View Full Version : 747 Firefighting Airtanker
26th Jun 2003, 13:10
Original KATU story (http://www.katu.com/news/story.asp?ID=58476)
Industry comments (http://www.airtanker.com/wwwboard/messages/4913.html)
June 17, 2003
Fire season sparks debate over fire fighting air force
Last year's deadly crashes put the forest service at a crossroads.
After a series of investigative reports by KATU and findings from a panel ordered by congress that revealed serious maintenance issues with the fire fighting air force, the agency grounded 11 planes reducing it's fleet by a quarter.
Among the planes sitting as fire season begins are aging C-130's and PB4Y's - they were planes so old that contractors had trouble replacing parts.
"Certainly if we get into a season like last year we're going to be stretched," said Jon Rollens from the U.S. Forest Service.
To compensate, officials are trying to find newer airplanes for its fire fighting air force.
Among the strong contenders in the short run might be single engine planes from a Texas company that said it could supply dozens of the smaller fire retardant planes. These small aircraft are similar to crop dusters.
The forest service is also pressing more helicopters into service and said it may use around 400 as the fleet is forced to expand.
But for the long-term officials are looking toward a larger solution.
Cargo giant Evergreen of McMinnville is planning to test the biggest aerial retardant plane ever conceived this summer.
"Really it was a vision that Mr. Smith had," said Penn Stohr of Evergreen Aviation.
Officials said company CEO Del Smith wanted to fit aerial retardant tanks into a 747.
"We've been working on this a year, it's really going to be exciting," said Stohr.
The exciting part will be when they test it sometime this summer in Arizona.
"There are naysayers that say that a big plane with a gigantic wing span has some limitations and indeed it does," said Stohr. "But my background experience is acceptable for this type of an airplane. The biscuit fire for example last year - that type of terrain is acceptable to this airplane."
Evergreen officials said that a 747 fitted with tanks that will carry some 24,000 gallons can drop a line of fire retardant 5 miles long, which is eight times longer than the largest fire fighting aircraft in operation.
At least one other company is working on plans to use jets to get to fires faster and drop more retardant than the aircraft currently in use.
26th Jun 2003, 15:00
Now that is something I would like to see ! What sort of operational height do you think we would be talking about ?
26th Jun 2003, 15:41
Wow! Wouldn't want to be under its path when they drop that stuff! Would a B52 be a much better choice?:ooh:
26th Jun 2003, 16:58
FWIW a 747 Classic freigher can lift about 108 tonnes, so that's a LOT of water!
26th Jun 2003, 17:34
Never mind watching it fight the fire, I want to be standing by the lake when it swoops down and picks 108 tons up!
What happened to the Beriev Be-200 (http://www.aerospace-technology.com/projects/beriev_be-200) project? I read an article about it some time ago and it seems an efficient fire-fighting plane to me. It's able to pick-up and drop 12 tons of water/retardent.
Couldn't this be (part of) a solution for the American forest fires? Or doesn't the USA want to buy Russian technology? Prefering to invent it all themselves? Re-inventing the wheel, so to say.
26th Jun 2003, 18:04
Conair Aviation (http://www.conair.ca/av_index.htm)(who do these sort of conversions on various aircraft types) from British Columbia, Canada, were working on plans a few years back to convert a 737 to a fire-wagon. The idea was to convert an airframe that could be used to deploy to the fire-site quickly, using an airframe that was (somewhat) cheap and readily available.
Plans were dropped for reasons unbenownst to me but they were close to cutting metal back then, I'm told.
It's workable. It would be neat to see, of course, but the main point is if it saves lives and property, then all the effort will be worth it.
If anyone can do it, Evergreen certainly can. Best of luck.
26th Jun 2003, 21:02
It's already available on the Ilyushin 76 (hope this works!)....
but what really intrigued me was the recent news that BAE are considering a water bomber version of the 146!!! :eek:
Can you imagine those feeble wings standing up to it?!?!?!
