1. #1
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    May 2004

    Default What Do You Think About This Air Tanker Issue?

    I'm not much for reading news paper accounts without forming an opinion. After all we know what opinions are like. My point. These are old aircraft, never designed to do the job of carrying liquid, and under high power, complete low level flights and under go the force change of so much resistence when the liquid is released. Air frames have been sustaining this for years. We have talked about it for years, we have been killing our pilots for years. If you know how our wildland fire and aviation groups work, they log in everything that violates policy or appears unsafe regardless if it causes an accident or near miss. They have accurately been tracking these statistics for years, and the numbers point to this. If you fly x hundreds of hours we will loose aircraft and kill a pilot. With the large airtankers out of action, we plan to substitute SEAT aircraft and rotor wing aircraft at greater numbers, I suggest we will fly more hours. Exponentially more hours. 1 heavy airtanker at 3000 gallons, 1 SEAT at maximum 800-1000 gallons. Same with rotor wing. So conservatively, we could fly upwards of 3 times the hours. Based on flight hours, we expect to loose 2 pilots/co-pilots annually, now we can expect 6. If I said, for the first 100 of you who would fight fire this summer 2 of you will die, who of you would keep going, and who would not? What do you think of this juicy political piece of tough meat?
    Last edited by mtcelt; 05-15-2004 at 04:01 PM.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2001
    25 NW of the GW


    I would agree with your calculations indicating an increase of flight hours, (based on the theory a SEAT aircraft carries one third of the load) however, I believe the use of single engine air tankers is intended as a short term fix, until a plan and funding for newer, larger aircraft is realized. My belief is that the federal government has finally recognized that we need to update the aging fleet and will work on ways to finance and meet that goal.

    They are also increasing the numbers of military aircraft equipped with "drop capability", that would be available for major fires. The only problem with that is.....many National Guard pilots are tied up with our troops overseas.

    The bottom line? The FEDS need to assist our aerial contractors with funding for modern air tankers. It is long overdue. The pilots deserve it, the ground crews deserve it...our forests deserve it.
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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  3. #3
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    Sep 2001
    Hanford Fire


    I quess we will have to get use to ordering the SEATs and rotors early and realize that we have small units that do less but do do it faster with quicker turn around. We will have one that air time is 13-18 minutes away and this is great. Considering the issues, I can use it almost like a apparatus because the tank size is about the same, nothing wrong with that. Cost is lower, and there are two more on the way within an hour. Great now I have a 3 plane rotation. This will work.

  4. #4
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    Air tankers have been over used for years and this in part has led to the place we are in. There are no short term solutions except to put the risk in the pilots hands. I am sure that many of them would go on knowing the risks in hand and keep on if they knew there were provisions in place to improve the air craft in a time line. These pilots do us wounders and may not know in there heart of hearts if we as fire fighters really need the drop or not. It is not for them to decide but when called these heros step up to the plate and show us on the ground what they can do for us. I urge all ground personel to only use this valuable resource when it will make a difference. All too often they are over used to make drops that most folks with experience know that it is for show only.

  5. #5
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    Jun 2000
    Eclectic (no, NOT electric), Alabama


    I posted this in the 747s as tankers thread, but it fits here too. Sorry if it is a repeat to some....

    At some point, we've got to get new equipment into service. Just look at some of the planes that are used (or were used in the last couple of years) to fight our wildfires:

    The Consolidated Privateer. World War II maritime patrol plane. First flight of type: 1943.

    Douglas DC-4. World War II transport that was Air Force 1 before the Air Force existed. Franklin Roosevelt's was named "The Sacred Cow". First flight of type: 1942.

    Douglas DC-6. Early post World War II transport plane. First flight of type: 1945

    Douglas DC-7. New kid on the block from Douglas and last of their prop airliners. First flight of type: 1953

    Boeing C-97. Post World War II transport version of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. First flight of type: 1944

    Lockheed C-130A. Introductory version of the type. First flight of type: 1954

    PBY Catalina. World War II maritime patrol plane. First flight of type: 1935

    Douglas A-26. Medium Bomber used in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. First flight of type: 1942.

    Lockheed Neptune. Korean War maritime patrol plane. First flight of type: 1945

    There are also Grumman Trackers, Lockheed Neptunes, and Lockheed Orions performing these tasks. These are all anti-submarine/maritime patrol planes that have been converted to fire attack roles. The Tracker is a Korean war era antisubmarine plane that first flew in 1952. The Orion is much newer, having first flown in 1959. I'm sure the ones in use as tankers are the older models but at least the type is still in widespread use around the world.

    To be fair, there are also many modern aircraft like the Canadiar CL-215/415 in use and the first flight of the type doesn't mean the tanker in use is that old but the fact is many of these planes belong in museums, not flying operational sorties! The C-97 is only one of two flyable examples left IN THE WORLD and the Privateer that crashed in 2002 was only one of about five.

