Skip to comments.U.S. Won't Use Air Tankers for Wildfires
Posted on 05/10/2004 11:14:43 PM PDT by Stoat
click here to read article
It's not the residents who provide them an ideology, organize them, pay their lawyers, advertise, or fill the hours of Animal Planet, it's powerful NGOs that are fed big bucks from tax-exempt "charitable" foundations, the owners of which often have a profit interest in competing investments, either substitute goods or sources abroad.
Whatever you may think you know about the political forces at work in the USFS beauracracy, don't blame the people who are sent to stop "the beast" when it ignites!
Inasmuch as I have met more than one crew who worked hard and took appropriate risks, all I can say is, read the account of the Winter Fire. The USFS fire crews and contractors are not what they once were. Too many are bureaucratic, unionized, and looking for overtime.
BTW, the C-130A they mentioned lost its wings in straight and level flight.
Other areas of the west are in far worse shape...
Utah, Northern Arizona, Southern Colorado, and New Mexico are all in drought stressed condition, never mind the overstocking. Yep, it sucks all righty. The Forest Service doesn't seem to care either.
Thanks for fixing the link guys. I find this whole situation deplorable. The USFS bureacrats have grounded the main tool that is used for fighting the large fires....what will it take to get congressional review of this agency? Another 1910 inferno where 3 million acres goes up in two days?
As a former USFS firefighter, I know what kind of people currently run this outfit. For them to take this action without a backup plan is incompetant at the least, and potentially criminal in the end.
Be sure to contact your friends in the DenverChannel7
broadcast area alerting them to tonight's IL-76 waterbomber
television premiere from 17-time Emmy Award winner
and investigative reporter, Tony Kovaleski.
From DenverChannel website:
Friday at 10:15 p.m.: For years, the Forest Service
has ignored a new, possibly far more effective method
in fighting wildfires. Why are the more powerful air tankers
not being used?
Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Essentially all the piñons in Northern New Mexico are now dead standing firewood. I'm not sure the dead trees are a greater hazard than the living in that they contain less oil. The dreaded Bark Beetle wiped out hundreds of square miles of trees this last two years.
I had to remove 13 from around the house. The County and FEMA suggested that I do so (but they paid for the removal.)
Without tankers we could lose whole towns, as you know well.
5. Willful endangerment of life of humans for any and all members of ANY enviro group, targeting the leaders first, and working your way down.
Thanks very much for your great posts, and even more so for the great work that you and your company do. I wish that the USFS would develop an interest in achieving even a passing glance in the direction of sanity and coherence in terms of their wildfire fighting approach, but that appears to be far too much to ask. I suspect it will take another bad fire season with thousands of homes lost and hundreds dead before the public will really put some serious pressure on the USFS for real change.
I'm glad to hear that Rep. Rohrahacher and Rep. Weldon are still fighting the good fight. My apologies if I spoke presumptuously....it was a reflection of my overall disheartened attitude over this whole situation and of the sense of foreboding I feel regarding the upcoming fire season this year. I hope that they will be able to help set things right.
Re the TV broadcast, I'm wondering if there's any way that you can host a video clip of that TV event at your site, perhaps as an MPEG or AVI file that people can download? I don't live anywhere near Colorado and it looks like the only option that the TV station provides is for people to purchase a thirty dollar videotape from them.
I'm sure that you would have many people eager to see that footage all over the world, especially in light of the recent retirement of the bulk of the USFS firefighting fleet.
Thanks again for contributing your posts and I hope that you will continue to keep us updated :-)
Believe me, if we had this clip, we would post it
to the website. We don't expect to have it (format
unknown) until Monday. I expect we will be seeing
more from ABC on this matter. ABC left no trace of
the story behind at DenverChannel; not even a writeup.
Bear in mind that the Russians were in Colorado recently
on one of 100 NATO-Russia exercises scheduled for
this year, 20 of these exercises in Russia alone, and
that this coming week, US military forces will be
training with the Russians in Moscow.
