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MRYapproach
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Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:20 am

Hello all,

As you might be able to tell from my handle, I was evacuated last week due to the River and Carmel wildfires. The first day we had the usual California wildfire tankers in the air above, and late in the day the incredible 747 ex-Evergreen SuperTanker came on scene for a couple of passes. That was amazing!

That night, plenty of "fireworks" as we watched the fire and the plume. Next morning, not so fun. A few passes of Grumman S-2 tankers, a BAe 146 4-holer in the afternoon. After that, days and days of near-zero visibility meant no more air tankers.

Fortunately for us, after evacuating to a local motel for a couple of nights, we were allowed to return home. The River and Carmel fires destroyed about 50 homes, far fewer than the 500+ homes destroyed in the Santa Cruz fires.

At this time, it looks like the fires in our area are under control.

...so this has me thinking. What is the ideal jet aircraft for fire fighting?

As much as we all love the 747, it's limited usage (1-3x per day) in the recent fires from its base in San Bernadino indicates it's...just OK for fire fighting.

The BAe 146 is certainly fun to see overhead after being retired from commuter air use. Similarly, the DC-10 and MD-80 look awesome making runs over the ridges and dropping retardant. Before the smoke set in, I saw a Coulson 737 come by. But are they the best solution for the job?

Seems to me, the optimal frame has a balance of:

- short runway operations, so as not to have to run to Sacramento or San Berandino between fill-ups
- maneuverability at low speeds for accurate drops
- cockpit visibility below the aircraft (to place the payload)?
- the bigger the payload the better (cuz we love the 747, also I assume firefighters just love a big payload)
- availability of cheap airframes for easy conversion

I am hoping to see a debate between 747 / 737 / DC10 / MD80 / BAe146 / Electra / DC3 / Flying Boats / Antonov / C130 / etc

Heck why not an A380? Plenty of those sitting in the desert with nothing to do...
 
B777LRF
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:36 am

The ideal water bomber don't need a runway at all; transit, landing, stopping, taxing, filling, taxing, take off, transit all consumes a lot of time. What you want is an aircraft which can operate from an open body of water, scooping up the wet stuff. Even a medium helicopter can be more effective than a land based aircraft, if there's a body of water relatively close to the fire. Helicopters can even suck water off a swimming pool if needed.

CL-415 and Be-200 are the premier fixed wing fire fighters; Erickson Skycrane the premier helicopter.
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2175301
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:55 am

Perhaps the new AN-178

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1451189
 
dcs921
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 6:10 am

No single aircraft type makes the best fire fighting tanker. Each one has it's advantages and disadvantages. Helicopters and smaller aircraft are cheaper to acquire thus they can be spread over large area. The smaller aircraft and helicopters can operate from numerous bases. Having multiple aircraft spread over a larger area allows them to quickly respond to fires when they first start. They are able to get water or retardant on fires before they grow and spread (hopefully). As B777LRF mentions helicopters can use water sources that near the fire to cut down on flying between the fire and reloading.

B777LRF covers a lot of the benefits of aircraft that can reload from bodies of water. Unfortunately not all fires occur near bodies of water that are suitable for those aircraft to use.

Larger aircraft like the DC-10 and 747 can put a lot of retardant down on large fires but only a few bases have the equipment to handle and reload them. If the fire is located a long distance from their base then a lot of time is wasted flying between the base and the fire.

Juan Brown (blancolirio) has a great YouTube channel that explains a lot about the different kinds of aircraft that are in use and their roles.

https://www.youtube.com/user/blancolirio
 
Noshow
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 9:30 am

The best specialized type to me seems to be the "Canadair" CL-415. At least if there is water around to land on. You can see it working well in Europe. However it's expensive to keep the whole year for just the fire season.
Otherwise military transport with some conversion set look best to me. Available anytime and "paid for" by somebody else.
Helicopters with "bambi buckets" or however you want to call them although smaller in capacity seem to make a lot of sense as they can really hit fires without big losses.
 
MIflyer12
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:48 am

Noshow wrote:
The best specialized type to me seems to be the "Canadair" CL-415. At least if there is water around to land on. You can see it working well in Europe. However it's expensive to keep the whole year for just the fire season.


The U.S. Forest Service spent about $3 Billion on fire suppression for 2018. Then there are costs at the state level. California alone spent more than 1/2 a $ Billion. None of that includes property losses - it's all fire-fighting. Somebody's going to need to have a fleet of aircraft.
 