    I don't particularly agree with the quit cold-turkey approach, but it may be the only way to force a fleet upgrade. The really sad thing is that there are modern planes available that would fill the role nicely. The point about a 747's weight and runway requirements is valid, but C-130s have great lifting strength and short field capabilities. If you're looking to scoop water, the CL-215/415 and Be-200 can get it done.

  6. #6
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    May 2004


    fact: for about 30 years, Bombardier tried to
    sell purpose-built scoopers into the US market.
    NC owns one. LA County rents them. Minn and Mich
    use Ontario's if available and if required.

    Greece has more Bombardier product than the entire

    fact: Hawkins & Powers has got options on 8-9
    Be-200s for delivery est '07

    fact: in 2000, FEMA ordered up two (2) Il-76s
    for the (nuclear possibilty) firefight in Los
    Alamos, only to be turned aside by the USFS.

    fact: the NIFC is being asked politically to
    rescind the stand-down order on air tankers
    declared unfit, at least as to some of them.

    fact: the USFS, in a report issued in 1994-5,
    said the Il-76 was suited to California fires,
    among others.

    facts (AP - Oct 2, '03) on the SoCal catastrophe:

    Acres burned: 745,950.
    Homes destroyed: 3,495.
    Deaths: 20. (now 23)
    Firefighting personnel: About 11,000.
    Injuries: 185.

  7. #7
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    I am not a big supporter of air tankers in general. As much as I would love to fly a SEAT for a living, I just dont think they are cost effective.

    Slurrey very VERY rarely puts a fire out on its own. It only slows it down. The ground troopers still have to do the dirty work and get in there and kick but.

    I have seen it so many times. Structre protection, box it in with slurry. We sit at the cabin or what have you with the most spectacular airshow going on around us. We cant get anywhere near the line to work the fire, because the "big boys" are playing with their toys.

    Nighttime comes. Big boys have to go home. A short time later the fire makes a big run at the structurs and we eat enough smoke to last a lifetime.

    If they would have let us work the line, we wouldnt have had to wait there for the big run to pile into us.

    I have lost count how many times this has happened to me.

    Getting buzzed by the lead plane, "Move off the line, we are going to drop..."


    We had 3 cabins all within 300 yards of each other, decent roads, with lots down dried fuel. Realy active fire on 3 of 4 sides.

    The USFS was dropping slurry, and I mean a LOT of slurry. We were in a .5 mile square red box made of 30+ drops of all sizes. SEATS, 2 engine, 4 engine, C130. I lost count of all of the drops, so much slurry...so much money.

    They would drop, the fire would slow for about 5-10 minutes, burn its way under the down timber wher the slurry couldnt get to, and start comeing again.

    They kept it up all afternoon, drop after drop...

    Then night came.

    Fire made a major run on us, the smoke was so thick we wouldnt have been able to work without hot shield filters.

    Our CAFS heavy was worked to death, we burned off from the cabin yards as a last ditch, and then chased spot fires/put out the small fires on the cabins for about 2 hours straight. The fire hit from all 4 sides as the night went on.

    Lot of good that slurry did that time.

    What the slurry did do was keep our water tenders from getting into the cabins... "Stay off the line."

    We didnt get a chance to set up our drop tank until the sun set and the bombers left. We set up the tank, but it was a hour one way to the water source. The fire hit less then an hour after the bombers left for the night. So, thanks to the bombers our water supply was only half what it could have been.

    It is realy very frustraiting to see all of that money IMO wasted.

    For the hundreds of thousands of dollars spend on those slurry drops they could have fire proofed those cabins permanently, heck they could have done a few hundred cabins for what they spent that one afternoon in slurry.

    Water sisterns, pumps, hose, and some foam. Each cabin could have been a green little bastion of safety in the middle of that wildfire if just a few loads of slurry had been sacrificed in the name of firwise preparation. Those plastic poly tanks are cheap, so are small fire pumps and forestry hose. You could have had a totaly automatic system, nobody would have had to eat that much smoke.

    I blows my mind, goverment waste.

    It all comes down to one word...

    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  8. #8
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    Jul 2003


    Air tanker safety jurisdiction in dispute
    By TED MONOSON of the Missoulian

    The Forest Service official in charge of aerial aviation said Wednesday the agency will not simply reverse its decision to ground the nation's fleet of firefighting air tankers. "People keep talking about a near-term, stroke-of-the-pen reversal," Forest Service assistant director of aviation management Tony Kern said. "That will not happen. This will be a data-driven decision. At the end of the day, it will not be an emotional decision."

