the Bombardier 415 aircraft, are currently operated in the United States.
Since the first Bombardier 415 amphibious aircraft was delivered in 1994, a total of 85 Bombardier 415 and four Bombardier 415 MP aircraft have been delivered to governments and firefighting agencies around the world. In addition, 80 CL-215 and CL-215T amphibious piston aircraft remain in service worldwide.
About the Bombardier 415 aircraft
The Bombardier 415 firefighter aircraft has a normal cruise speed of 180 KT (333 km/h) under certain conditions. In an average mission of six nautical miles (11 kilometres) distance from water to fire, it can complete nine drops within an hour and precisely deliver 14,589 US gallons (55,233 litres) of fire suppressant.”