(This article was first published at Fire Aviation.)
For more than 15 years Minden Air Corp has been working on the concept of transitioning from their Korean War vintage P2V air tankers to a jet, the BAe-146. They acquired two or three of them and had nearly completed their work on what was going to be Air Tanker 46 when they ran out of money. Problems with hydraulic systems led to landing gear failures on two P2Vs, T-48 and T-55, taking out Minden’s last two operational air tankers, which no doubt affected their incoming revenue stream. Thankfully there were no serious injuries reported in those two accidents, unlike the crash of the company’s T-99 on October 3, 2003 that killed the two pilots, Carl Dobeare, 54 and John Attardo, 51. A lookout staffing a fire tower saw that P2V fly into a cloud bank as it was preparing to land at San Bernardino. It did not emerge and shortly thereafter they saw what appeared to be smoke at the top of the cloud. The NTSB described it as “controlled flight into mountainous terrain”. The two pilots had a combined total of more than 15,000 flight hours.
In October AvGeek filmed a report about Minden Air Corp at the Minden Airport 45 miles south of Reno, Nevada.
Tim Cristy, Flight Operations for Minden, said in the video when explaining why the conversion of T-46 came to a stop, “We ran out of money. Well, the engineering got expensive as all get-out”.
We attempted to call Mr. Christy and Minden’s CEO, Len Parker, to get more information but the number we had used before no longer works.
The T-46 project had progressed to conducting a grid test, which involves dropping retardant over a grid of more than 3,000 cups on the ground. In the video Mr. Cristy said the test went well. We are not sure if the aircraft ever received a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA which is a major hurdle to overcome in addition to approval from the Interagency Airtanker Board. After that they would have had to deal with the bewildering and unpredictable Forest Service contracting system before they ever received a dime from their large monetary investment.
The video below, published June 17, 2014, shows T-46 making its first test drops of water and retardant.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Brian. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
This article was first published on FireAviation.com August 11, 2016.
Ten additional air tankers brought on temporarily
In the last few weeks the U.S. Forest Service has brought on ten additional air tankers on a temporary basis. This includes CL-415 water-scoopers, CV-580’s, and Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130’s. Two of the aircraft were acquired through Call When Needed (CWN) agreements; four via agreements with Alaska and Canada; two MAFFS through an agreement with the Department of Defense; and two water scoopers through other contracts.
The U.S. Forest Service expects to have two HC-130H aircraft at McClellan Air Field in September. These are part of the seven aircraft fleet of HC-130H’s that the agency is receiving from the Coast Guard.
Last year one of the HC-130H’s worked out of McClellan using a MAFFS, a slip-in 3,000-gallon pressurized retardant system that pumps the liquid out the left side troop door. That was aircraft #1721 designated as Tanker 118, still painted in military colors. T-118 is now undergoing scheduled depot-level maintenance and should be replaced in September of this year by #1708 designated as Tanker 116. It will also use a slip-in MAFFS unit, one of the eight owned by the USFS, but should be sporting a new USFS air tanker paint job. After T-118 left, another former Coast Guard aircraft took its place, #1706. It is being used for training the contracted pilots and will not serve as an air tanker.
Eventually the USFS hopes to have all seven converted to air tankers with removable retardant tanks. A contract for the installation of the retardant delivery systems was awarded to the Coulson Group in May. There is also much other work that has to be completed on the aircraft including programmed depot maintenance, painting, and wing box replacement on most of them. The work is being done or coordinated by the U.S. Air Force. They were directed by Congressional legislation to use their own funds, up to $130 million, so it is no surprise that the schedule keeps slipping as delays continue to occur in awarding contracts and scheduling the maintenance.
The USFS has two water-scooping CL-415 air tankers on exclusive use contract. As noted above they recently temporarily brought on two more on a call when needed basis. All four are operated by AeroFlite and as seen in the photo above were together at Cody last week.
There was some discussion in the comment section of another article on Fire Aviation about the status of the BAe-146 aircraft being converted to air tankers by Air Spray. The company has five of the 146’s; two are out of the country and the other three are at the company’s Chico, California facility. Ravi Saip, their Director of Maintenance/General Manager, told Fire Aviation that they expect to begin flight testing one of them in air tanker mode around the first of the year. After they receive a supplemental type certificate from the FAA, work on the second one would shift into high gear. Then conversion of the other three would begin.
Air Spray also has eight Air Tractor 802 single engine air tankers that they have purchased since 2014. Five of them have received the amphibious conversion by adding floats, and the other three are stock, restricted to wheels.
Air Spray’s Tanker 498, an L-188 Electra, is currently in Sacramento being inspected and carded by CAL FIRE so that it can be used in a Call When Needed capacity.
Jim Wheeler, President and CEO of Global SuperTanker Services, told us that the FAA has awarded a supplemental type certificate for their reborn 747 SuperTanker — a major and sometimes very difficult barrier to overcome. Within the next two weeks they expect to receive the airworthiness certificate.