27th Jun 2003, 00:14
The 737 coversion, the Be-200 and the Il-76 'projects' have all been discussed (although I'm not sure that's the right word - you think PPRuNers are rude :uhoh: ) on the Tanker Pilots' board (http://www.airtanker.com/wwwboard/wwwboard.html). Unfortunately they don't archive posts, but from memory the 737 had insurmountable structural limitations - centre wing box IIRC. As to the Russians, it'll never happen IMO. Neither type is currently certified in the US (but most of the US tankers aren't either), but that's a small impediment compared to overcoming the NIH syndrome of the US authorities, various fire agencies and most of all the above-mentioned pilots. Most of them think jets are the devil's work, air tankers must have round engines - preferrably incendiary Wrights ;)
The sheer testosterone factor of the prospect of a 747 dropping mud from 100ft might be convincing enough to get one done. Long-term solution ? Doubtful.
27th Jun 2003, 01:02
The IL76 approach looks especially interesting. I would think that discharging the fire suppressant over the open rear ramp would involve far fewer modifications to the airframe than would conversion of a commercial aircraft. I'd be interested to know whether this system can be palletized or if it has to be bolted/welded/glued/wedged into the airframe. Thoughts?
There is further information on the IL76 water bomber configuration at http://www.eastwest-agency.de/fire.htm
What happened to the Beriev Be-200 project? ... Couldn't this be (part of) a solution for the American forest fires? Or doesn't the USA want to buy Russian technology?
AeroLLoyd has a press release posted (see: http://www.aerolloyd.com/firefighting.htm ) announcing they'd entered into a contract for North American use of an IL76 water bomber, but the release is dated June 1999. I've no idea whether anything ever came of this deal, but I'd be interested to learn more... Sadly, one might argue that policies is as big a threat to firefighting aircrews as the mission is. There are a number of younger, more appropriate airframe types that might be used in US firefighting if only they could break into the market. However, US government contracts, by their nature, tend not to encourage use of, for instance, a shiny new Bombardier 415 (CL415) over an aged DC4 (yes, yes, of course the DC4 can carry something like 70% more "water" then the CL415, but I'm thinking more in terms of airframes that don't have many good hours left in them)...
I've heard of US Federal Emergency Management Agency officials saying things like "we're not going to have any Russians or Russian airplanes coming here to fight this fire," but I'd argue that it has less to do with the specific post-Soviet lineage of aircraft or driver and more to do with the fact that the folks they are rejecting are simply not US companies. If I'm reading the data correctly, something like 653,000 acres have burned in the US already this year. Seems to me that we might consider putting aside at least a portion of our preference for US companies in the interest of doing a more efficient job. Of course, that's just my opinion.
27th Jun 2003, 01:12
The 'other airline company' desiring to fly fire-fighting jets is Omni Air International, using a DC-10-10. Their pilots won't fly it, but US Forestry Service pilots will. It will hold almost 180,000 lbs of fire retardant.
This, like the 747, would only be used/needed for the biggest brush fires. I think it would help, given that PB4Ys, P2Vs and C130As are getting REAL old.
27th Jun 2003, 01:18
I agree with your opinion of the feasibility of this project and the other options that have been proposed in the recent past.
However, I don't think I understand the reference to US Airtankers not being certified in the US, as I am unaware of a single airtanker that is not certified. I'm not talking about public use (which they all ultimately are) state or federal agency operated aircraft, but commercially operated tankers.
There is certainly a line of thinking regarding big round motors, but the C-130's were getting pretty popular prior to their demise last year. The P-3's are still out there though. I think much of the use of the big old round motored aircraft is economic, but also tough airframes designed for efficient operation at lower altitudes.
It must be said however, that there is nothing more spectacular than watching the round motor tankers providing an impromptu airshow on a fire. KC-97, PB4Y, DC-6 and DC-7, real sounds from the past.
27th Jun 2003, 01:20
What I'd like to know is why can't they make an "anti-fire bomb" that could be dropped from a conventional warjet? No aircraft conversions, just drop them using the same avionics as they do for "dumb" bombs. All those AF Reserve B-52s could be put to good use, "carpet bombing" a large area. Hell, you could even bring in FJs for rapid response (F-18s with Multiple Ejector Racks apparently carry more bombs than B-17s did).
D'ya think I'm talking crazy?
27th Jun 2003, 01:43
One of the major advantages of the flying boats is that a structure strong enough to take water landings generally stands up in the fire fighting role.
