Incorporating a Direct Attack approach

by  Tony Morris

With 1000 homes destroyed by recent wildfires in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado there is a need to examine Aerial Firefighting strategies. For the past 40 plus years Incident Commanders in charge of fighting wildfires have deployed firefighting aircraft to build lines of long term retardant (LTR). Waiting for the wildfire burn up to the dry chemical line and slow the fire. This is how firefighters “Attempt to slow a fire” along with contain the fire with Bulldozers and Hand Crews.  However, per the USFS, retardant slurry is NOT effective or recommended for directly attacking the flames or the Head of a Wildfire.


With devastating wildfires and Mega Fires threatening more Wildland Urban Interface communities throughout the country there is a strong need to review and update Aerial Firefighting Strategies. One of those updates should be utilizing Direct Attack combined with a fire suppressant Gel from all Aircraft types not just SEATS and Helicopters.  According to numerous firefighting chemical experts the U.S. Forest Service has approved nine separate fire suppressant Gels which are listed on the USFS Qualified Products List or (QPL).  They were all tested for 2 years at a cost of more than $100, 000 each before being approved for use in fighting wildfires.  These Gels have been available for use for decades but underutilized and even ignored.  One major reason is the USFS refuses to approve the Gels for use in fixed wing Large Air Tankers (LATs) or Very Large Air Tankers (VLATs).   The Gels have been used in fixed wing SEAT (Single Engine Air Tankers) aircraft and Helicopters on BLM, BIA and by eight progressive State Forestry Agencies for years, on a large variety of fuel types.

There should be a Universal colorant used in all Gels such as blue fugitive so all who see the drop know if it is Gel or Retardant.  The fugitive dyes quickly disappear after exposure to UV light.  Long Term Retardant is colored Red or Orange using Iron Oxide, Rust or Fugitive Dye.


Next they need to fully embrace the use and seriously integrate the (VLAT’s) into most large Incidents by providing them with an Exclusive Use Contract so they can do so.  VLAT’s such as Tanker 910 and 911 which are converted DC-10’s with a capacity of 11,600 gallons.  With each drop they create a line of Retardant or Gel 50 feet wide and 3,300 Feet long (or 5/8 of a mile long) in one pass. It takes (10) Grumman S2-Ts  and (4) P-3 Orions to build an equivalent line.  In 2006, soon after 10 Tanker Air Carrier, owner-operator of Tanker 910 and 911, were awarded an Exclusive Use Contract by CAL FIRE and used by the USFS. Wildfire Research Network (WRN) a non-profit research foundation based in Los Angeles, inquired why the DC-10s were not used more and permitted to drop Gels using Direct Attack and has not been given very good answers.

The use of long term retardant or better known as Phos-Chek has been used to “build line” to contain fires for decades but it is not done at the Head of the Fires it is dropped at the nearest ridge top and allowed to dry, that’s when it is supposedly most effective.  The use of In-direct Attack is more of a defensive posture designed to again slow a wildfire.  Containment is critical, but by utilizing half your aircraft assets in Direct Attack tactics with the use of Gel is more of an offensive strategy.  The purpose of Direct Attack is to put the fire out or significantly cool and slow the fires advance.  The use of Gels like Thermo-Gel, Aqua Gel-K and FireIce, provides another effective tool for Incident Commanders, Air Bosses and firefighting pilots to attack wildfires.  There is a big misunderstanding about Gels, and that is you can’t “build line” with them.  The truth is you can build and effective line with some of the Gels, but it is done on or just in front of the advancing flames, some gels like FireIce are specifically designed for this purpose in addition to their suppressant qualities . CAL FIRE has used the Direct Attack tactic of a 50 / 50 drop.  The intent is to extinguish the flames and leave enough of a Control Line of Gel on the unburned fuel to inhibit re-ignition.   The SEAT Pilots have been doing this type of drop for many years with much success.  The Canadian Forest Service has actively tested and embraced the use of Gels.  In 2009 in just the British Columbia Province well over 2,000,000 gallons of Gels were dropped from Helicopters.  The Canadian Forest Service has also tested and approved the Martin Mars (VLAT) to drop Gel directly on the homes threaten by the flames at certain altitudes.  The 7,200 gallon capacity Martin Mars has dropped Millions of gallons of Gel on fires with much success.



FireIce, a water enhancing fire suppressant Gel which took its inventor Peter Cordani ten years to develop, was recently used to protect the Jicarilla Apache Nation Indian Reservation at Dulce, and control the Romero wildfire near Corrales New Mexico from becoming larger wildfires.

Elizabeth Dick, Manger of Air Tankers for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, reports that Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATS) dropping FireIce were able to knock down the wildfire in record time using FireIce.