Note from our rebuttal that we recommend hosting
the waterbomber at a US military base for a variety
of reasons, not the least of which is that it is
a good fit with MAFFS.
You don't have to imagine a MAFFS/C-130 fit with
EMERCOM/Ilyushin. I have a picture of what that
may look like right here: http://www.desastres.org/ger/global/photomedia/17.jpg
Perhaps somebody with computer skills can post this
as a picture here and not as a URL.
I hope that readers might consider alerting any of their friends who are involved with or even merely interested in any aspect of wildland firefighting to drop by this thread, as we have a truly unique opportunity here. JohnA is a Partner with Global Emergency Response, which is also contractually linked with Air Routing International, now a partnership out of Houston, and Total Corporate Aviation Services Ltd, a private federal corporation, of
Canada, HQ in Calgary.
JohnA is in a position to provide a definitive answer for you on probably any question pertaining to wildland firefighting, air tankers and waterbombers, and relevant Forest Service and Government policy. It's not often that a person in JohnA's position is available in a public forum such as this, and I hope that readers will take full advantage of his expertise to help you in understanding what's going on with wildland firefighting and what you as an interested citizen might do to help improve things.
Thanks for that warm intro.
My request to the group assembled is first
to take a moment and ask DenverChannel whether
it is ABC's intention to bring this urgent matter
to the attention of a national audience. For me/us
to do so is too presumptuous by half. We have
a financial interest. Clearly, it is a public
Here's the interactive for DenverChannel:
Tony Kovaleski is the 17-time Emmy Award
winner who first took the IL-76 to American TV
He did so last night on the 10:15 PM. This is,
or should be, a national issue; not just a Colorado
Il-76s are presently working in the Urals as there
is a killer wildfire emergency there which has already
taken 6 lives and burned out hundreds of homes.
First appearance of the IL-76 waterbomber
and the 747 supertanker in the same article...
No representative of Global Emergency Response
was sought out for comment.
The Il-76 is proven while the 747 remains to be
I just phoned The Denver Channel re their broadcast on the Ilyushin IL-76 on May 14, and apparently the only way that footage is available is if a person were to buy the tape of the entire newscast, which costs US$57.00
Readers interested in ordering the tape need to specify the date and time of the broadcast and send their payment to
1 Broadway Plaza
Building A, Suite 210
When I asked the switchboard operator if there were any plans to rebroadcast the program she said "probably not, because it was last week".
When I asked her about obtaining copyright permissions to rebroadcast the program or segments thereof on another medium or hosting it for internet download, she offered to transfer me to Mr. Kovaleski himself, who apparently is in a position to negotiate such matters.
I didn't take her up on speaking with Mr. Kovaleski because I'm not a principal in this matter and am not in a position to cut a deal, but I got the impression that he was indeed accessible for communication directly through the main switchboard of The Denver Channel at
Sorry that I haven't been more help, but perhaps considering that the footage is not likely to be rebroadcast, Mr. Kovaleski might be willing to authorize it's use elsewhere? Given my position as merely an enthusiastic supporter of the IL-76 for use in wildland firefighting, I don't think that I can go much further with this but perhaps you can.
Re your link to the Firehouse Magazine article, the link you posted points to a Members area, and person can't go further without subscribing.
I found what appears to be the same article posted in their free area, and the URL is:
It's titled "747s May Be Next Wildland Firefighting Tools" and here is the complete text of the article:
As the nation's aging and outdated fleet of air tankers faces retirement, a private company is ready to offer a new breed of air tanker technology for wildland firefighting in the U.S. - the Supertanker.
Evergreen International Aviation has built a revolutionary new air tanker from a Boeing 747, creating an aircraft with seven times the drop capability of todays largest U.S. air tanker and the ability to loiter, or orbit around a fire, for up to six hours, compared to one hour for a traditional air tanker.
"With guidance from appropriate agencies," the company claims, "Evergreen will assist state, federal and worldwide experts redefine how fires are fought and emergency management missions are performed."