I don't see how a jet airliner structure built for high level cruise converted to a low level dive bomber is going to hold on to its wings for an extended period.
So that leaves you with Canadairs or Shin Meiwas. The era of water bombing on the cheap is rapidly coming to a close just as global warming is making things hot in the American South West.
27th Jun 2003, 02:04
What I'd like to know is why can't they make an "anti-fire bomb" that could be dropped from a conventional warjet?
Modern warplanes can certainly carry far greater loads than WW2-era warplanes, but the big problem with water is VOLUME. You need to be able to put the stuff somewhere. Modern warplanes are incredibly-densely packed with engines, fuel, and electronics. There's nowhere to put the stuff, internally. And hanging it under the wings, you'd reach the maximum size of a container that would fit long before you get anywhere near maximum load-carrying capacity.
So you're stuck either using a bomber, and putting the water in the bomb bay (but here too, capacity is not as great as you might think: modern bombers rely on high explosives and precision for their punch, not on sheer volume of explosives) or on transport planes, which by definition have high internal volume available to haul things around.
So while it's fun to think of an F-18 divebombing a fire, it's simply not a practical solution to the problem.
27th Jun 2003, 02:07
A J3 Cub could carry more bombs than the B-17 did!
27th Jun 2003, 03:31
Cyclic, I meant that most tankers operate on a Restricted CofA, no Type Cert. ever having been issued/sought (just like warbirds). The ex-airliners excepted of course, and a quick check of the FAA register shows that some of those are indeed licensed in the standard category !
Should a Russian tanker ever be used in the US, it might be able to avoid FAA registry (the Canadian tankers do), but could surely get a restricted registration if not. Still don't see it happening though.
27th Jun 2003, 09:45
"Couldn't this be (part of) a solution for the American forest fires? Or doesn't the USA want to buy Russian technology? Prefering to invent it all themselves? Re-inventing the wheel, so to say."
You guys crack me up.
It comes down to a cash issue: How can we get the most water on the fire for the least amount of money. Canadair's CL44 costs about the same as several WWII firefighters. We may yet have to pay the price though as WWII aircraft disappear.
RatherBeFlying nearly hit it on the nailhead with "So that leaves you with Canadairs or Shin Meiwas. The era of water bombing on the cheap is rapidly coming to a close just as global warming is making things hot in the American South West."
The root of the fire problem is in the political power wielded by the "tree huggers" in this country who took issue with the way the forests were managed. Low-intensity fires used to routinely roll through North American forests and served to clean out lower brush without affecting the larger trees. Fire was a natural event. Fire, in fact low-temperature fire like that of a natural burn actually triggers the pinecones to pop their seeds loose continuing the growth cycle.
Since the "tree huggers" got everyone out of the forests, including the thinning crews, the forest (a forest protected from fire by firefighting crews) has grown increasingly thick with underbrush --the very type which fuels massive wildfires unlike the natural "clearing burns" that man and nature used to undertake.
As a resident of Arizona who has watched many acres of this state go up in flames, I support recent moves to return to a practice of thinning the forests for their sake -and ours.
I work with many former firefighter pilots and they are a brave and hearty bunch of men and women. One young lady building time hit a hard thermal on a run-in and her Captain broke off the pass and dumped their load. When they returned to base they found the turbulence had broken the trailing spar in half on one wing. Had it not been a bomber designed to lose a spar to flack and still get home, she'd have been lost that day. (It was the Navy's B-24, the Privateer)
The 747 certainly wasn't designed to take the beating a firetanker sees on a low pass across a hot ridgeline. But, neither was the B-52 and that has become a large part of its mission since the middle of the 1970's. Despite its vaunted reputation, the Buff is a fragile bird. With careful maintenance and frequent inspections, it has soldiered on admirably. The same may hold true for the 747. It's capacity may offset the need to get right on top of the fire --and into the turbulence. If it can be shown to be economical, it will revolutionize aerial water delivery. I am told that as your distance from a usable lake water source increases, the benefits of a seaplane water delivery system diminish to the point where land-based equipment such as the P-3 with its larger capacity can be just as effective.
