Be-200 air tanker to seek approval from Interagency Air Tanker Board

The Be-200 air tanker at Santa Maria, California, April, 2010. Photo courtesy of Michael Lynn.

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.

David E Baskett
David E. Baskett

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

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

11 thoughts on “Be-200 air tanker to seek approval from Interagency Air Tanker Board”

  1. Here is the problem with attempting to introduce a “new” air tanker into the forest protection role. The most significant issue is that U.S. Federal land agencies don’t care. In 1910 they (land agencies) started to care after numerous destructive wildfires in the West. The attitude today is completely opposite, forest cleansing. In all probability there will be fixed wing air tankers in the future, not to mount an aggresive initial attack to stop unwanted fires, but to keep the public, media and elected officials off land managers backs. The folks attempting to introduce the Be-200 into the world of Federal aerial fire fighting may want to look at some recent history, Evergreen and 10 Air Carrier. Crunch the numbers. 31 to 40 million dollars for an aircraft that will fly 150 to 200 hours annually. That is just the beginning; facilities spares (parts) personnal, legal fees, fuel, more legal fees….it never ends. So for a 3000 gallon tanker (Be-200) it would have to cost over $20,000 a day for availability (120 days) and about $40,000 per flight hour WITH an escalating cost profile per year based on a minimum of a ten year contract. There is no “blue sky” in this venture.

  2. One of the “problems” is a leadership vacuum.

    Another problem is people have been promoted into positions of authority that are completely and totally oriented to helicopters.

    Management has lost sight of the fact that it takes everyone to get the job done. Ground pounders, hotshots, smokejumpers, air tankers, helicopters….We are fighting a war. Imagine a modern military force trying to fight a war without ground troops…or without air support…?

    1. So helicopters, lead planes, Air Attack ships and SEATs don’t qualify as air support? Seems like our Navy SEALS and Army Special Ops guys are doing a real credible job without having B-52s and B-1 bombers in support?

  3. To paraphrase Willie on Swamp people, “If the Forest Service thinks they can run a fire program without heavy tankers, go ahead and try it. Good luck to ya. Order planty of body bags, yer gonna ’em.

    1. “Order planty of body bags” – really? I think the first and best use of the body bags you’re asking for will be to keep all of this BS in odor-proof storage. Can you give specific examples of fire fatalities that have occurred because large air tankers were unavailable? Most of us involved in on-the-ground fire operations adjust our strategies and tactics when resources are in short supply or unavailable, be it engines, hand crews, dozers/tractor-plows and yes, even air tankers! Nothing justifies placing firefighters at risk of injury or death, not commercial timber, not summer pasture for cattle/sheep, not homes in the WUI. If you don’t have the tool to fight the fire safely, you back off and wait for a better – and safer – opportunity to implement your strategy and/or tactic. And on another small point: you comment that “if the USFS thinks that they can run a fire program without heavy air tankers”. So the need for heavy air tankers is solely in the realm of the USFS? How about the Interior Agencies, the States that have large fire programs, and even some counties with no Federal lands involved (like Texas): does all of the burden, blame and expense fall on the USFS? Maybe Texas Gov. Rick Perry would care to offer some thoughts on this before his State’s 2012 fire season kicks into high gear again?

  4. Well I am sure the USFS will make an issue of the Beriev 200 in its own wisdom of aviation knowledge through a contracting eye rather than the true operators eye where day to day operations costs, maintenance costs and now introducing a Soviet aircraft with Soviet engines and spares…..well one gets the drift….the USFS may think 5000 USD a day standby and 3000 USD flight hour is the cat’s meoooow. They will be suprised at the technology costs of 1) Soviet aircraft and 2) purpose built aircraft that might require MX procedures somewhat different than US aircraft that are not purpose built.

    Yes the natural resource agencies have depended on the helo for quite awhile now and being a former UH1 OH58 AH1 CH47 and UH60 mech….I understand the capabilities as well or better than the seasonal contract operations and seeing the true costs of US Army ships that require MX procedures as tight as FAA and civilian helo operations.

    BUT loookeee at alll those SAFECOMS….MX and the wonderful communications issues that are pretty well inherent to the program.

    Vibration, rotation, translation, etc all take their tolls on a helicopter and thank the good Lord th\ere are those sharp, often low to moderately paid professional aviation techs both on the road and back at the hangar that provide those beeeeeautiful ships that allll you land management professionals have come to love, enjoy, and nearly often take for granted.

    If it were not for the aviators and the mechanics of those fine pieces of machinery……the land mgmt folks would still be on horse, pack mule or 4X4 vehicles. PLEASE thank your aicrews everyday you have a helo flying or one being serviced ready for your flying pleasure…heheehhe

    1. David 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.

  5. Rileymon, reread the post it’s a paraphase from a show!!!! not his quote per say but someone else’s.

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