Similar technology has been used for wildfire fighting around the world since 1994. Russian "Waterbombers" capable of releasing more than 10,000 gallons in a single drop are available for contract through Global Emergency Response, a government and industry consortium of U.S., Canadian and Russian agencies. The Forest Service's decision not to utilize the Ilyushin-76 despite success in other countries has drawn some controversy.
Forest Service officials could not immediately be reached for comment on whether they will consider the giant U.S. or Russian air tankers in light of devastating recent wildfire seasons and the grounding of the old air tanker fleet. Forest Service and Department of Interior officials have publicly stated that they are trying to develop a strategy to purchase newer aircraft.
"Clearly the days of operating older aircraft of unknown airworthiness for firefighting operations are over," Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said in a press statement.
Evergreen spokesman Justin Marchand said his company's first Supertanker was flight tested April 24 and they expect it to receive Federal Aviation Administration certification around July 4. Their goal is to have the aircraft fighting wildfire this season and to eventually build a small fleet.
The Evergreen Supertanker can carry up to 24,000 gallons in one load and has the capability of performing segmented drops. It has a fill time of 26 to 30 minutes, compared to up to 25 minutes for a traditional air tanker.
Marchand said Evergreen has been discussing the technology with fire officials but said it is too early to speculate on future contracts or the cost of contracting the aircraft. He made it clear that the program is private and self-funded, not a government project.
They began designing the Supertanker in 2002 after a conversation between Evergreen chairman Del Smith and pilot Cliff Hale, who fought the fires at Los Alamos in 2002. "They discussed the fact that the fire service needs something above and beyond what's out there today to combat these megafires," Marchand said. "Their goal was to give firefighters a better tool."
Marchand said no one else in the industry has created a supertanker from a 747, but he has heard of other U.S. ventures looking at large airframes. According to Evergreen's web site, Boeing has worked with Evergreen to support the engineering studies and certification process.
Marchand said the Supertanker also has many additional benefits, besides its load capacity. Instead of just using gravity to drop liquid, it uses a pressurized system, which allows the aircraft to fight fire from an altitude of 400 to 800 feet, rather than the more dangerous 200 feet for a regular tanker.
According to the company's web site, an aircraft this size will also provide a suitable platform for advanced GPS navigation and forward looking infrared capabilities, which could enhance navigation and possibly lead to night operations.
And even with 24,000 gallons of retardant, the aircraft is still 150,000 pounds below its maximum takeoff weight capacity, the company says, providing an enhanced safety margin. They say current air tankers take off at maximum certified take off weight, leaving no margin for error.
"We just think it has great potential," Marchand said
We were up in eastern BC last year and were literally shocked to see miles after miles of dead fir and pine. All dead from beatles and drought. That's going to be one hugh fire.
Thanks so much for ferreting out DenverChannel's
commercial data. We'll get a tape in consideration
for our efforts making our data available together
with our spokesperson and a US expert in Russian
I would not jump to conclusions about further use
of the material by ABC - or not. An issue
like wildfire suppression does not simply go away,
especially considering that despite the comforting
words of the US Forest Service surrounding the
standing down of 33 air tankers, predictions are
for a worse than normal fire season in many areas.
What they have remaining is half a loaf.
We are generally pleased that Firehouse.com wrote
as they did. We know the true comparison between
these big aircraft in a firefighting role and remain
supremely confident of our competitive position,
especially as regards economy of operation but also
as to handling capabilites, versatility, and overall effectiveness.
The true economics of aerial firefighting is tied up
in a computation of $/pound liquids delivered to a fire.
Cheers, Stoat, and thanks again!
It would appear, however, that the decision for
the IL-76 this year, at least, is final:
In keeping with the need to ensure airworthiness of
aircraft, the federal agencies will not be considering
aircraft such as the BE-200, the IL-76 or the A-10 since
they dont hold current U.S. airworthiness certificates,
- NIFC http://www.nifc.gov/
To which DenverChannel responds:
I thought that the Denver Channel link that you posted was very important and newsworthy, and so I started a thread with it here: