In light of the P2V air tankers having to undergo FAA-required inspections after a 12-inch crack was found in a wing spar and skin on one of Neptune Aviation’s P2V-7 air tankers, it seems like a good time to look at an alternative air tanker. The Russian-made Beriev Be-200 amphibious air tanker will be tested in about three months to determine if it meets the criteria established by the Interagency Air Tanker Board (IATB). Certification by the Board is required for any air tanker that is under contract with the U.S. land management agencies. Approval by the Board is not a given; it took a year for the BAe-146 to obtain “interim” approval and then a year later, in December, 2012 the Board will decide if it is fully qualified.
Shortly after the European Aviation Safety Agency, their version of the FAA, issued an approval and Type Certificate for the Be-200 to the Beriev Aircraft Company on September 9, 2010, the Russian Emergencies Ministry signed a $330 million contract to purchase eight of the aircraft configured for wildland firefighting. This made good on a promise Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made during their August, 2010 fire siege to acquire more air tankers, including the Be-200.
Wildfire Today talked with David E. Baskett, president of TTE International Inc., who hopes to acquire a fleet of ten Be-200′s and lease them to air tanker operators in the United States. In April of 2010 Mr. Baskett arranged to have a Be-200 fly into the Santa Maria, California airport where it was on static display and made a demonstration water drop. He returned today from visiting the Beriev offices in Russia and said he expects to receive the first Be-200 as early as the first quarter of 2013, depending on financing. After that he could add up to two to three additional aircraft each year.
In addition to passing the IATB tests, the aircraft will need to obtain from the FAA the same type of certifications it received from the European Aviation Safety Agency. Mr. Baskett said that process is in the works and will be guided by a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russian governments for cross-certifying aircraft from the two countries.
Check out this very impressive seven-second video of a Be-200 dropping on a fire in Russia.
Here are some of the specifications of the Be-200:
- Cost: approximately $30-41 million
- Design: purpose-built air tanker, internal gravity-drop tank, can scoop from lakes or ocean, or load retardant at an airport.
- Retardant or water capacity: approximately 3,000 US gallons. Class A foam or gel can be mixed into the tank while airborne.
- Cruising speed: 348 mph
- Maximum speed: 435 mph
- Minimum speed: 98 mph
- Ferry range (one hour reserve) 2,051 miles
- Engines: two high-mounted turbofan D-436TP, “maritime”, corrosion-resistant.
- Crew: two
Mr. Baskett will submit a bid or proposal in response to the U.S. Forest Service’s Request for Proposal for what they are calling the “next generation” air tanker. Those proposals are due by February 15 and contracts should be awarded in April. The RFP has provisions for air tankers that are not yet approved by the IATB which will begin service with the USFS in later years. He also said the USFS expects to issue another RFP for scooper air tankers in a few months and his company will participate in that as well. The Be-200 will be the basis for his proposals for both RFPs.
Thanks go out to Ken