747 air tanker signs with CalFire

The 747 air tanker operated by Evergreen has signed a Call When Needed (CWN) contract with CalFire, confirming what one of our readers said in a comment on Wildfire Today on June 10.

According to a story in the Press-Enterprise:

Cal Fire will pay Evergreen International Aviation Inc. of McMinnville, Ore., $29,500 an hour, plus the cost of fuel, with a minimum of four hours per day guaranteed any day the plane is used. The contract calls for paying for a minimum of 10 days at a cost of $1.183 million, regardless of whether the plane is used.

The 747 carries about 20,000 gallons of retardant which is six to seven times more than a conventional large air tanker.

The U. S. Forest Service issued a solicitation for “Very Large Airtankers (VLAT)” on June 25, specifying that the minimum acceptable payload would be 11,000 gallons of mixed retardant. The solicitation is HERE, but it is scheduled to be archived on July 10 and may not be available after that date. FBODaily may have some information available after July 10.

It is our understanding that CalFire has an exclusive use contract with one of the 12,000 gallon DC-10 air tankers operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, Tanker 910, and has a CWN contract with their second DC-10, Tanker 911.

Santa Maria air tanker base


Santa Maria Airport mapThe staffing of the Santa Maria air tanker base in southern California, first covered HERE on Wildfire Today, has generated a lot of controversy. The U.S. Forest Service has issued statements and news releases, some of them confusing, saying they are going to cease staffing the base during fire season except on a call when needed basis. Their plans are to rely on CalFire’s Paso Robles air tanker base which is 58 air miles north of Santa Maria.

The Santa Maria Times has an article that provides more details HERE. [UPDATE 11-9-2011: The article has been removed]

24-hour briefing on air tanker crash

Air tanker crash
Deseret News, Keith Johnson

The U.S. Forest Service has released a preliminary briefing on Saturday’s crash of Air Tanker 42 in Utah:


Subject: Preliminary (24-Hour) Briefing

To: Ron Hanks


Location: Toole Utah

Date of occurrence: April 25, 2009

Time of occurrence: 10:00 AM

Team leader: NTSB (Kurt Anderson)

Mission: Ferry

Activity: Firefighting airtanker under operational control of New Mexico

Number injured: 0

Number of fatalities: 3

Property damage (such as to vessels, equipment, and structures): Total loss of airframe

Narrative: At approximately 10:00 am Mountain Standard Time, a P2V airtanker with a crew of 3, registered to Neptune aviation impacted terrain near Toole Utah in the Stockton Pass area. All three occupants onboard were killed. The aircraft was traveling from Missoula Montana to respond to the Four Mile fire in Chaves County. This fire and the associated flight was under the operational control of the State of New Mexico The occupants were identified as Tom Risk, Pilot, of Littleton CA, Mike Flynn, co-pilot, of Alamogordo, NM and Brian Buss ,Crew chief of Alberton Montana.

Aircraft debris was scattered over an area approximately 500 feet long and weather conditions at the time of the accident were described as foggy with low ceilings, wind and blowing snow.

The NTSB has assigned Kurt Anderson as Investigator in Charge and the FAA is also participating in the investigation. The investigation team has been on site since Sunday Morning along with representatives from Neptune aviation.

The Forest Service has contacted the NTSB Investigator in Charge to offer any support or assistance as needed. The AFF tracking system has been saved for investigation purposes and the aircraft has the APAREO system on board which may help reconstruct some information from the history of the flight.

Gary Morgan

Air Safety Investigator

USDA Forest Service

Air tanker crashes in Utah

A P2V Neptune air tanker crashed in the Oquirrh mountains today in Utah, killing the three-person crew. The crash occurred between Tooele and Stockton (map).

Tthe three men who died in the crash have been identified as:

  • Tom Risk, 66, from Littleton, Colo., pilot
  • Mike Flynn, 59, from Alamogordo, N.M., crew member
  • Brian Buss, 32, from Alberton, Mont., crew member

The aircraft, Tanker 42, was owned by Neptune Aviation of Missoula, Montana and was enroute from Missoula to Alamorgordo, New Mexico.

The county sheriff began searching for a crash site after a nearby resident reported hearing a large aircraft overhead then what sounded like “two semis crashing head on” at about 10 a.m. At about 11:15 a.m., the sheriff’s office learned through sources in Idaho that an airplane was reported missing.  Due to low clouds, searchers were initially unable to locate the crash site until 1 p.m. when the clouds lifted.

Deputies and search and rescue crews retrieved the victims from the crash site and were working late Saturday afternoon to bring the bodies down from the mountainside. That task was made difficult by low clouds, rain and steep terrain.

Our condolences go out to the families and co-workers of the crew.

Sadly, the P2V-7 Neptune that crashed at Reno on September 1, 2008 was also owned by Neptune Aviation.

air tanker crash
Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune

Single Engine Air Tankers

K. Tyler Miller at the Random Ramblings blog has been doing some research on Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and has dug up some interesting information. You should go check it out.

They had a link to what turned out to be a great video of Dromader SEATs in action, with most of the footage being shot from a cockpit camera. Those pilots are very brave, judging from how they repeatedly flew into smoke, with zero visibility, for several seconds at a time.

Check out Random Ramblings, but in the meantime, here is the video.

Feds to close Minden-Tahoe air tanker base

Tanker 09 last drop
Air tanker 09 making their last drop, September 1, 2008 before it crashed at Reno later that day.

The Bureau of Land Management will consolidate their air tanker operations that have been at Minden-Tahoe airport and Reno-Stead airport into just having facilities at the Reno-Stead airport.

On the map below, Lake Tahoe is the large lake on the left or west side of the map.)

The BLM says they no longer have the funding to fully staff both bases.

The closing of the air tanker facilities is generating some conflicting opinions in the public comments following an article at RGJ.com. But the reality is, the two bases are only 36 miles apart, which is about 10-15 minutes flying time for an air tanker, depending on the type.

Thanks, Dick. Map: Google Earth