    Executives at Missoula-based Neptune Aviation Inc. are furious at Kern and have promised to fight to get their planes back in the air. Neptune had eight planes grounded when the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management terminated the contracts for 33 air tankers. Neptune is one of eight private companies that had federal contracts for the 2004 wildfire season. "I always like a good fight," Neptune president Kristen Schloemer said. "We are from Montana, and we are pulling our sleeves up." The future of Neptune will hang in the balance during the next month as agency officials and lawmakers wrangle over whether the fleet of planes should be used to fight wildfires.

    For the planes to be used, either the Forest Service and BLM would have to reverse its decision to ground the planes or a bill could be passed officially shifting authority to the Federal Aviation Administration. Employees of the Forest Service and FAA have been working with scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico to come up with a plan for determining if the planes are safe.

    Lawmakers, who are on a week-long Memorial Day break, are scheduled to discuss the issue next week. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue June 16 and Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John McCain has said he also plans to hold a hearing on the issue. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., is a member of both panels.

    The contracts were terminated in response to a National Transportation Safety Board study of two 2004 accidents in which the wings fell off of planes owned by Greybull, Wyo.,-based Hawkins & Powers Aviation Inc. A NTSB report on the study released in late April said the Forest Service and BLM had no way to certify that the airtankers can operate safely. Kern and other federal officials insist that the Forest Service and BLM have jurisdiction over the planes, while Neptune officials say that the FAA has the responsibility to determine the planes' safety. FAA officials say the Forest Service and BLM are responsible for determining if the planes are safe.

    Rep John Mica, R-Fla., weighed in on the issue before leaving for the break. "(The FAA) already has the authority to inspect," Mica said. "I don't think that matters. It's in the public interest that we have as many flying as possible." Mica leads the congressional panel with jurisdiction over the FAA. He vowed that lawmakers would keep an eye on the issue and act if they need to. "If they don't have a plan that meets the requirements for fighting forest fires, then we'll take whatever steps necessary," Mica said. "We'll do whatever it takes."

    Kern said the agency is working hard to establish a plan for determining the planes' safety, but he sought to keep expectations in check. "We are working feverishly with the FAA to establish some kind of baseline," Kerns said. "It is airplane specific, and it involves a lot of information about the rigors of fighting wildfires that may or may not exist." There has been some speculation that nine Lockheed Martin P-3s could be certified before the rest of the planes because they are newer than the rest of the air tankers. Some of the air tankers were built in the 1950s. "That's a little glimmer of hope," Kerns said. "Because they are newer, they are the closest to having an evaluation benchmark." Kerns quickly added, "That's not to say the P-3s are in better shape."
    Speculation about the P-3s offers no hope for Neptune, because the eight planes they had on contract are Lockheed Martin P2-Vs.

    Although they disagree about who has authority to determine the planes' safety, Kern and the Neptune executives agree that the fleet of air tankers needs to be modernized. "We have to turn the corner and get on a modernization track," Kern said. "We don't have an air tanker fleet for the 21st century. At the end of the day, the answer is new platforms." Kern's call for modernization left a bitter taste in the mouth of Neptune director of operations and management Greg Jones. Jones said that by accepting low bids, the Forest Service and BLM had rewarded companies that cut corners and did not modernize their fleets "They have beat us down and kept us stagnant," Jones said. "We have been trying for years to modernize. They have provided no incentive to modernize."

    They have provided no incentive to modernize...

    That is just sick. Isnt the safety of you employees, friends, and firefighters and incentive.
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  9. #9
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    May 2004

    Default Aircraft effective against fires

    Pilots often work ground crews

    By chuck.bostwick@dailynews.com
    By Charles F. Bostwick, Staff Writer
    Monday, October 27, 2003 -

    When Southern California wildfires race along inaccessible canyons and up chaparral-covered slopes, aircraft are often the only hope for stopping the flames.

    But even water-dropping helicopters and air tankers can't infallibly stop a fast-moving brush fire when wind, heat and fuel conditions are against it.

    "There is no system that can stop a brush fire set on the wrong day in the wrong conditions,' said Los Angeles County Fire Department senior pilot Lee Benson. "Can you stop a tornado?'

    As Southern California's firestorm blackened tens of thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes from the Mexican border to the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, the aerial equipment sent against the flames ranged from World War II-era planes to specially outfitted helicopters to the Superscoopers.

    Fighting fires can be dangerous. Tankers have exploded in mid- air and flown into mountainsides. The California Fire Pilots Association says aerial firefighters' fatality rates are higher than those of any other firefighters.

    But in fighting fast-moving wildfires, it's safer than putting a fire engine crew or camp crew in the path of flames that might surround them, officials say.

    "We have to make sure we don't put anybody in a situation where they can't get them out,' said Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center spokesman Mike Apicello, a former "smoke jumper' who parachuted in to fight forest fires. "The safest approach is by air.'

