Conair, a Canadian company that currently has 12 large air tankers and 3 Canadair CL-215′s, has introduced a new system for delivering water or fire retardant from the tank of a Lockheed L-188 Electra. The constant-flow system, developed in cooperation with British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, has the following features:
- 12,490 Litre (3,300 US Gallon) capacity Retardant Delivery System;
- Efficient lower volume, higher coverage level application of retardants for improved lightning strike fire containment and effectiveness;
- Increased capability for higher coverage level application of retardants through dense forest canopies;
- Increased capability and efficiency for more uniform line building qualities;
- Incorporates new retardant delivery system data tracking capability allowing real time access to all aspects of the drop events – information is transmitted via satellite downlink.
Here is a video, uploaded July 26, 2011, that I believe is a demonstration of the new system. The formatting is very strange, but check out the length of the drop. It must be a very light coverage level.
Conair, according to their web site, has 10 Convair CV-580 air tankers, a twin-engine aircraft, but they only have one four-
piston-engine L-188 Electra, which was produced from 1957 until 1961.
The air frame of the L-188 was used as the basis for the Lockheed P-3 Orion. Six of Aero Union’s P-3 air tankers were shut down a few days ago when the U.S. Forest Service cancelled their contract due to the company’s inadequate participation in a continued airworthiness program, which included a Fatigue and Damage Tolerance Evaluation and structural inspection program. This leaves 11 large air tankers on federal exclusive use contracts in the United States, compared to the 44 that were on contract in 2002 and the 19 that were on contract earlier this summer. But not to worry. Tom Harbour, director of the Forest Service’s Fire and Aviation Management program said, “This contract termination notwithstanding, we possess the aircraft support needed for this year’s fire season.”
Three Convair CV-580 air tankers are currently in Boise jumping through the contracting hoops. If everything is approved, this would bring the total number of large air tankers on exclusive use contracts up to 14. If the predicted wildfire potential for August through November turns out to be correct, 14 may be adequate. If the fire occurrence in August and September turns out to be average, all bets are off.
Thanks go out to Ken