Two killed when helicopter crashes on prescribed fire in Mississippi

Two people were killed and one was injured March 30 when a helicopter crashed while working on a prescribed fire on the Desoto National Forest in southern Mississippi.

More information is at Fire Aviation.

Air Tanker 48 lands on collapsed landing gear at Fresno

Tanker 48 Fresno landing gear problem
Tanker 48 at Fresno, June 15, 2014.

Minden Air Corps’ Tanker 48 was involved in an incident at Fresno, California on June 15. While working on the Shirley Fire near Lake Isabella, the 53-year old P2V experienced a problem with the hydraulic system and diverted to the long runway at Fresno. According to Mike Ferris, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, the nose wheel collapsed upon landing. There were no injuries to the crew.

Below is a video report from Fresno’s KMPH:

(The video is no longer available at that site, but here is another link to it.)

Tanker 48 at Rapid City
File photo of Tanker 48 at Rapid City Air Tanker Base, July 21, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Minden had a serious incident with another of their P2V air tankers on June 3, 2012 involving malfunctioning landing gear. In that incident only one main landing gear and the nose gear were able to be lowered and locked on Tanker 55, leaving one main landing gear up or not locked. The aircraft landed at Minden on just two of the three landing gears. The pilots skillfully put the aircraft on the runway, finally skidding it to a stop after sliding off the runway into the grass. The crew walked away, but the tanker was heavily damaged and has not been repaired.

T-55 landing at Minden
T-55 landing at Minden in 2012 on only two of the three landing gears.

Below is a video of that incident in 2012.

The same day Minden’s T-55 crash-landed in 2012, Neptune’s T-11 crashed while working on a wildfire near the Nevada/Utah border killing Capt. Todd Neal Topkins and First Officer Ronnie Edwin Chambless. Both were from Boise.

The crash of Tanker 55 in 2012 left Minden with only one air tanker, T-48. For several years they have been working on converting a jet-powered airliner, a BAe-146, into an air tanker. That project is nearing completion and in the next few weeks or months may receive all of the approvals necessary for it to drop retardant on fires.

On June 26, 2010 air tanker 44, a P2V operated by Neptune Aviation also experienced a hydraulic failure upon landing, had no brakes, and went off the runway at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (JeffCo) in Colorado (map). Both pilots self-evacuated and were walking around when the fire apparatus arrived to put out a fire in one of the engines. Neptune repaired the aircraft and put it back into service.

CO: Details about SEAT crash

More information has been released about the single engine air tanker that crashed on April 15 near Fort Carson in Colorado.

Gert Marais reported a mayday and said, “I’m going down,” just before his single-engine air tanker crashed while fighting the 9,800-acre Fort Carson fire last week, the National Transportation Safety Board reports.

But the preliminary report from the NTSB does not identify a crash cause.


Marais, 42, of Fort Benton, Mont., (see photo below) was a pilot and mechanic and worked as a contractor for Aero Applicators of Sterling.

The Colorado State Forest Service had called the company to help fight the fire.

Two planes left Sterling at 5 p.m. with full fuel tanks, 500 gallons of water and Class A foam, the report said. Marais was flying an Air Tractor AT-602.

When the planes arrived at the site, a U.S. Forest Service agent on the ground maderadio contact to give the pilots directions.

The agent worked with Marais to do a practice run over the drop site, a line of pine trees to the north of a gravel road bordering the wildfire. The goal was to douse the trees in case the fire jumped the road.

Marais flew over the site, the NTSB report said, with the other plane about 500 feet overhead as a spotter.

Then Marais made the real drop. He flew over the top of a tall pine tree and released his load 500 feet west of the target, right on top of the U.S. Forest Service agent and his car.

A second or two later, the agent told investigators he heard Marais report a series of maydays and say, “I’m going down.”

The agent watched the plane’s right wing hit the ground on a grassy hill just off Colorado 115. The time was 6:10 p.m.

The tanker landed upright, with the right wing and fuselage crushed. The U.S. Forest Service agent told investigators that wind gusts at the time were 30 to 40 knots.

Fire investigators with the U.S. Army and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office have yet to release the cause and specific point of origin of the fire on the base, which was declared fully contained Wednesday.

A funeral for Marais, who was a native of South Africa, will be Friday in Montana.

His wife, Esme, and the couple’s children had planned to move to Sterling this summer.

The couple were married 10 years ago this month. He was already caring for three of his children from a previous marriage, ages 19, 17 and 12, and together he and Esme had a 5-year-old.

Photos and excerpt courtesy of the Denver Post.


CO: 3 dead on 2 fires; SEAT crashes

From the Rocky Mountain News:

Originally published 09:24 p.m., April 15, 2008
Updated 12:43 a.m., April 16, 2008

Wildfires in warm, windy weather burned into the southeast Colorado town of Ordway and on an Army post Tuesday. A firefighting pilot and two other people died.

All 1,100 residents of Ordway were told to leave, and authorities were not allowing anyone into to the city, said Chris Sorensen, acting spokesman for the Crowley County fire department.

Sorensen said the county coroner confirmed two of the deaths but did not provide any details as to how the people died or where they were found. KRDO Channel 13 in Colorado Springs reported that the two were firefighters and said they were crossing a bridge while riding in a firetruck. The bridge collapsed, trapping the two men underneath. Sorensen said he could not confirm that early this morning.

The pilot died when a crop-duster-type tanker crashed about 6:20 p.m. along Colorado 115 at mile marker 34 near Fort Carson, said Michael Fergus, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s northwest region.

No passenger was aboard the plane. The downed aircraft and a second plane involved in the firefighting efforts flew from a base in Sterling, Fergus said.

The FAA believes that the plane was a contract service aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service, Fergus said. But a Forest Service spokesperson could not be reached late Tuesday to confirm it. Fergus said the second plane returned safely to the Sterling base.

The fire at Fort Carson had forced some evacuations late Tuesday and a shelter was set up at a special events center on base, Capt. Gregory Dorman said. The fire had burned about 9,000 acres by late Tuesday and was about 50 percent contained, officials said.

Much of the state was under a National Weather Service red flag warning, signifying high fire danger. Gov. Bill Ritter declared a state of emergency, freeing up state resources to help fight the fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday night authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs.

Weather an obstacle

On the southeastern plains near Ordway, winds were gusting to 50 mph, humidity was low and temperatures reached into the 80s. Dry conditions on the plains and in some mountain valleys contrasted with deep snow at higher elevations.

Ordway, Colorado is 46 miles East of Pueblo, Colorado and 76 miles southeast of Colorado Springs.


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