Beginning next week representatives from the USFS will observe some additional static tests and then there will be an airborne descent test, a new test added in 2013, releasing retardant in a downhill drop. That test was not required when Version 1.0 of the 747 was certified. It may have been added after it was discovered that the first BAe-146’s that were converted and issued contracts still retained hundreds of gallons of retardant after downhill runs.
These steps should take less than two weeks, Mr. Wheeler said, after which they will submit the results to the Interagency AirTanker Board.
Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the USFS, told Fire Aviation that the company was offered an opportunity to submit a proposal for a call when needed contract solicitation in 2015, along with numerous other companies, but declined to do so. Their next opportunity to obtain a contract will be when another general solicitation is issued in 2017, or perhaps sooner, Ms. Jones said. The agency issued a Request for Information a few weeks ago, which is usually followed some months later with an actual solicitation.
Judging from the list of CWN air tankers with contracts, apparently it is possible to submit a proposal and receive a USFS CWN contract even if the aircraft exists mostly on paper and could be years away from being FAA and Interagency AirTanker Board certified.
In the meantime Mr. Wheeler realizes that the USFS is not the only organization that hires air tankers and has been talking with a number of other agencies in various states and countries as well as companies involved in marine firefighting.
Global SuperTanker is in the process of finishing repairs on the 747 in Arizona after some of the composite flight control surfaces (flaps, spoilers, elevators) and engine cowlings were damaged by golf ball sized hail at Colorado Springs several weeks ago. There was no windscreen or fuselage damage.
Mr. Wheeler said that was the first severe hailstorm within the last seven years at the Colorado Springs airport. But, after the aircraft left to be repaired in Arizona a second hailstorm struck the airport that some have said was a 100-year event and did much more damage than the first one.
Since then no decisions have been made. Ms. Jones told Fire Aviation:
The U.S. Forest Service continues to cooperate with the Department of Defense to identify potential federal facilities, which must be considered first.
It is unlikely that more than one or two of the seven HC-130H’s would be at the new base at at any one time, except during the winter when they would not have to be dispersed around the country to be available for firefighting. While the base might not be a huge expansion of the aerial firefighting capabilities in an area, the stationing of the flight crews, maintenance, and administrative personnel would be a boost to the economy of a small or medium-sized city.
The Tecolote Fire burned about 275 acres in the Angeles National Forest on August 17 near Highway 39 about 18 miles north of Azusa, California. Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes and campsites but the marine layer moved in that night and slowed the spread.
The agencies responding included the U.S. Forest Service and Los Angeles County. In addition to very steep terrain, firefighters had to deal with temperatures around 100 degrees.
These photos were contributed by Jeff Zimmerman, of Zimmerman Media. Thanks Jeff.
As the Aerial Firefighting conference winds down at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, these are the 10 things I think I think (with apologies to Peter King).
1. I think 150 scoops in a water-scooping CL-215T in a 13-hour flying day is pretty amazing. That’s what a pilot from Spain told me he accomplished on a fire one time before his agency changed the policy of no limit on the number of hours flown to nine hours per day. The average number of scoops he usually completes now is 10 per hour.
2. I think the extraction/insertion upside down folding “umbrella” demonstrated by Aviation Safety Tactical today for hauling personnel by helicopter to a remote area is pricey at $75,000 each. A representative said the price will come down if it ever goes into mass production.
3. I think it will be interesting to see if the only purpose-built Type 1 air tanker, the Be-200, ever obtains FAA and Interagency Air Tanker Board approvals. The Be-200 is the Russian-made, jet-powered, 3,170-gallon, amphibious water scooping air tanker made by Beriev. The manufacturer and an American company headed by David Baskett are still trying to push the approval through the bureaucracy. We need more purpose-built air tankers.
4. I think it is surprising that with the highly publicized California drought the two hotels I stayed in while in Sacramento both had high-volume shower heads — the large saucer-shaped versions that Holiday Inn Express advertises on billboards. One community not far from here is requiring residents to reduce their water consumption by 25%, under threat of large fines if they don’t comply.
5. I think I was lucky to be routed into the expedited screening security line at the Rapid City Airport. I was pleased that I did not have to remove the boarding pass from my pocket, take off my belt and shoes, or remove my computer from my carry-on while it went through the machine.
6. I think I miss the days when on a flight we at least were given a tiny bag of peanuts. It is only a distant memory now. How long will it be before they start charging for a soda pop or a glass of water?
7. I think hotels need more electrical outlets. In order to plug in the coffee maker, I had to crawl under a table and unplug the TV or a lamp that I needed, or carry the machine across the room where there was a vacant outlet. Then there’s other devices that also need electricity, like the computer, camera battery charger, and the cell phone.
8. I think that since the Lions Gate Hotel at McClellan totally screwed up my reservation, telling me I had none in spite of the printout I showed them of the email confirming the damn thing, I will never go near that hotel again.
