A purpose-built, amphibious, Russian-made air tanker will be at Santa Maria, California on September 26 looking for work. Well, not looking for work right away exactly, since the Be-200 has not been approved by the FAA or the Interagency Air Tanker Board, both of which could be large hurdles to overcome. It is expected that the aircraft will do some demonstrations while it is at Santa Maria.
David Baskett, a Santa Maria businessman and founder of the now defunct Pacific Skyway airline, has been working with the Russian government to bring the plane to the U.S. Mr. Baskett envisions the air tanker, also known as Altair, replacing the aging air tankers presently being used that have an average age of 50.
A Be-200 air tanker, if I did the conversions correctly, can carry up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant. It also can carry foam concentrate which can be mixed with the water in the tank. The amphibious plane has scoops on the bottom much like the amphibious CL-415 making it possible to skim across a body of water to refill its tank. The Be-200 can also land on a runway and refill with retardant.
The aircraft was designed specifically in the 1990s as an air tanker, one of the few large air tankers that can make that claim. It made its first flight in 2003.
Here is a 17-second video of the aircraft making a drop in Athens, Greece. The video was uploaded to YouTube in 2007.
(THE VIDEOS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
The 6.5-minute video below appears to be a promotional video about the plane. I want one.