Jay Martinak, former Flight Operations Director for CAL FIRE and a veteran rotary and fixed wing pilot for CAL FIRE , the state of California’s firefighting agency, said he believes “industry will have to look more favorably on Direct Attack which is more hands on. We should not be limited to Indirect Attack with long term retardant. The difficulty is that we are still doing it the way we have for 30 to 40 years with Indirect Attack. Incident Commanders may not be familiar enough to use Direct Attack.”


Using long term retardant has given rise to environmental concerns, as aquatic life can be harmed should fire retardant chemicals be dropped into lakes, streams or rivers during aerial firefighting sorties.  Federal lawsuits filed in 2003 and another in 2008 complained of the toxicity of the Retardant and a massive fish kill in Oregon. Recent aerial firefighting regulations require pilots to drop no closer than 300 feet from riparian locations.  Using the non-toxic fire suppressant Gels would provide an extra margin of safety with regard to potential environmental damage.  Gels degrades with exposure to UV and fall to the ground and then it aids the soil in retaining moisture in the future.

With the seven Large Air Tankers taken off line by the USFS, and the two unfortunate crashes recently, it has severely depleted the Large Tanker fleet.  It’s critical that the VLATs be called into service with an Exclusive Use Contract at least for this year and next to make up for the significant 27,000 gallon payload deficiency these 9 lost aircraft represent.   Some say they are too expensive to operate.  But we ask, what has been the cost of homes burned down, neighborhoods & residents devastated and lives lost because they weren’t used?

We propose that Incident Commanders be allowed to use Large Air Tankers (LATs) or Very Large Air Tankers (VLATs) in both Containment and Direct Attack operations.  The USFS should remove all the restrictions of using the Gels in the larger fixed wing aircraft immediately.  With the increasing costs of fighting Wildland Fires being such a large concern, the average cost of a mixed gallon of Gel is 50% to 65% percent less expensive than a mixed gallon of Retardant!  More than 20 million gallons of Retardant is mixed each year.   From a cost perspective alone the obvious choice for the USFS is to adopt more Direct Attack and use of Gels in all aircraft types.  Pilots also appreciate that most Gels weigh the same as water which is significantly less than slurry.  This makes it safer during take- off and a added benefit is the aircraft burns less fuel as the payload is lighter.

Firefighters both in the air and on the ground need the use of all the tools available to help them save lives and property.





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Strong Need for a Single National Aerial Firefighting Agency

Strong Need for a Single National Aerial Firefighting Agency

            Op-Ed By Mike Padilla               

The devastating fires that raged throughout the United States and particularly in Texas in 2011 have shown that U.S. aerial firefighting fleet is less than adequate to cope with the ever-increasing demands of protecting life and property

The demise of air resources can be attributed directly to the inability of the federal agencies that manage the fleet. They are unable to meet their responsibility of providing adequate numbers of aircraft and crews.

Conair Takes Off by Steve Nelson

Canada’s Conair  fighting Colorado fires in June 2012 – Photo by Steve Nelson

The major underlying reason for this degradation in service is the fragmented approach that the federal wildland firefighting community has had in fielding firefighting aircraft.  Numerous and often duplicative federal, state and local agencies are responsible for these aircraft.  All have differing and sometimes conflicting rules, regulations and standards for the acquisition, contracting, crew qualifications, maintenance and operation of these aircraft.  The resulting confusion of this costly bureaucratic morass is seen not only in skyrocketing budget breaking programs but delays and inadequate responses that cause unnecessary property loss and death.  This was typified in the Los Angeles County Station Fire of 2010 and the Bastrop fire in Texas this last year.

The unnecessary grounding by the Forest Service of the Aero Union P-3s half way through the fire season and the delay of the DC-10 on the Bastrop for supposed “safety” concerns underscores the lack of competency on the part of federal agencies in meeting their responsibly as a supplier of adequate aerial firefighting resources.

The time to centralize and coordinate the nation’s aerial firefighting aircraft has come.  We can no longer tolerate a costly, fragmented, disjointed and unprofessional approach to what is a very complex and highly technical field.  Unifying the national aerial firefighting effort under one agency will:

  • Improve and centralize national coordination of resources between local, state and federal agencies.
  • Reduce costs by reducing duplicity between agencies.
  • Standardize aircrew requirements, training, and carding.
  • Simplify and speedup aircraft contracting.
  • Establish a more coordinated and realistic future aircraft design and delivery requirements.
  • Establish a single national aircraft maintenance and inspection program.
  • Establish a grants and contracting mechanism to standardize and utilize local and state aerial firefighting resources.

It is important that when centralizing the national aerial firefighting fleet that state and local agencies in fire prone areas be allowed to take a greater role in the decision making and particularly in the operations of the national aerial firefighting fleet.  The Station and Bastrop fires are great examples where conflicting strategies and convoluted decision making lead to delays in the appropriate use of aerial assets.    The centralization of the firefighting fleet should not mean a continuation of federal priorities as the driving motivation for the acquisition, management, deployment and operation of these national assets.  State and local wildland firefighting agencies have different constituents who are demanding greater protection from their fire agencies.  Their contract with the federal agencies to provide adequate aerial firefighting aircraft is not being met.   “One size fits all” does not apply here.   By making local and state agencies equal partners in the national decision making process they become shareholders in important and long term decisions.

It’s time to bring a focused approach to the national aerial firefighting program by creating a single agency out of a confusion of many.  We can no longer afford to ignore our national obligation to protect lives and property with an archaic program that shift with the winds of Washington.

As we ground aircraft for supposed “safety” issues and delay responses, we have exceeded the capability of anyone to extinguish these fires except Mother Nature.

About the author:

Mike Padilla was the Chief of Aviation for Cal Fire from 2000 to 2009 and has fought wildland fires on the ground and in the air since 1964.  He is a commercial helicopter and airplane pilot, and holds a helicopter instructors license.  Mr. Padilla as a Cal Fire Air Operations officer and California National Guard pilot pioneered the Military Interagency Helicopter Aerial Firefighting Program and as Chief of Aviation was instrumental in fielding the DC-10 airtanker and modernizing Cal Fire’s current fleet of over 50 helicopters and airplane firefighting fleet.   Download PDF


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Is Washington policy conducive to a stable civil AFF industry?

Fireplanes Editorial – Austin,  Texas  05/30/2012

Does the U.S. have a fire department of sorts?  Not really.  Fire departments kill fires.

The U.S. Forest Service,  has a “fire management” (or mis-management) policy that is letting wildfires get out of control.  Other countries kill fires, while the U.S. manages fires.  But are they managed in time for effective control?   Washington’s priorities are all wrong, from whatever perspective one holds.  We hold our skin in high regard, as well as our homes, pets, crops, timber and livestock too.  And when a fire breaks out, do we call the “fire department”?     Silence . . .  Is the “National Fire Dept.” closed?

“Busy” at least.   Be prepared to wait in line.  With only eleven civilian  large  air tankers, – or  “LATs  in the American inventory,  the ancient P2 Neptune fleet is stretched thin.

When it comes to a national crisis in wildfire containment  we now have almost no one to call as it seems the U.S. Forest Service has arguably caused the demise of at least one viable Aerial Fire Fighting (AFF) company.  Executives at the Forest Service claim safety concerns, but that claim has reportedly been brushed off by airworthiness experts who  examined the company’s former P3 fleet.  “You will not see the P3 Air Tankers in service again in the USA”, according to Tony Morris of the Wildfire Research Network.

Now that all of Aero Union’s  converted P3 air tankers have been grounded and the company is bankrupt,  nobody supports the USAF’s  “MAFFS”  systems as installed on a number of C-130s.  Why?  Aero Union developed and supported the MAFFS system, which drops fire retardants on wild fires.   The technology may be tied up in a lawsuit (which Fireplanes will investigate further).  So is the Air National Guard going to put out fires this year?  They will, until all their MAFFS units are inoperative or a new system is developed,  deployed, supported and maintained.   Meanwhile,  the wind is up and we can all smell the smoke.


Above:   A California Air National Guard C-130 lays – down fire retardant with “MAFFS”.

And what about those Very Large Air Tankers, called; “VLATS” (or, Vee-LATS) in the AFF trade?  Evergreen operates a 747 Air Tanker with amazing capabilities.   “10 Tanker” has the modified DC-10.   According to our sources, Small Business set-asides are hurting Evergreen.   It costs a LOT of money to maintain heavy aircraft, and when the contract disappear,  companies go belly-up.

The AFF industry is a diverse collection of equipment,  systems and chemicals, so there are more acronyms.  Single-Engine-Air-Tankers, or; “SEATS” are in the mix,  along with “Scoopers” which are “amphibians” or “sea planes”, depending on whether they can take off on water and land or not.  We don’t want to fail mentioning helicopters,  new – tech drones, and environmentally friendly foams and gel retardants on which we are preparing reports to be released soon.

Seaplanes in use today include the Martin Mars owned by the Coulson Group in British Columbia.   Wayne Coulson’s Martin Mars services are amazing, but not available just now.   It appears to this writer – the U.S. Forest Service deemed it unimportant to keep the amazing Mars on contract, so the plane is now in Mexico saving lives and property while fires rage out of control in U.S. states.

“Scoopers” include the Canadian Bombardier CL-215 and modern turbine powered,  CL-415 today.  There are some foreign competitors, but not yet certified by Interagency Airtanker Board (IAB) nor the Federal Aviation Administration.  It has been many months since the makers of one of those planes – a jet powered amphibian known as the BE-200 “Altair” from Russia filed for a restricted type certificate same as that granted by the E.U.   And why is anyone dragging their feet while American lives and property are in immediate peril?

