Bill Hess of the Herald/Review has written an interesting article about the operation of the air tanker base at Fort Huachuca, Arizona (map). Air tankers from that base are working on the Horseshoe Two fire near Portal, AZ which has burned over 22,000 acres. Here is how the article begins:
FORT HUACHUCA — It was 13:29 — 1:29 p.m. -—Saturday when a former Navy P3V broke ground over Libby Army Airfield’s main runway.
Ahead of it was at least a 73-mile flight before it dropped more than 2,500 gallons of retardant on the Horseshoe Two Fire near Portal.
It was to be the 41st flight of retardant drops on the fire not far from the New Mexico state line.
During the previous 40 flights, 80,306 gallons of retardant, the red solutions used to create a line around a wildfire to help contain the blaze, had been dropped on the Horseshoe Two Fire, said Eric Lathrop, the Forest Service’s assistant tanker base manager.
Each gallon of retardant — it is no longer called slurry — weighs nearly nine pounds and is mixed on the air tanker base to be readily available to be pumped into “the heavies,” as the large twin- and four-engine aircrafts are called, by employees of Phos-Chek.
Besides the P3V, there are two P2Vs currently assigned to the tanker base. The P3V is a four-engine plane, while the P2Vs have two radial engines along with two small jet engines used during takeoffs and sometimes while making the retardant attack runs, said Jim Maloney, a Forest Service tanker base manager who now only works “during the fire season” at Libby.
Both Lathrop and Maloney said a bad fire season is expected this year, with Lathrop noting the Libby base opened “two months early.”
Here is some information from Wikipedia about the airport at Fort Huachuca:
Sierra Vista Municipal Airport (IATA: FHU, ICAO: KFHU, FAA LID: FHU), a joint-use airport which shares facilities with Libby Army Airfield, is located on Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The airport has three runways and one helipad. It is mostly used for military aviation for the surrounding military base.
As per Federal Aviation Administration records, the airport had 1,304 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2005 and 2,041 enplanements in 2006. According to the FAA’s National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2007–2011, Sierra Vista is a general aviation airport (the commercial service category requires at least 2,500 passenger boardings per year). Scheduled commercial service by Great Lakes Airlines to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport ended on February 28, 2007.