BAe-146 air tanker receives interim approval

BAe-146 air tanker

BAe-146 air tanker being tested, dropping water. Photo: Tronos

Wildfire Today has learned that Tanker 40, the jet-powered air tanker being developed by Neptune Aviation and Tronos, has received “interim approval” from the Interagency Air Tanker Board. The next step is to negotiate a contract for the aircraft that would be in effect until December, 2012. The “interim” period would last about a year in order to gain field experience needed to make any necessary improvements in design and bring the system in compliance with IATB criteria prior to consideration for full approval.

The BAe-146 was converted by Tronos, a Canadian company. Since it was delivered to Neptune at Missoula last year, the company has been fine tuning the system to improve the retardant dropping characteristics. They first conducted live retardant drop tests on July 27, 2010 at Missoula during which the aircraft was not able to obtain adequate line lengths for the higher coverage levels. They conducted additional tests during the week of July 12, 2011, and the results improved, allowing the air tanker to obtain “interim approval”.

The BAe-146 should carry about 3,000 gallons of retardant, and has a maximum cruising speed of 395 to 486 mph.

Minden Air Corp in Minden, Nevada is also developing a BAe-146 air tanker, but we have not heard of any tests they have conducted. Other than the BAe-146s, Minden and Neptune operate a total of eleven P2V air tankers between them, which is the only large air tanker model currently under exclusive use contract with the U. S. Forest Service. If a problem is discovered that grounds all P2Vs, the air tanker program would be decimated.

In recent weeks the USFS has hired on Call When Needed day-by-day contracts, eight Convair CV-580 air tankers, three from the state of Alaska and five from the Canadian government after their fire seasons slowed, in addition to three smaller CL- 215 scooper aircraft which can deliver an average of 1300 gals. of water per trip. Also on a CWN contract they temporarily stationed a DC-10 very large air tanker in Texas, perhaps after feeling pressure from a Governor, congressmen, and others. The USFS has refused to award exclusive use contracts to the DC-10s or the 747 very large air tankers, which carry 11,800 and 20,000 gallons, respectively.

If Neptune’s BAe-146 is put on an exclusive use contract, rather than CWN, that would increase the number of large air tankers on exclusive use contracts to 12. In 2002 there were 44.

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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of WildfireToday.com and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

8 thoughts on “BAe-146 air tanker receives interim approval

  1. Congradulations to Neptune. It will be interesting to see if they have to submit to NASA study and live on a CWN. It looks great but the USFS has told OMB that they do not consider subjective data when considering the future airtankers. C 130 is the future even if subjective reports would recommend otherwise.

    • FV3-

      The US Forest Service activated the DC-10 on the recently negotiated Call When Needed contract and sent it to Texas. There may be an arrangement between the USFS and Texas for reimbursement, however, the federal government will most likely end up paying for at least 75% of the cost through the FEMA grants that Texas has asked for and received. Several months ago the DC-10 was also in Texas, and it was activated by CAL FIRE on their CWN contract with 10 Tanker Air Carrier. I’m sure there was a reimbursement arrangement worked out between Texas and California for that assignment.

  2. Earlier this month, the Be-200 platform was denied further consideration/evaluation by the San Dimas Technology and Development Center.

    The owner (David Baskett) was informed that the USFS would not consider the Be-200 any further because it did not have an airworthiness certificate from the FAA, nor a country that the FAA recognizes.

    In the letter, the USFS say’s it will refund the fees paid for the potential evaluation.

    On another note, in the last two weeks, dozens of letters were sent out by the WO to Congressional Officials assuring that a new “airtanker bid” and approval process would take place before next fire season. …. LOL.

    • Just to be clear, the Be-200 is a jet-powered amphibious air tanker built by a company in Russia. It is very different from the BAe-146.

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