Why?   ….  And, will memories of the 2012 NBA playoffs fade past the Baseball World Series with nary a mention of lives lost due to the failures of  bureaucrats and politicians?   Most likely.

Has Congress failed to notice another lost American industry?  Yes.

Can we imagine a better situation?  Yes again.   So here’s what you can do:

Tell them all;


Give the U.S. Forest Service a $5 Billion Aerial Fire Fighting program budget.

Encourage tax – deductible contributions to support regional wildfire mitigation.

U.S. Forest Service:  

Develop and grant long – term contracts to companies like 10 Tanker and Evergreen.

Issue contracts to companies that will operate NEW aircraft to be bought and owned by the Federal Government and operated by contractors under “GOCO” cost-plus terms lasting 5 – 10 years at a minimum.

If possible, BUY – the current MAFFS technology from Aero Union’s owners,  the Bankruptcy court, or perhaps the bank holding it in receivership,  then issue cost-plus contracts on a competitive basis to companies that can maintain and improve on the cantankerous systems.   Acquiring MAFFS will require a timely executive – level decision.

Find innovative ways to support states that will buy new aircraft purpose – built or modified for aerial firefighting on government-owned,  company operated,  or;  “GOCO” contracts.   Example:  There is not one single Air Tractor  – “SEAT” owned and operated by the State of Texas.  The single-engine AT-802 “Air Tractor” is made in Texas, exported around the world to countries that have AFF fleets I think of as, “aerial fire departments”.   This amazing plane is available as a land-based single-engine air tanker or, as a seaplane called the Fire Boss – which can operate as a “scooper” from lakes and relatively shallow streams in remote areas.

Fire Boss

Above:  Fire Boss


Ask for and accept the advice of California, which operates it’s own aerial fire fighting fleet within “CAL FIRE“; which,  on an austere budget can respond to fires reported anywhere in the state within 20 minutes.  CAL FIRE is an amazing example of what IS right in America.   Rapid “Initial Attack” often keeps the fire small enough to defeat.

All wildfire agencies:

In the case of civil air tanker operators,  the contracts must be of sufficient term to attract private capital investment,  with depreciation of equipment realized over a ten – year span.   Cost – plus contracting will ensure continual improvement and professional incentives required to support the men and women on the front lines.

 Mr. President:

“Please make Aerial Fire Fighting capabilities a top priority”!

We are in a wildfire crisis of unprecedented proportions.  Too much is at risk to sit down and do nothing.  In the case of Wildfire Policy,  the status quo may kill you or your neighbor.   This is the time to be proactive.

Randall Stephens –

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Topanga’s 1993 Fire Led To Leasing Two CL-415

Tony Morris,  Topanga, CA  5.15.2012


As a survivor of the Topanga-Malibu wildfire of 1993 which started on Old Topanga Canyon only a mile from our house in the Fernwood neighborhood of Topanga I became interested in firefighting  aircraft, particularly the Canadair CL-415 , by necessity. I wanted to know why Bell 412 helicopters operated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department were not able to stop the wildfire  when it started on Old Topanga Canyon Road.  

Viewing Breaking News on Los Angeles television station Channel 7 I ran outside the house to see a 3,000 foot smoke cloud rising over Old Canyon. I grabbed my video camera and started filming.

We had to evacuate from our house in Fernwood when firefighters from Alturas California , camped out in our neighbor’s driveway during the course of the wildfire, told us they could no longer protect us.

The wildfire killed three individuals and destroyed more than 400 homes, causing $400 million in property damage. Shortly after the fire was extinguished I invited a group of Topangans to meet and share their experiences during the fire. We began discussing the Canadair CL-415 firefighting aircraft. I contacted Bombardier Amphibious Aircraft in Montreal, Quebec, to ask the company to send a representative to Topanga.


CL-415  Credit: Wikipedia Commons

An informational  video on the CL-415 was screened followed by a lively question and answer session. As the only purpose-built water scooping aircraft of its size the CL-415 can scoop 1,620 gallons in 12 seconds.  My Topanga neighbors wanted to know everything about the aircraft.

A Topanga citizen’s group was organized to further research the CL-415. We learned that the aircraft’s productivity rate, number of gallons scooped per hour, made it an ideal firefighting  aircraft for extinguishing wildfires by Initial Attack, within minutes of a wildfire’s start.   Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman ‘s reaction to the Topanga-Malibu wildfire was swift and decisive. Chief Freeman said that he never again would allow such a wildfire to threaten the citizens of Los Angeles County.

Chief Freeman met with the management of the Service Aerien Gouvernmental de Quebec,  the Aerial Firefighting Service of Quebec Province, to explore a leasing agreement for two CL-415s from September 1st to December 31st  during the height of the so called “wildfire season” in Los Angeles County.

Quebec 1 and Quebec 2, the designation given to the two Quebec CL-415s, have been coming to Van Nuys Airport since 1994. Recently a five year extension to the lease agreement between Quebec and Los Angeles County was signed.

TWO  CL-415s

In 1996 I was invited to appear before a committee of the California Legislature in Sacramento which was taking testimony on the CL-415.  A bill had been introduced in the Legislature proposing the purchase of two CL-415s.  I remember appearing before committee Chair Debra Bowen, now California Secretary of State. My testimony essentially offered specific reasons why the CL-415 was an effective firefighting aircraft designed to fight wildfires and knock them down before they could burn out of control.

Also testifying before the committee was a representative of the California Department of Forestry (CDF—now CAL FIRE)) who said there were not enough water sources in California to operate the CL-415.  To the right of the CDF representative was a large National Geographic map of California. The Pacific Ocean was clearly a part of the map.  The CL-415 is designed to scoop out of the ocean and can do so if wave heights are less than six feet.


In 2001 I wrote an Op Ed piece for the Los Angleles TIMES calling for a lease-purchase of two CL-415s for Los Angeles County.  Rather than spend an average of $2.4 million to lease Quebec and Quebec 2 from the Service Aerien Gouvernmental de Quebec every wildfire season, would it not be more productive to enter into a lease-purchase agreement.  Los Angeles County had no plans to operate fixed-wing firefighting aircraft.


Italy’s  CIVIL PROTECTION  owns  nineteen (19)  CL-415s based at Rome’s Ciampino Airport.  France’s  SECURITE  CIVILE  owns and operates  twelve (12) CL-415s based at  Marignane near Marseille.  There are no permanently deployed CL-415s in this country.

 As a scooping aircraft the CL-415 can scoop from fresh water sources and the ocean. In Los Angeles County there are fourteen (14) water sources and the Pacific Ocean.

The helicopter fleet of LACoFD Air Operations, three Sikorsky S-70A Firehawks and six  Bell 412 helicopters works well with Quebec 1 and Quebec 2. During wildfire emergencies the aircraft can be seen flying over Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu on their way to scoop water from the Pacific ocean.


With the State of California experiencing a $16 billion deficit there are no funds to purchase two CL-415s for deployment in Southern California. 

A possible way to acquire and operate two additional CL-415s would be a Public Private Partnership. The capital for the purchase of two CL-415s would be provided by a 501 ( c) (3) non-profit Foundation. A number of Southern California corporations and high-net worth individuals would contribute to the creation of a non-profit Foundation.  Los Angeles County is currently the only county which leases two CL-415s

Southern California county Fire Agencies in need of  Intial Attack  CL-415 s could organize  a Consortium to share the cost of operating two CL-415s for the same period as Quebec 1 and Quebec 2.  Interested counties would include:

San Diego,  Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange,  Ventura, Kern and Santa Barbara.


U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management should consider the use of CL-415s as a valuable and effective component of contract firefighting aircraft . The most effective Aerial Firefighting fleet should include Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATS),  Large Air Tankers (LATs) now reduced to the smallest number in decades,  and Very Large Air Tankers (VLATs) Tanker 910 and Tanker 911 based at Southern California Logistics Airport,  Victorville,  CA.     See the CL-415 on Youtube


Editor’s note:  Tony Morris  co-founded Wildfire Research Network, and is greatly appreciated by Fireplanes.    POB 170189  Austin TX  78717       Fireplanes On YouTube    Fireplanes on Facebook
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FirePlanes has a mission, seeks sponsors.

Dear potential sponsor,
“Fireplanes” is dedicated to informing the public and decision makers – appointed or elected, about wildfire prevention,  mitigation,  and the tools needed to fight a growing public menace,  “to save lives and property”.
 New technologies and aircraft are available,  and there are better ways to fund fire agencies at every level.
 Wildfire Researcher and well known writer, Tony Morris has just come on board. 

Writer, Tony Morris,  Wildfire Research Network,  Aerial Fire Fighting,  Grumman Albatros

Tony Morris in Italy, with Grumman Albatros
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We plan to hire investigative writers, upgrade this domain’s offerings,  providing targeted social networking and keyword ad campaigns to direct traffic in order to to Fireplanes to accomplish our mission.
 A 12-month banner ad on Fireplanes with top-level sponsor page banner and website link is currently available for only $1200.00 per year.
(Empire Package, 12 month full page advertorials are available for leading manufacturers, as per our Media Kit, and offer combined elements with your content, with geo-targeted keyword campaigns that guarantee millions of impressions and thousands of page-views.  Our  “Empire” campaigns are closely coordinated with your marketing team).
Banner ads run chronologically for 12 months.   Your banner rotates to the top of the sponsor page; and,
Sponsor Page banner subscribers will also get one textual ad  like the following….
Singular text ads like the above line,  currently cost only $250.00 each, and will remain with the article permanently.  We will never link to “x rated” content.     Contact us to inquire for current specials or a media kit.
Publishers:  Let me tell you about our “links with rewards”.   Our parent company,  AD&M’s  adbirds also has an affiliate program for publishers and a marketing incentives program that will provides award and prize values scaled to grow with the company.   Contact us to set up your affiliate account with click – through and visual campaign coupons.
“Thank you for your support”!
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BE-200 USFS Testing Update

“Last week, the U.S. Forest Service, International Emergency Services, Inc., of Santa Maria CA,  and the Beriev Aircraft Company  (which has been building amphibious aircraft for 95 years) teamed up to test the new,  jet powered, fire fighting BE 200 – a 3000 gallon Large Air Tanker at the factory in Taganrog, Russia.  Beriev covered actual costs for conducting the long-planned tests.  Russian Federation, BE-200, Large Air Tanker,  IAB, USFS, Beriev, Scooper

For a period of 10 intensive work days, a dedicated, integrated  U.S. and Russian technical team  tested the multi-purpose BE 200  with U.S. instrumentation and equipment against a standardized criteria designed to ensure effective aerial fire suppression.

Phase 1 of the special program was a historic first, and indicates both the opportunity to introduce a specially designed, new fire fighting aircraft as well as the U.S. Forest Service’s desire to modernize it’s air tanker fleet with flight – proven technology.

First-Phase test criteria required putting the 90,000 pound airplane on special ramps for static flow tests and three days of flight testing to include demonstrations of the very effective Russian fire fighting “salvo” tactic onto an instrumented grid with 100 data points.

The 30 – day Phase II test program is scheduled for late this summer and will include the use of the U.S. Forest Service standard retardant flown over and then dropped on about 3,000 data collection points.

Preliminary Phase 1 test results indicate that the BE 200 passed the Interagency Airtanker Board (IAB) criteria for scoopers, heavily used in Europe and Canada, which are likely to see more service in fighting US fires.  Scoopers can load up with lake, river or ocean  water in 15-20 seconds by skimming over the water at about 120-130  MPH to collect it with special inlets on the hull,  then dropping it in direct attacks on  the fire.

Studies indicate that more than 80% of US wildfires are within 10 minutes of a suitable water source .

Large Air Tankers , loaded at specially equipped airports,  drop long lasting retardant used to control, slow and suppress wild fires while ground crews do the close fighting.

The BE200 is being tested for both missions”.  – David Baskett, IES.


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USFS Evaluating Beriev Be-200 Air Tanker in Russia

Friday, April 20, 2012    Taganrog, Russia       Author: Randall Stephens

At the expense of Russia’s Beriev ASTC *, the Interagency Airtanker Board (IAB) is in Taganrog, Russia to evaluate tests of the Beriev, Be-200 amphibious aerial firefighting jet.   From IES CEO, David Baskett today:

The Sea of Azov has thawed, the sun is out and the USFS test preparation work is being done outdoors in good weather with the BE 200 jacked up and on special ramps for the static tests.  Beriev was very well prepared for the arrival of the Phase 1  test team. The team  contains two very professional USFS engineers  who have been involved in testing most of the US Air tankers ranging from the S-2s to the 747 and C 130s plus the Martin Mars.

The test aircraft RF 21512 has been wired and probed and testing should start Monday.  For 3 days we have been reviewing technical documentation with various Beriev department heads to include:

Maintenance, Avionics, Flight test, Fire Fighting systems, Structural testing  ( to include a review of the continuing cycle testing now up more than 13,000 cycles for many items), Design, Engineering, Certification.   

The aircraft manuals continue to add polish and fully conform to JAR (Europe) Part 25 which closely conforms with the FAA (FAR) Part 25“.

*ASTC = Aeronautical Scientific Technical Complex, – a Russian State Enterprise.beriev be-200, air tanker,  water bomber,  jet amphibian, scooper, altair

“Results of the Phase 1 testing will be evaluated May 1st”, according to Adrian Butash, adviser to International Emergency Services, of Santa Maria, CA.  which has plans to import and operate the Be-200 against wildfires in the USA.

The U.S. Forest Service has had a hard time in recent years, with funding and a dwindling supply of aerial firefighting aircraft to support it’s mission.  We can credit current USFS leadership which is now searching far and wide for modern aircraft to help save American lives and property.  If the FAA grants a restricted type certificate and IAB approves the already proven Be-200, the jet powered amphibian could enter the U.S. fleet.

See videos of the Beriev Be-200.                      beriev be-200, air tanker, amphibian, jet, water bomber

Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements and Aerial Firefighting

Given that the United States of America is inhabited by around 300 Million people now marginally protected by only 11 aging and nearly-decrepit Large Air Tankers (LATs) we might want to consider importing foreign, purpose built aircraft to get the aerial firefighting job done.  One should understand from where your next plane can, or is allowed to be imported and how-to’s since Boeing isn’t interested in building a new “Fireplane”.

Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements 

Sometimes a bilateral agreement between States is a Treaty.  Between Texas and Oklahoma, a bilateral agreement is said to have settled the Red River Bridge War.  One Governor supposedly threw a hand grenade while the other side pulled the pin and threw it back.  Rather embarrassing to say the least, albeit not at all true.  Some say the Texas – Oklahoma football game is an annual remembrance and under bilateral agreement, held on neutral territory.

In aviation, a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement* (“BASA”) outlines the criteria for import of aviation products to the USA.  A “BASA” begins with a diplomatic letter from the country of origin, and upon satisfaction of the FAA, approved at the executive level.   Once the BASA is established, it outlines a protocol for approvals and import of foreign civil aviation products.   Approval processes are detailed in an Implementation Agreement.
The BASA is a mere paragraph or more, listing the extent of the agreement for any specific country of origin.  This short statement can and sometimes is amended as developments occur.

To see: Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements per, Search:  AC21-23B.

Politics has played a role in the past.   In the 1970s,  Poland,  Czechoslovakia, and Romania established bilateral aviation safety agreements with the United States of America.  One might like to research the players and motivations involved.  This gave high level diplomats and operatives reasons to meet during those Cold War years, although not much was imported to the USA as a result of the Agreements until the 1990s.

Great Britain,  Brazil,  Germany,  Italy, France and many other nations have rather lengthy descriptions of approved products in their Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements.  The Russian Federation established their agreement with the USA in 1998 when foreign minister Yevgeni Primakov signed along with Madeleine Albright.  At the time it was published as Advisory Circular (AC) 21-23a.

Of late, numerous American companies and several agencies have used Russian aircraft in operations for training in the USA, and field work in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  The USA is currently one of the largest user – operators of Russian aircraft, most common among them being helicopters Mil Mi-8 MTV-1, also known as the Mi-17, as well as Mi-24 and the Ukranian AN-32 multipurpose cargo / passenger aircraft.  The Russia – USA bilateral agreement does not recognize any of these aircraft since the An-32 is from Ukraine which has no bilateral agreement; and, Russian helicopters, engines and avionics are not currently included in AC21-23B.  This could be changed, once Russia’s authorities make application and complete the required verification processes.
Under AC21-23B, the following paragraph explains limitations:
• Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement—Executive Agreement
• Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness
“All metal airplanes up to 9 passengers with a maximum certified take off weight of 12,500 lbs with FAA-certified engines, propellers, and avionics; cargo transport category airplanes with FAA certified engines, propellers, and avionics; and approved metallic materials.”

To date the following aircraft have received FAA Certifications;  IL-96T (Heavy Cargo, 4 x PW2037 engines, Collins Avionics).   IL-103 (Light single engine trainer with IO-360 engine), and Beriev Be-103 (6 place twin engine amphibian with IO-360 engines / MTU propellers).

By contrast,  Brazil’s bilateral agreement is far more developed:
• BAA (replaced)
• Brazil Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement – Executive Agreement
• Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness
“All aeronautical products and certain components. Also recognizes Supplemental Type Certificate and maintenance.”

For a country like China or Russia to sell helicopters, large passenger aircraft, helicopters, engines, avionics, and maintenance services to U.S. companies,  they as exporting nations must have a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement resembling that of Brazil or the United Kingdom.  This can be achieved when the exporting nation demonstrates the political will to support their aviation industry to the extent necessary.

In the case of Aerial Firefighting, there are two types of operators; Government and Civil Airline.  The government agencies such as CalFire or similar public agencies can import and operate virtually any aircraft they wish, within reason.
For a private company to import and operate a Russian helicopter such as the Kamov KA-32A11BC adapted for aerial firefighting, or the Beriev Be-200, a Russian purpose-built jet amphibian designed to fight fires based on modern technologies, there will have to be certifications made, and in some cases exceptions.  For instance, AC-21-23B will have to be amended to include Russian helicopters, engines; and,  Ukrainian “Progress” D-436TP engines powering the Be-200 would have to have a “shadow” certification by FAA.

It should be noted that the Ka-32A11BC helicopter has been certified in Canada, hence “BC” stands for British Columbia.  This amazing helicopter has also been certified in the E.U. and Brazil.

The U.S. wildfire danger claims lives and property annually, and the need for new policy and equipment is urgent.

Russia’s Beriev, Be-200 has been saving lives and property around the globe.  We need new planes in the USA, and one U.S. company – “International Emergency Services” of Santa Maria, CA is working hard to import the Be-200 once IAB certification testing has been completed and the FAA issues a restricted type certificate as did Europe’s E.A.S.A.

Author’s Note:  I have personally inspected the Be-200 at Russia’s Beriev test base in Gelendzhik during “Gidroaviasalon”, and the Moscow Air & Space Show (MAKS).
The Be-200 stands ready to save American lives and property as the most efficient and capable modern aerial firefighting plane in existence.   It was designed to FAR-25 standards, is very impressive and flies like it was designed – as a fighter bomber in the war against wildfire.  As a scooper, the Be-200 can meet current USFS “LAT” requirements and picks up 12,000 pounds of water in 18 seconds.  With jet – power,  Be-200’s dash speed to the fire is unmatched by any other amphibian.

On Policy:   I would like to urge the U.S. Congress to act quickly to support FAA in amending the Russian – American Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (AC211-23B) by adding the following sentence; “All aircraft as equipped, for aerial firefighting as certified by Russia’s aviation authorities and the Interstate Aviation Committee for the purpose of aerial firefighting”.  And repeat the same for Japan’s bilateral agreement if necessary to allow the US-2 “Shinmaywa” a faster approval as well.

– Randall F. Stephens,  A/P

Sukhoi Superjet 100 awarded EASA certificate

In a major milestone, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft’s Superjet 100 has become the first Russian passenger aircraft to be approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The SSJ100 (RRJ-95B) has been awarded the EASA Type Certificate A-176, which recognizes that the aircraft complies with EASA’s airworthiness and environmental requirements. The A-176 certification allows European airlines and carriers operating in countries that abide by EASA regulations may now operate the aircraft in their fleets.sukhoi superjet 100,  SSJ,  EASA certified

Now that Sukhoi’s Superjet 100 has been awarded an EASA certificate, what does this event bode for eventual FAA certification?  The answer will be determined by whether or not Russian authorities decide to expand their bilateral agreement with the USA, to include passenger aircraft.  Currently, work on Russia’s aviation program stopped at cargo aircraft during the late 1990’s.

More recently, the Beriev 200 received a restricted type certificate for it’s designed role as an amphibious aerial firefighter.  Now we see a passenger airliner emerging from the Russian Federation after 20 “lost” years. 

How is a civil certification for a passenger aircraft relevant to Fireplanes and the Aerial Firefighting Industry?

EASA certification of any Russian heavy jet is monumental in terms of breaking paradigm, and setting new expectations.  This is a very important event for Russia.  And for highly competitive airlines, certification of the “Superjet” changes the economics of budget airline operations in the medium haul market.  Who wants to be last to move when a game – changer emerges?   In the USA, where airlines are taking managed bankruptcies on the backs of their employees, one can look at American Airlines as an example of failed management when it comes to strategic planning.    Southwest Airlines is a beehive of activity wherever AA is waning or abandoning markets such as in Austin, Texas.

In Europe, Ryanair has openly considered the Su-100 for it’s budget fare fleet.  Who will be the first to get an edge with less costly aircraft?  And what do these planes cost?  Reportedly the 85-seat SSJ costs $32 Million (USD).   How does the SSJ compare to Western alternatives?  In price, fairly close to the Embraer E170 and E190, albeit less plane and more passenger comfort for the money.   However, one can’t go by third party numbers and web speculations.   The real numbers are known only to the customer,  aircraft builder, and financiers such as Russia’s VneshEconomBank, which finances Russia’s industrial exports.

In short, airline forecasters betting on European airlines can now include efficient competitive alternatives from Russia in their analysis.

In aerial firefighting, will the Beriev Be-200 become a player in American aviation?   The Shinmaywa US2 might, …but might not, – if faced with a superior plane at half the cost.

USFS Seeks Next Generation Air Tankers


Fireplanes is following the U.S. Large Air Tanker crisis and evolving developments.  

The U.S. Forest Service requires turbine powered airtanker services for aerial delivery of retardant in support of fire suppression nationwide. Aircraft must have a minimum acceptable payload of 2400 gallons (target of 3000-5000 gallons) and shall be capable of of a cruise speed of 300 knots (KTAS) with maximum payload.

The intent of the solicitation is to secure a Firm Fixed Price Multi-Year contract(s) not to exceed 10-years (5 year base with 5 one year options) for the daily availability rate. The U.S. Forest Service intends to award seven (7) line items for next generation turbine powered airtankers. Line items 1-3 will begin service in calendar year 2012 and will have a base period of five (5) years with five (5) one year options. Line items 4-7 will begin service in calendar year 2013 and will have a base period of five (5) years with four (4) one year options. The flight rate will be an unknown quantity with no guarantee of flight hours given by the Government.

Details on

Download Solicitation .pdf

Contracting Office Address:
U.S. Forest Service, Contracting
Owyhee Building – MS 1100
3833 S. Development Avenue
Boise, Idaho 83705-5354
United States
Place of Performance:
Nationwide (To Be Determined)
Boise, Idaho 83705
United States
Primary Point of Contact.:
Matthew D. Olson,
Contracting Officer
Phone: 208-387-5835
Fax: 208-387-5384
Secondary Point of Contact:
Elna E. Black,
Procurement Technician
Phone: 208-387-5632
Fax: 208-387-5384