9. I think it is impressive that to get ready for the grid test of their BAe-146 air tanker, Minden Air Corp obtained and pounded into the earth 3,155 four-foot “T posts” to hold the cups that will catch and measure the retardant. The grid test is a requirement to obtain certification from the Interagency Air Tanker Board. The retardant caught in the cups, which are spread over a large area, can determine the distribution of the retardant.
10. Requiring suits and ties for a fire conference is stupid. Hey Tangent Link and conference chair retired Admiral Terry Loughran formerly of the Royal Navy — the 1950s called and they want their “dress code” back.
An Arizona Department of Corrections crew carrier transporting a wildland fire crew rolled over Wednesday afternoon on State Route 79 near Florence, Arizona. Several inmates and one corrections officer were injured, but none of the injuries were considered life-threatening. It is unclear what caused the accident but authorities are looking for a newer white Chevrolet Tahoe or Suburban that may have been involved. The older male driver of the SUV is believed to have left the scene traveling south.
Deceased person found in Clover Fire in Northern California
On September 10, 2013 during the late evening hours, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office located a deceased person inside the Clover Fire perimeter on Coal Pit Road in the community of Igo, California while conducting a welfare check. Next of kin was notified and the person has been identified as Brian Stanley Henry, 56. We send out our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Henry.
Survey says voters have strong connection to national forests
A recent survey of voters commissioned by the National Forest Foundation concluded that they have a strong personal connection to National Forests. These connections are so strong that four in five voters polled said despite federal budget problems, funding to safeguard National Forests should not be cut. Seventy-two percent of voters surveyed would support additional funding to maintain and restore National Forest lands even if it meant a small tax increase.
Such supporters include groups that are traditionally more tax sensitive: 63 percent of seniors and 56 percent of conservatives said they would support additional funding even if it meant a small tax increase. Forty-four percent (44%) of voters see uncontrollable wildfires as a serious problem. Just under half (44%) of U.S. voters say “uncontrollable wildfires that destroy property and forests” “is a serious problem, facing the nation” – with one-in-four calling it an “extremely” or “very” serious problem. This is the highest proportion to register this view since 2007. Concerns about this issue are drastically different by region, with 67% of voters in the West saying wildfires are an extremely or very serious problem and two-thirds deeming them to be at least somewhat serious.
Thief hit fire stations while firefighters fought wildfire
While crews in Walnut Creek were out fighting the Morgan Fire east of Berkeley, California Sunday night, a thief broke into Fire Station No. 7 and rummaged through lockers, desks and gym bags making off with money, an iPad, two firefighters’ wedding bands, and a watch. A second firehouse was also targeted, but a sleeping firefighter scared away the thief.
Since then, firefighters say they’ve received endless food donations, hundreds of dollars in gift cards, and offers from multiple jewelry stores to replace the stolen rings.
Tanker 131 certified
Coulson’s Air Tanker 131, a converted C-130Q, has been fully certified by the FAA, the Interagency AirTanker Board, and the U.S. Forest Service. The 3,500-gallon aircraft was carded on Tuesday and the pilot check rides occurred Wednesday. It should be ready to drop retardant on fires today, Thursday.
Conair begins flight testing their BAe Avro RJ85 air tanker
Conair Group of Abbotsford, British Columbia has started flight testing their BAe Avro RJ85, identified as Tanker 160, which is being converted from a jet-powered airliner into an air tanker. The RJ85 is a derivative of the BAe-146, but with improved engines. The 146 first flew in 1981 while the RJ85 was first delivered in 1993. Conair is the largest air tanker operator in the world with a fleet of around 50 fixed-wing special mission aircraft, including Convair 580s, Conair Firecats, Douglas DC-6s, and Lockheed Electra air tankers.
The aircraft still has to be certified by the FAA, the Interagency AirTanker Board, and the U.S. Forest Service before it can be used on federal fires in the United States, a process which could take days, weeks, or months.
The chain-link fence in front of Prescott’s Fire Station 7 stood bare Tuesday morning for the first time since soon after 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died in the line of duty more than two months ago.
In an effort to move forward from the June 30 Yarnell Hill wildfire tragedy, the Prescott Fire Department called for the removal this week of the thousands of items that materialized on the fence in the days and weeks after the Hotshots’ deaths.
Several dozen firefighters from around the area were on hand at the Sixth Street station to work with about 30 volunteers in taking down and packing up the curtain of interwoven flags, T-shirts, signs, and photos that had shrouded the fire station.
Rick McClure, a free-lance photographer for the Associated Press and fire publications, got this spectacular photo of Tanker 41, a BAe-146, dropping on the Devore Fire in Cajon Pass in Southern California November 5, 2012. He shot it with a Nikon D5000 at f/6.3, 1/640. And he was not half a mile away using a huge telephoto lens. This was a zoom lens at 150 mm.
Mr. McClure told us “I actually couldn’t run fast enough to get totally out of the drift.” One other photo he got for us is at our new sister site, Fire Aviation.
The Devore Fire burned 350 acres along Interstate 15 in the San Bernardino National Forest.