27th Jun 2003, 10:56
I agree with (and have heard the same thing) your point about proximity to usable lake water. Seems the CL-415's are really effective in Canada as there is an abundance of lakes. In the American Southwest that is just not an option, partly the reason why the forest service hasn't bought any of those aircraft. The 747 however hardly seems like a viable solution given turnaround times, access to that volume of water, available runways etc.
Like filling a swimming pool with a garden hose, how long would it actually take to fill a 747 with 100,000 tons of water? A day? Two?
27th Jun 2003, 12:54
Would choppers be more useful in areas without near access to lakes (or large bodies of water). I think Skycranes or those gigantic Mils could carry enough retardant to make a sizable reduction in the size of a wildfire. I don't really know anything about the aerodynamics of such vehicles but are they more stable in riding out thermals and the like which would be present in such wildfires?
Just a thought.
27th Jun 2003, 14:54
Catch up time. With respect to all who have responded;
FEMA do not make desisions regarding equipment contracted to fight fires in the US. The aircraft are contracted by a variety of Federal and State agencies, in order to be eligible, they must be certified, and meet performance requirements to a standard determined by each individual agency.
The currently available Russian equipment is not certified to a standard permitting commercial operation in the US (lets not even talk JAA here).
The PB4Y and C-130A are no longer eligible to hold Federal contracts, effectively ending their careers. An AD with terminating action for the PB4Y has been issued, but it is unlikely they will ever fight fires again.
An "anti-fire" bomb is a non starter, for the reasons already stated. Some years ago (many, I guess) a serious proposal was created to turn the A-10 (Warthog) into a water-bomber. It had performance and payload coupled with handling to meet the requirement. During Gulf War 1, they suddenly realised that rather than being an obsolete piece of equipment, it was unmatched in it's military application, so that proposal died.
The lack of available amphibious fixed-wing airtankers does not limit the field to this type of operation. The most effective firefighting tool is the helicopter, and they are already the primary tool in use.
All Restricted Category aircraft require an FAA Restricted CategoryType Certificate. The Type Certificate limits operations to certain specific applications, one of which is firefighting. There is not a single commercially operated aircraft contracted on fires that does not hold an FAA approved Type Certificate. Basically, the basis of certification is that the aircraft was previously operated by the US Armed Forces, and adequate data exists to permit it to be operated and maintained in an airworthy condition.
All aircraft, irrespective of basic certification basis, that drop retardent (or any chemical) are operated under FAR Part 137, and are automatically operating under Restricted Category. All aircraft contracted at a Federal, State or other Government entity are automatically operated as Public Aircraft, essentially bypassing all this. However, to be eligible to meet the contract requirement, they must meet the certification and contracting requirements. For tanks installed in helicopters and fixed-wing tankers, they must be performance certified by the tanker board.
The Canadian tankers operating in the US are eligible for certification by virtue of the bilateral agreements and are standard category.
The Russian aircraft are ineligible for certification in Restricted Category, on the basis that step one, that they must have been operated by the US military to be eligible. Additionally, only individual aircraft that have operated by the US military are eligible for certification. If the aircraft you are intending to certify has been operated by a foreign military operator, they are ineligible. (There are a number of aircraft currently operating that do not meet this requirement, but are grandfathered - sort of).
Plane Truth talks the truth. The mess in the US forests is a result of individuals trying to "save" the forest. Instead they are left with a charred mess, or a forest killed by bugs and rot (just ripe for fire).
The first time anyone puts 100,000 tons of water in a 747, gimme a call, I'd hate to miss it! ;)
There is certainly a place for fixed-wing airtankers on fires. The Forest Service (and other agencies) are really concentrating their efforts on Initial Attack, and the ability to respond rapidly to a fire some distance away is the realm of this piece of equipment. The 747 tanker is actually an intruiging expansion on this capability.
Once a fire is established, helicopters are the most effective tool, subject to availabilty of adequate water sources. Their are a variety of helicopter resources available, of all sizes, utilising tanks and buckets. Of course, the helicopters additionally offer the ability to move personnel and other essential firefighting equipment. Helicopters set up right on the fire site and offer unbeatable flexibility and utilisation.
The reality of firefighting involves working around terrain, smoke (limited visibility) and ambient conditions. This often limits the options available for ariel application of water - again favouring helicopters.