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Spacepope
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 1:15 pm

B777LRF wrote:
The ideal water bomber don't need a runway at all; transit, landing, stopping, taxing, filling, taxing, take off, transit all consumes a lot of time. What you want is an aircraft which can operate from an open body of water, scooping up the wet stuff. Even a medium helicopter can be more effective than a land based aircraft, if there's a body of water relatively close to the fire. Helicopters can even suck water off a swimming pool if needed.

CL-415 and Be-200 are the premier fixed wing fire fighters; Erickson Skycrane the premier helicopter.


CL-415 and especially the barely-used BE-200 are crap tankers around these parts. In the mountains of Colorado (where we've lost about 200,000 acres int he past month to fires) there is absolutely no place to scoop from. So they have to come back to an airport and get reloaded there like every other tanker. At least they'd get retardent then though. A scooper with just pond water out west is not going to do anything to slow a fire for ground crews.

We had 3 DC-10s running in cycles out of COS, about an hour between takeoff and return. this enabled constant drops to establish a fireline and kept the ground crews busy busy busy always filling one aircraft all day. Good volume per drop and more agile than the 747.

The smaller end of things has the RJ-85s for precision work but still good volume. 737s will be useful for this in the future as well as Coulson brings them online. No smaller heavy tankers were used, so CV-580 and C-130 bypassed. Spot support was done with helicopters and a few SEATs.
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B777LRF
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 3:14 pm

Don't know about the Be-200, but the CL-415 does have a separate tank for retardant which is mixed with water during a drop. If memory serves me right, a tank of retardant is good for about 3-5 drops, depending on mixture.

I do appreciate the geographical challenges Colorado presents, but that wasn't part of the premise of this thread. The question was "best airframe for tanker", and provided you have a nearby source of water, nothing beats a scooper with a retardant tank. If you're in the middle of a continent and there are no nearby lakes or rivers to scoop water from, then obviously you need something else.
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sassiciai
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:54 pm

Noshow wrote:
The best specialized type to me seems to be the "Canadair" CL-415. At least if there is water around to land on. You can see it working well in Europe. However it's expensive to keep the whole year for just the fire season. .


If seems to me that the season in the Northern Hemisphere for fires is about 6 months different from that in the Southern Hemisphere, give or take a month or 2. It would be logical to have shared fleets of suitable aircraft that migrate each 6 months from one hemisphere to the other. Like that, the costs can be shared out a bit, and maybe even allow for fleet expansion

Problem is that the World's governments don't seem to operate in a logical manner
 
basspaul
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:57 pm

The advantage the CL415 and Be 200 have is that they were purpose built for the task. While converted airframes can certainly work, the load stresses are completely different then what they were designed for. When you dump so much weight quickly, you unweight the wings quickly and repeatedly. Look at the way the plane climbs when dumping in this video, it is not only the pilot pulling up (if at all): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6DQZ5tbSkg

A former colleague's father flew the CL215 and said between the weight being dropped and the effect of the hot air from an intense fire, that you feel a significant jolt.

There has unfortunately been live lost when the wings fail at the root due to this loading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Unit ... er_crashes

To sum up, the best non-amphibious fixed wing water bomber doesn't really exist until someone purpose designs one.
 
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lightsaber
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 8:34 pm

sassiciai wrote:
Noshow wrote:
The best specialized type to me seems to be the "Canadair" CL-415. At least if there is water around to land on. You can see it working well in Europe. However it's expensive to keep the whole year for just the fire season. .


If seems to me that the season in the Northern Hemisphere for fires is about 6 months different from that in the Southern Hemisphere, give or take a month or 2. It would be logical to have shared fleets of suitable aircraft that migrate each 6 months from one hemisphere to the other. Like that, the costs can be shared out a bit, and maybe even allow for fleet expansion

Problem is that the World's governments don't seem to operate in a logical manner

That is why more and more planes are leased from private companies. This year, the Australian season started before the Northern hemisphere season ended. In general, the country where the aircraft is registered has first priority on the tanker.

The largest fire fighting tankers have more range (without water), so can fly themselves.

So what you propose has partially happened. The issue is governments need to commit to more tankers. There just are not enough. It is difficult.

The CL-415 only has a ferry range of 1,310nm. Helicopters even less. They become a challenge to share across long distances.

The 747 and other large tankers were bought on the speculation they could sign seasonal contracts around the world.

Because of how much they drop at once, they are very effective. But as noted, there needs to be a spectrum of options.