    Much of the aerial firefighting is being done by highly maneuverable helicopters, whose pilots can fly at low speed into a smoky canyon, eyeball the flames and drop water on them.

    "It's always difficult in the smoke. That where the helicopters really shine,' said Benson, who is one of nine Los Angeles County Fire helicopter pilots fighting the blazes. A 10th is on military reserve duty in the Persian Gulf.

    "They can work in the smoke where the aircraft have a difficult time. They can get way in there and kind of scoot around down there until they find a place to drop.'

    Often the helicopters work in tandem with a fire crew or bulldozer on the ground, dropping water onto the advancing line of flames as the firefighters uproot vegetation in their path to block them. One helicopter circles overhead to direct the others to their drops.

    The air tankers, largely military surplus planes operated under contract, drop chemical fire retardant. The usual place to drop is in advance of the flames like on a ridgetop to slow down the fire when it arrives.

    The two Canadair Superscoopers, leased from Quebec for the Southland's fire season, can scoop water out of a reservoir without having to fly miles back to a base to reload like the tankers, and carry more water than helicopters.

    But the Superscoopers, which spent part of Monday on the ground at Van Nuys Airport, have their own limitations, firefighters said. They drop water, not fire retardant, so it does little good to drop in advance of the flames, and their speed and wide drop pattern means they don't work as well as helicopters in supporting firefighters on the fire line.

    Firefighting from the air has been around more than 60 years in the United States. Firefighting "smoke jumpers' first parachuted out of Ford Trimotor airplanes in 1939, Apicello said. Experiments in using airplanes to drop water on wild fires also began before World War II.

    But aerial firefighting intensified after World War II, first using military-surplus torpedo planes and later converting big bombers to firefighting use.

    A new trend is for county fire departments to buy small air tankers, similar to modified crop dusters, Apicello said. The planes don't need long runways, which many rural areas don't have, and can get to a wildfire quickly to attack it, often helping firefighters carried in by helicopter.

    Charles F. Bostwick can be reached at (661) 267-5742 or by e-mail at chuck.bostwick@dailynews.com.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2003


    SAFETY WARNING: 2004 Fire Season & Aviation Resources
    To: Geographic Area Coordination Groups

    From: National Multi Agency Coordination Group

    As we move into the 2004 fire season, all indications are that it will be as severe as the last four. Add the recent announcement that the USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of Land Management have terminated the contracts for large fixed-wing airtankers, and it appears to be another tough year for our firefighters on the line. It is a good time to stress that firefighter and public safety is the #1 priority in all firefighting operations, and that regardless of the resources that may or may not be available, the basic rules of firefighting still apply.

    Firefighter safety must not be compromised as a result of the loss of our airtanker fleet. As most of us learned early on, tactics should never be dependent on aerial support. As long as firefighters adhere to the Standard Firefighting Orders, maintain situational awareness and mitigate the risks associated with the 18 Watchout Situations, their safety is assured.

    To further reinforce firefighter safety in this context of reduced heavy airtanker capability, Agency Administrators and Fire Managers must re-evaluate and, if necessary, modify the strategic and tactical directions they give to Incident Commanders.

    The shortage of heavy airtankers may increase the likelihood of emerging fires escaping initial attack, resulting in the need for more firefighters.

    Recognizing this, it is important that the fatigue of firefighters and support personnel be closely monitored, and that proactive countermeasures to mitigate that fatigue be identified and implemented early in the season.

    Agency Administrators and Fire Managers are urged to stress the following points with firefighters:

    Fight every fire from a solid anchor point, and always ensure the line is secure before moving on.
    If the lack of airtanker support is making control objectives difficult to attain, look for tactical advantages that can be achieved by applying more effort after the burning period (cooler temperatures, higher humidities), and by taking advantage of terrain and fuel breaks.
    Maintain situational awareness and recognize changes in fire behavior that may indicate the need to modify strategy or tactics. Use the
    Risk Management Process outlined in the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG).

    Always ensure LCES is implemented.
    Diligently follow the Standard Firefighting Orders and mitigate for the 18 Situations that Shout "Watch Out".
    In order to make the most of limited resources, minimize acreage lost through emphasis on aggressive initial attack. Initial attack should remain the top priority for most available aviation resources.
    Always maintain positive communication, and make certain everyone knows and understands the plan.
    Remember, the loss of large airtankers gives us one less tool in the toolbox and we must improvise and adapt to that loss. Staying vigilant and consistently applying basic firefighting principles to our operations will ensure that no firefighter will be at greater risk.

    Discuss these points with your crews and your fellow firefighters early this season, and keep them in mind as you work through the year. Have a good season.

    Don Artley Chair, NMAC
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

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