The National Interagency Fire Center posted on their Facebook page (yes, they have a Facebook page!) nine photos of the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130s air tankers from North Carolina and Wyoming training at Boise this week. Here are a couple of the pics.
A Type I IMT (Wilder) has been ordered for the PK West Fire and a Type II IMT (Florida Red) has been ordered to support East Texas. A tanker base has been set up in Midland to support a DC-10 airtanker. Dyess Air Force Base has set up a tanker base to support the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) units on four USAF C-130s.
The 100 acre Pinnacle Fire, now 90 percent contained destroyed 6 homes, caused numerous evacuations, and threatened 100 homes & 10 businesses. Two MAFFS units from Del Rio dropped retardant on the fire that assisted in the saving of those structures. TFS ground crews continue to work this fire. A FEMA Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) was received.
The 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte, NC and the 153rd Air Wing, Cheyenne, WY are providing one Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 aircraft each, along with two from the 146th Air Wing, Channel Islands, CA, and support personnel to the state of Texas. The aircraft and personnel are based at Dyess Air Force Base. On Saturday, April 16, two MAFFS from Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs, Colorado were mobilized to assist Mexico with two very large fires 40 to 60 miles south of the Texas border.
Below are the tracks that N144Z, the Cessna Citation infrared mapping aircraft owned by the US Forest Service, left on FlightAware Monday night and very early Tuesday morning as it mapped fires in the Midland, Abilene, and Fort Worth areas. Each group of parallel lines indicate one fire that was mapped, or multiple fires if they are close together. The imagery is then analyzed by Infrared Imagery Interpreters who map the perimeters of the fires, the heat concentrations, and any spot fires outside the main perimeter, and then they calculate accurate acreages. This may be why the size of the fire at Possum Kingdom Lake 70 miles west of Fort Worth was adjusted overnight from an estimate of 63,000 to nearly 150,000 acres.
Saturday morning two C-130 aircraft with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) left Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs, Colorado for Mexico to assist with two large fires that are burning about 60 miles south of the Texas border. They arrived later in the day at Laughlin Air Force Base, which they will use as a reload base, and are already dropping water mixed with foam concentrate on the fires. That’s right, not long-term fire retardant, but foam.
The MAFFS units, which hold about 3,000 gallons, are owned by the U.S. Forest Service and slip into the C-130’s cargo bay fairly quickly to convert the transport planes into air tankers. Normally they drop retardant but apparently they were not able to work out the logistics of acquiring it for this mission.
The MAFFS aircraft have been authorized to drop four loads per day per aircraft, for up to seven days.
The Bomberos, or Mexican firefighters, are not totally familiar with the use of retardant and wonder why the 747 is not dropping directly on the fire or flames, but instead is dropping just ahead of the fire. They are learning that dropping ahead of the fire is the best way to slow it down, and that an air tanker can’t put out a fire completely, it takes support from ground personnel to follow-up after the drop.
Two Air-Cranes operated by Helicopter Transport Services have also been working on the fires in Mexico.
The first-ever conference for the military crews that operate C-130 aircraft to assist civilians during natural disasters is occurring now at Peterson Air Force Base at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Peterson is one of the four bases that host C-130’s equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) which convert the aircraft into air tankers capable of dropping 3,000 gallons of fire retardant on fires. In addition to the MAFFS crews, military personnel that operate C-130’s that fly into hurricanes or spray chemicals on oil spills are also attending the conference. Here is link to a video from the NewsFirst5 web site which has more information.
Seven members of the 302 Air Wing based at the U. S. Air Force Reserve’s 302 Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado traveled to Thailand in January, 2010 to train airmen of the Royal Thai Air Force on the C-130 Hercules aerial firefighting tactics and strategies while using the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS). They provided three weeks of expert training that drew on decades of experience in fighting fires from the air. The training included one week of classroom instruction followed by tactical flying and actual MAFFS airdrops.
The United States has four Air National Guard and Air Force reserve bases that each have two MAFFS slip-in units to enable a military C-130 aircraft to serve temporarily as an air tanker if all commercially operated air tankers are committed. The four bases are Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, Wyoming; 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard in Charlotte, N.C.; the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard in Port Hueneme, Calif., and the 302nd Airlift Wing with the U.S. Air Force Reserve of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The Royal Thai Air Force is using the first generation MAFFS, while the U.S. is transitioning to the newest version, the MAFFS II which we covered HERE and HERE.
More information about the mission to Thailand. More photos.
The U. S. Air Force, on July 20, officially certified the new Modular Aerial Fire Fighting System, MAFFS II, for the C-130 H & J model aircraft. It was declared “fully operational” in early 2009, but now the Air Force has certified it.
Here is an excellent video about the new MAFFS II that was filmed at the Oshkosh 2009 air show.
The press release from the manufacturer of the MAFFS II, Aero Union Corporation, provides details about the system. In some documents the MAFFS II is described as having a capacity of 3,000 gallons. In others, it is 3,400 gallons. Click on “Fullscreen” for easier reading.