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75driver
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 8:46 pm

If I lived in a fire prone area I would be all over grabbing a seat on one of these aircraft. It’s awesome freehand flying and so much different than commercial. When I was a young kid I got the chance to go up in one of the “target” planes which was an incredible experience. I don’t know if they still have the same type of ops but what he was doing is using the tail as crosshairs for following bombers. Super fun! Weeeeee
 
spahrtan
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 9:45 pm

If the 757 wasn’t in such high demand I would think it’d make an excellent tanker. GREAT short field performance, built like a tank, smaller, maneuverable, but can also take a good amount of retardant with it.
 
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VCVSpotter
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Wed Sep 02, 2020 10:58 pm

As others have stated before, you can’t ‘have it all.’ Living north of LA, I’m no stranger to these fires and the firefighting aircraft that come with it.

If there’s a pool/lake of water nearby, then the helicopters with ‘Bambi buckets’ or the SuperScoopers are definitely one of the biggest assets. I’ve even seen videos of helicopters getting water from residential pools. They’re versatile, and the pilots are innovative when it comes to sourcing water. They can easily hit the fire over and over, however with ‘just water,’ no retardant unless it’s pre-loaded.

In contrast, the VLATS (DC-10/747) can load up and head out with a much bigger retardant load, but are restricted to airfields like MCC/SBD. The same story is applicable for the Coulson C-130/737, MAFFS C-130, and the Erickson Mad Dogs. I could see a mid-range aircraft (another poster mentioned the 757, which I could see happening), for ops out of airports such as Palmdale/Lancaster (at least for SoCal). Big enough to pack a decent punch, but small enough to fit in airports closer to the fire that the 747 and DC-10 can’t reach.

The best way to hit a fire (as you’ve likely guessed by now) is a combination of these assets. Use the helicopters and SuperScoopers if there’s water nearby (which luckily for us, we have some), but if that’s not possible, then bring in some C-130s and rotate the DC-10/747s. This is obviously the strategy that current fire crews are using, and until someone comes up with a better one, this is what they’ll do. I think that the problem is that although the 747 is invaluable at times, sometimes being requested at 2 or 3 locations at once (such as a few weeks ago, when NorCal and SoCal needed it for several different fires), the main issue is down time. The jet is stored at MZJ 75% of the year or so, and to have a ‘fleet’ do that just isn’t possible. I’d say maybe 1 more 747 could be made into a tanker, but I doubt any more will happen (even as we see the DC-10s leave, as some of them are approaching very old age (look at DC-10 N17085, currently 45.4 years old).
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... edit#gid=0

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aemoreira1981
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 1:43 am

I have to wonder about the Boeing 767-300ER as one, presuming that someone could get his hands on a decent one with significant time left, or perhaps a new-build cargo plane converted to a tanker.
 
Falcon16
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 2:32 am

The 747 (as well as the DC-10's) staged out of KMCC for those fires.
 
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TWA772LR
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 2:56 am

Purpose built aircraft like the 415 and Beriev would be the best. Then it would depend on the mission, preciso drops would favor helicopters, large water drops and huge retardant areas would favor converted airliners for non-purpose built aircraft.

That said, I believe the best non-purpose built aircraft would be the C130. Good power with 4 engines, arguably the toughest airframe in the world, can come in fast and get low and slow in an instant, and can land anywhere to refill with water. Lockheed did tinker with the idea of an amphibious C130, had this come to fruition it's not inconceivable to think they could've made it into an amphibious water bomber.

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NameOmitted
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 3:03 am

Spacepope wrote:
[A scooper with just pond water out west is not going to do anything to slow a fire for ground crews.

The CL-415 mixes concentrated retardant with the pond water.
 
JayinKitsap
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 3:13 am

The CL-215 /415 include the weight of the tanks, piping, and nozzles. The others do not, just cargo payload

Some stats: CL-215 9,750 lb water 6,000 lb of fuel
CL-415 12,150 lb water, 2,000 lb of fuel.
Q400 20,000 lb
737-700 40,000 lb water
744 183,700 lb
757-200 87,000 lb of water
763 116,200 lb
772 convert 227,000 lb

A306 - 206,000 lb
A318
A330-200 154,000 lb

C-130 45,000 lb
DC-10 170,000 lb
MD-11 202,000 lb

These are representative of frames that still have OK parts availability, there are a lot of old tankers still flying, but it is very rough service for the hours. How the plane handles in updrafts, downdrafts, and very high cycle, then parked for months. Buying freighters at the end of their life is a lot of feedstock.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Unit ... er_crashes

https://www.fire.ca.gov/media/4950/avia ... access.pdf

https://www.10tanker.com/

https://fireaviation.com/
 
bohica
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 3:30 am

A-340. They're cheap to obtain, they can carry a decent payload, and according to a.net logic, they can fly slow.
 