It must always be remebered that fires are not put out by aircraft dropping water. Fires are extinguished, or at least managed, by providing water to the personnel on the ground fighting the fire. Fires are put out by incredibly hard work by the people on the ground, water makes mud, mud smothers fire. If you ever saw the ground capabilities for moving water and how these people work, you would be amazed.
The logistics of fire fighting are incredible.
Imagine that you go to work tommorow and are told with no notice that you are going to have to, provide food, water, housing, laundry facilites, medical capabilities, communications, transportation, vehicles and administration for 500 people in a place 50 miles from the closest town of any size; 200 miles from the nearest large airport, rising to 3000 people (or more) within 7 days, providing everything from sunscreen to 1000 AA batteries a day! Then add (say) 30 helicopters to that mix, at 3 helibases!
Then, 9 days later, demob it and move it to the next place you never heard of before!
It is one of the most enjoyable, satisfying jobs you could ever do. Drive through town and see all those signs thanking you for your efforts, people bringing cookies to the base, strangers stopping you on the street and thanking you - now that is true job satisfaction!
We call it the Magical Mystery Tour. It takes us to the most incredible places, indeed, some of the most amazing places I have ever visited are on fires.
And the stories; - this one time at fire camp....... :)
27th Jun 2003, 16:07
I do not agree with the opinion that the helicopter is the most effective fire-fighting aircraft.
Mainly because of the limited payload.
My favourite is the Martin Mars Flying Boat which can drop 27 tons in one pass and fill up again very quickly.
Maybe the blueprints are still somewhere and one can build them again? At least it is a still certified and proven concept.
Nice page here:
Enjoy the pictures and video clips!!!
27th Jun 2003, 17:19
Wish I could be there in that Flying Boat. It's the stuff kids dream about, being a firefighter AND a pilot at the same time. But I still think helicopters are better suited for the job. Now, if we could just combine the best of both worlds and come up with.......tadaaa!! A V-22 Osprey or derivative!!!Yahoo!!!!:ok:
27th Jun 2003, 20:40
The A-10 firefighter website is still running, although it doesn't appear to have been updated recently.....
27th Jun 2003, 20:58
The Skycrane has been used with good success in the Northwest US where they reside for logging operations. Again, if water is close by, their high recycle rate makes up for their low capacity. They are much more accurate and that makes up for some of their lack of capacity. In the Southwest US, the lakes are few and far between.
After cogitating the 747 overnight, it must be an engineering challenge considering the weight and balance issues of offloading tons of water. The C-130 used to experience transient CG out of limits during LAPES drops. The 747 will have to be configured with dump nozzles fro the forward tanks and the aft tanks so the CG doesn't wander too far off the chart. As Cyclic pointed out, if they pull it off, it WILL be impressive.
PS -Ever hear of the urban legend that recounts the story of the two guys scuba diving near the surface off the coast of Oregon? Supposedly they were swimming along one minute and the next minute the one diver looks around and his buddy is gone. Days later mop-up firefighters find a charred body of a fully equipped scuba diver in the blackened forest area that had just experienced a fire.
---A skycrane was supposed to be involved with that one.
28th Jun 2003, 00:06
Yeah, if they are selling tickets to the first 747 drop, count me in :D
Here's what Snopes (http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/scuba.htm) has to say about the scooped scuba myth ;)
29th Jun 2003, 03:17
I have no experience nor knowledge about firefighting - I wished I did and it would be a thrill to do it someday - also having it on ones CV :) ..
But why is nobody here talking about the Air Tractor - it's very succesfull here in Spain at Avialsa doing firefighting in the forest areas, in the mountains ..
Instead of one or a few big hummerbee's that makes one big splash, they have A LOT of smaller hummerbee's here that takes up to 820 US Gallons (depending on version) per trip to fight the fires ..
And it's even an American Aircraft :} ..
29th Jun 2003, 04:45
Lots of Air Tractors in use in the US. They are known by the acronym SEAT (Single Engine Air Tanker), first since the TBMs were banned 30+ years ago. AT offer a model on floats for lake scooping but I don't think there have been any takers as yet.
29th Jun 2003, 17:40
That suggestion regarding using the Lockheed P3 aircraft sounds like the most promising one to date.
A very strong airframe, designed for low level operations, ( though for over water ops), four engined reliability, carries a Flight Engineer, can go up to 135,000 lbs AUW.
Able to cruise quite fast, for a turbo prop, some 360ktas, and slow quite appreciably for dropping.
Sounds like something to be taken seriously.
Few ex-US Navy ones around too!
30th Jun 2003, 21:37
If a 747 or B-52 considered how about all the KC-135s to be replaced with the rental fleet of converted Boeing airliners? Tanks are already installed, though it is probably not the most efficient aircraft to operate the capital investment would be low.
With respect to certification that could also be the least of your problems with a foreign owned aircraft. Presuming the fire fighting operations are done for money (i.e. are commercial operations) there is some special specific permissions for a foreign registered aircraft to conduct the operation in the U.S.
Doubt the P-3 would be very useful, though it is a good airplane. As has been pointed out waterbombing is a game of volume as well as weight and P-3s differ from commercial Electras by having a plug of fuselage removed behind the wing. This reduces volume, and also alters the handling qualities and I do not know that a P-3 could be civilly certified. With the way P-3 wings are glued together and withtheir high wing loading I'm not sure that I would want to fly such an aircraft into a firefighting situation. Now a P2V is of course another animal.
30th Jun 2003, 23:57
Aero Union has been operating P3 tankers for several years.
Are they seriously proposing to fill up with water from a lake? I’d like to see that. Are they gonna put floats on it then? :rolleyes:
Plane Truth said: "After cogitating the 747 overnight, it must be an engineering challenge considering the weight and balance issues of offloading tons of water. The C-130 used to experience transient CG out of limits during LAPES drops. The 747 will have to be configured with dump nozzles fro the forward tanks and the aft tanks so the CG doesn't wander too far off the chart. As Cyclic pointed out, if they pull it off, it WILL be impressive."
Last time I spoke with the guys working on this project the plan was to use the center fuel tank(as a water tank) and a new tank mounted on the main deck just slightly forward of the center fuel tank and use high speed pumps to push the water down. Numerous test flights have been done in the simulator all looks well for clean drops without CG problems.
1st Jul 2003, 03:31
Knold, yes the proposed AT802AF "FireBoss" would be on floats. I can't remember if there were to be any tanks in the floats (à la Twin Otter), but probably not as other ATs have fuselage tanks. That would be one mother of a scoop needed though.
Interestingly, the FireBoss seems to have disappeared from the Air Tractor website :confused: The only reference I can now find is a picture of a model (apart from some non-archived AAP posts). Maybe the lack of interest killed it.
Still, without any calculations to back it up, these are some bad ass floats we're talking about!
1st Jul 2003, 07:36
Sorry, in a bit of a rush today.
1st Jul 2003, 14:31
Thanks for the pic CH. I thought that silver pipe on the port float might be the scoop. Doesn't look wide enough, but I don't know what else it could be.
1st Jul 2003, 15:35
Sorry for the oversized picture screwing up the page - but I don't have the means of fixing it! :(
In response to the many comments on this topic.
The Martin Mars is indeed an incredible piece of equipment. I have had the opportunity to look at these amazing aircraft, they are also the only aircraft I have ever flown around in a helicopter as they sit at their moorings on Sproat Lake! The likelihood of anyone building additional aircraft is probably pretty remote, as the cost of designing and building a purpose built tanker would probably be less (especially as they would have to be re-engined with something turbine). The bone-yard will most likely continue to be the source of additional tankers. I have seen a Mars dropping on a fire - no doubt about it, it is pretty spectacular! :)
The Skycrane is indeed a spectacular player in the field. With a 2000 gallon payload and the ability to suck or scoop, it is extremely effective. The way that aircraft are contracted has resulted in the majority of the fleet being contracted outside the US! It has to be remembered that the helicopter resources on a fire are based upon availability and performance. You can see all kinds of helicopters on a firebase and they might include anything from Bell 206, 206L, 407, UH-1, 204, 205, 212, 214, Boeing Vertol 107, 234, Kaman K-1200 K-Max, Sikorsky S-55, 58T, 61, 62, 64/CH-54, S-70, Eurocopter Puma and Super Puma, AS 350's, AS315 Lama, plus about anything else you could imagine. Additionally sometimes buckets are more effective than tanks, plus you can get buckets that suck, just like tanks! Each fire will require different equipment, sometimes you can't get what you want. Sometimes the ability to carry a mix of pax and water is a priority. When it gets hot and high, you might be surprised which equipment comes out on top!
The 2004 season will see 4 different models of S61 tank available, so there is definite interest in this sector. Helicopters are teh equipment of choice due to their flexibility and the ability to set them up on site, often overcoming the difficulty of approching fires due to smoke. Additionally, at some point in the future we will see CH-53 tankers on the scene.
Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) are an effective tool and commonly used. There is a lot of interest in these aircraft currently. They are flexible and relatively inexpensive and you can go and spray with them for the rest of the year (important in firefighting).
The P3 is another very effective tanker, and has been around for quite some time. Like most of the more popular tankers, it is an easy choice because of the ability to fit an external tank system. Low wing prop tankers are easy to adapt as they have the necessary belly clearance to install external tanks. Payload is pretty limited on any tanker, as water is bulky and (relatively) heavy. The neccesity to install the water drop management systems leads to a preference for these aircraft.
It has to be remebered that the majority of tankers are land based and dropping retardent. This limits the location and positioning of tankers, as they require the facilities to load and mix retardent. Tanker bases are chosen by their effective location to hit a number of hot fire areas, this is one of the major limitations of fixed wing tankers. The 747 tanker would require quite specialised facilities.
The KC-135 is an interesting concept, for the exact reasons noted - they are already tanked. I'm sure there is some bone-yard dog already eyeing them up!
Oh well, only a couple of days to the 4th July, the traditional start of fire season as thousands of celebrating people go out to the woods and light camp-fires and shoot fireworks.
That's if the Forest Service employees haven't set the fires first! :)
big pistons forever
2nd Jul 2003, 04:28
The Americans still do not get it. Aerial forest fire fighting operations work best on small fires. This is because you want to get the fire surrounded and supressed before it gets hot enough to start to burn through the retardent and/or start shooting out sparks and embers. If the fire needs a five mile line it will almost certainly be so hot it will just jump any retardent line. The US needs effective initial attack, not big tankers in IMHO
2nd Jul 2003, 21:19
If the best (most efficient) fight from the air is to get there quickly to get retardant on the fire before it grows will the forest service contract to the Air Force, who will base all the aircraft at Whiteman AFB and fly ready alerts at various locations during the height of fire season? Hot seat alert the rest of the year. Use a mixed fleet of 500 KC-135 and KC-10 fire tankers.
For more precise application use precision guided retardant dropped on laser designated locations or to GPS positions. Imagine a great big water ballon of retardant with a laser seeker or GPS package with winglets or small guidance parachutes.
The U.S. military and contractors could build it for , oh a few billion nonrecurring and a few hundred million each. After all, shat are trees worth?
3rd Jul 2003, 22:46
big pistons forever,
In your "neck of the woods" your logic might apply. The problem with our fires is that they generally spead quite rapiclly due to dry conditions and remote locations. The fires in Arizona are good examples. By the time the crews get on scene, the fire line is measured in miles.
The damn truth is most of the fires in The US are started by idiot human beings. I am glad to see stiff penalties and jail time being levied on those responsible. Starting a fire is tantamount to attempted murder.
big pistons forever
4th Jul 2003, 02:56
Sorry plane truth but every fire starts with a couple of trees. British Columbia has the full range of forest types but we virtually never get big fires because the forest service is extremely proactive. If you have a efficent alerting service and do real initial attack ( i.e. automatically launch at the firat sign of smoke ) you will get the most from your aircraft. I have worked in the US and it is always hours or even days before the aircraft get sent, by then the window where aircraft can really make a difference has closed.
4th Jul 2003, 06:35
big pistons forever,
So, after a point, it's better to fight fire solely by hand?
Damn you. I WAS going to be happy by finally buying myself a new motorcycle. NOW, after seeing that Fire Boss picture, I can't get it out of my mind. Way Cool! Any rich Ppruners out there wanna make this guy really happy on his birthday?
"Aviation, sometimes you are a cruel mistress."
PT (The Banned One)