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Spacepope
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:04 am

bohica wrote:
A-340. They're cheap to obtain, they can carry a decent payload, and according to a.net logic, they can fly slow.

What’s their payload after deletion of the center gear though?
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aklrno
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:36 am

I live between Stead airport north of Reno where a lot of tankers are based and a number of fires south of me in the last few weeks. The closest was about 4 miles away. Just about every kind of tanker used in the Sierra has flown about 3000 feet over my house. The only one I have not seen is the 747. Watching the DC 10 maneuvering about 2000 feet over my house was impressive. I was close enough to see the drops. I just sit out on my lawn and track them with flight radar 24 and watch them go by. In case you are wondering about the wisdom of just watching, my house is just about as fire resistant as possible and still be above ground.

Today’s tankers were BA 146s and super scoopers. Also there are a fleet of single or twin small aircraft that work as spotters and directors. I don’t remember the models. They will obit the fire area for hours, refueling at any convenient airport. The tankers have to return to base. I think today’s super scoopers returned to stead instead of a lake.
 
Newark727
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:43 am

aklrno wrote:
Also there are a fleet of single or twin small aircraft that work as spotters and directors. I don’t remember the models. They will obit the fire area for hours, refueling at any convenient airport.


Most of the spotters I've seen have been Turbo Commanders or King Airs, but Cal Fire also has a set of refurbished Rockwell OV-10 Bronco COIN planes, which is pretty cool.
 
bohica
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:56 am

Spacepope wrote:
bohica wrote:
A-340. They're cheap to obtain, they can carry a decent payload, and according to a.net logic, they can fly slow.

What’s their payload after deletion of the center gear though?


Probably very little difference with or without the center gear. I seriously doubt the plane would be at maximum weight on a firefighting mission.
 
MRYapproach
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:36 am

Thanks everyone. Fun to get into this. My thoughts/responses:

- choppers are great, but they seem to be limited to mop-up duty. They only carry water, not retardant. There's a reason why the tankers carry retardant.
- choppers run dozens of quick back and forth runs from the closest water source. Stock ponds, golf course water hazards (ponds) seem to be the main sources around here. They don't last forever...it seems like choppers can pull all the useful water out of these sources in a day or three for a big fire, especially if multiple choppers are on scene (as is normal for a real fire)
- Skycrane, Chinook, Bell Huey, all seem to be almost interchageable. No chopper is a game-changer.
- Same goes for a flying plane. Very cool, don't get me wrong. But not a game-changer either.
- To turn the tide of a wildfire, a plane dropping retardant seems to be game-changing. I've seen it in real-time, and I can still see it from my dining room today. Those pink lines, strategically placed before visibility was limited, made all the difference.
- Flying off to Sacramento or SoCal isn't so bad. The big birds can be back on location pretty fast, even from that far away. The Grumman S-2s run about 10-14 round trips per day from Hollister, a CalFire base about 20 miles away. But is there a jet that can turn around a short runway and deliver a big payload?
 
MRYapproach
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:41 am

spahrtan wrote:
If the 757 wasn’t in such high demand I would think it’d make an excellent tanker. GREAT short field performance, built like a tank, smaller, maneuverable, but can also take a good amount of retardant with it.


YES I was thinking the same thing, but didn't want to suggest it. Hot and high performance too! But like you said, in high demand. But maybe when those frames get old and near retirement they might make sense for conversion?
 
f4f3a
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:28 am

Was wondering whether the us-2 or ag600 would make a good tanker . I guess acquisition cost would be too high though. also a300 I thought would be good
 
bennett123
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 9:08 am

If the B757 is not available, then what about A320/B737.
 
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RyanairGuru
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 9:26 am

sassiciai wrote:
Noshow wrote:
The best specialized type to me seems to be the "Canadair" CL-415. At least if there is water around to land on. You can see it working well in Europe. However it's expensive to keep the whole year for just the fire season. .


If seems to me that the season in the Northern Hemisphere for fires is about 6 months different from that in the Southern Hemisphere, give or take a month or 2. It would be logical to have shared fleets of suitable aircraft that migrate each 6 months from one hemisphere to the other. Like that, the costs can be shared out a bit, and maybe even allow for fleet expansion

Problem is that the World's governments don't seem to operate in a logical manner


In a perfect world, yes, that makes sense and it is why Australia doesn't have its own fleet of fire bombers.

The problem is that fire seasons have been getting longer over the past decade or so. A perfect storm of warmer winters and drought conditions in both Australia and California over recent years mean that the two seasons now overlap. This was most notable in 2019 when the Australian fire season started in September while fires were burning in California until November. Thankfully the Australian season doesn't appear to br starting as early this year.
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DaCubbyBearBar
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:12 am

spahrtan wrote:
If the 757 wasn’t in such high demand I would think it’d make an excellent tanker. GREAT short field performance, built like a tank, smaller, maneuverable, but can also take a good amount of retardant with it.

I AGREE!!!
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sassiciai
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:40 am

I understand that the North/South divide is no longer as clear as it was, and that there sometimes may be simultaneous fires raging in Australia and California!

Here in Europe, I believe that Spain, France, and Italy (and others?) have small fleets of CL215/415s that are busy in "summer" but are almost always unemployed in winter. I do recall once being on the beach in Viareggio on the Med coast in Italy, watching a pair of CLs tackling forest fires that were conveniently only 15 or 20km inland. They were achieving a very high rate of sortie, seemed like each plane each 10 minutes or less - very impressive, and apparently very effective

As Lightsaber mentioned upthread, these aircraft are limited to circa 1300km range. If there was real merit in having these aircraft available in Australia (or somewhere else "down under"), let's not forget that the earliest aviators flew from UK to Australia in aircraft with a range that was most likely a lot shorter than 1300km! The so-called Kangaroo route!

Strikes me as a very good way to optimise use of scarce and expensive resources
 
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Dublinspotter
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:02 am

Not sure if this has been posted already... but to me this proves why the CL-215/415 are why they are the best suited aircraft, dump and run drops while scooping in tight spaces at speed. Seen them operate in southern Spain, pretty spectacular sights!

https://twitter.com/i/status/1297590166123679745

Dublinspotter
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Waterbomber2
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:24 am

To be effective on fires, you need volume.
Helicopters dumping 1 metric ton of water or CL415, AT802 dropping 1-4 tons are pretty useless on any fire except on small tiny starting fires.
They are pretty useless on the huge fires in California.

The big tankers can do the job but you need hundreds of them to make a difference.
By the time your single 747 Supertanker comes back from reloading water, the line of fire could have moved a dozen miles ahead.
Line up a few dozen B747 to bombard the fires and you can start giving ground crews an edge to work with. Otherwise, might as well save the money and pray for rain.

Can it be done? If you look at fortunes accumulated by the likes of Jeff Bezos, if even one of them puts their mind into doing something big to fight forest fires, it can be done. But as long as they would rather parade sitting on their mountains of gold, it's not going to happen.
Elon Musk wants to go to Mars but what's the point when we can't even take care of our own planet?
So the next question is, why don't governments invest big in aerial firefighting? Probably because they could care less.
Imagine the huge benefits to the environment if governments did something about it.
In Italy some campaigns criticized F-35 purchases while little is invested in aerial firefighting.

Image

https://milocca.wordpress.com/2013/08/1 ... -le-parti/

The best firefighting aircraft is no aircraft at all.
Prevention measures are much more effective and cost a very small fraction of operating aerial firefighters.
The problem is that people do not like to invest in prevention either.

So the real problem is not picking the right aircraft but changing the human attitude towards this big problem.
We are still mere primates.
Last edited by Waterbomber2 on Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:45 am, edited 6 times in total.
 
MIflyer12
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:27 am

basspaul wrote:
To sum up, the best non-amphibious fixed wing water bomber doesn't really exist until someone purpose designs one.


You're not going to get one. The economics aren't there for a clean-sheet design (BBD spent $7 Billion on the CS100) and governments (even the U.S. government) aren't going to commit that scale of design/manufacture $. If it were a 'military' or 'Homeland Security' problem they'd throw $30 Billion at it without hesitation.
 
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:30 am

MIflyer12 wrote:
basspaul wrote:
To sum up, the best non-amphibious fixed wing water bomber doesn't really exist until someone purpose designs one.


You're not going to get one. The economics aren't there for a clean-sheet design (BBD spent $7 Billion on the CS100) and governments (even the U.S. government) aren't going to commit that scale of design/manufacture $. If it were a 'military' or 'Homeland Security' problem they'd throw $30 Billion at it without hesitation.


Correct. Especially the ROI is poor.
It's like running into the burning twin towers with your car's fire extinguisher... It's a waste of a fire extinguisher because you can t do anything with it.
Last edited by Waterbomber2 on Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
 
VSMUT
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:49 am

In Scandinavia, wildfires have been increasing in quantity and severity over the years. In 2018, Sweden had a massive one. Prior to that fire they relied on helicopters with buckets. They have since contracted SAAB to provide a pair of AT-802 Fire Boss amphibians.

In Denmark, the major fires in Sweden and elsewhere resulted in some politicians calling for Denmark to start investing in fire-fighting aircraft as well, no doubt referring to the 747s and DC-10s often shown on the news. Experts on the other hand insisted that helicopters with buckets would be sufficient for the needs there. Eventually Denmark brought a stake in the Swedish AT-802 thing, so they can be called upon.

As others pointed out, it really depends on how much water you can find near the fire and how close the airports are located. In Scandinavia, you almost always have large bodies of water and airstrips at hand nearby. Mostly, a helicopter can transport more water per hour by refilling in nearby lakes, ponds and streams than a jet that has to land at a big airport to refill. In Australia, that isn't the case.


spahrtan wrote:
If the 757 wasn’t in such high demand I would think it’d make an excellent tanker. GREAT short field performance, built like a tank, smaller, maneuverable, but can also take a good amount of retardant with it.


757s are not in high demand.
 
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Spacepope
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:54 am

bennett123 wrote:
If the B757 is not available, then what about A320/B737.


737s are already in use. Coulson is converting 6 former WN 733s. One is permanently down in Australia, and the second completed one has been working the California fires.
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MRYapproach
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:05 pm

Waterbomber2 wrote:

The best firefighting aircraft is no aircraft at all.
Prevention measures are much more effective and cost a very small fraction of operating aerial firefighters.
The problem is that people do not like to invest in prevention either.

So the real problem is not picking the right aircraft but changing the human attitude towards this big problem.
We are still mere primates.


With the exception of the Big Sur fire, all the recent fires in CA were caused by a freak dry lightning storm. Lightning is rare in the Winter in CA...in the summer it's almost never happens except in the Sierras. Hundreds of fires were started all over the state on the same night, stretching firefighting resources worse than anytime in the last few decades.
 
teva
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:54 pm

A French company working with research institutes is developing a drop system called KYOS to transform airliners into tankers. They are looking at an A310 to validate the concept. The additional idea is that when there is no fire, the plane can be used for other purposes such as cargo or medical evacuation.
more info here:
https://kepplair-evolution.com/en/kepplair-project

Let's hope the current sanitary situation will not stop the development, and let's see if it works (which I hope, as this system can be adapted on almost any aircraft
Ecoute les orgues, Elles jouent pour toi...C'est le requiem pour un con
 
IFlyVeryLittle
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:03 pm

One question: do most of these tanker planes simply gravity drop the water or water-retardant mix or is there a pump arrangement to force it out at various pressures or gallons per minute rates?
 
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Spacepope
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:58 pm

IFlyVeryLittle wrote:
One question: do most of these tanker planes simply gravity drop the water or water-retardant mix or is there a pump arrangement to force it out at various pressures or gallons per minute rates?


The big tankers and the MAFFS system are pressure released.
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744SPX
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:04 pm

JayinKitsap wrote:
The CL-215 /415 include the weight of the tanks, piping, and nozzles. The others do not, just cargo payload

Some stats: CL-215 9,750 lb water 6,000 lb of fuel
CL-415 12,150 lb water, 2,000 lb of fuel.
Q400 20,000 lb
737-700 40,000 lb water
744 183,700 lb
757-200 87,000 lb of water
763 116,200 lb
772 convert 227,000 lb

A306 - 206,000 lb
A318
A330-200 154,000 lb

C-130 45,000 lb
DC-10 170,000 lb
MD-11 202,000 lb

These are representative of frames that still have OK parts availability, there are a lot of old tankers still flying, but it is very rough service for the hours. How the plane handles in updrafts, downdrafts, and very high cycle, then parked for months. Buying freighters at the end of their life is a lot of feedstock.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Unit ... er_crashes

https://www.fire.ca.gov/media/4950/avia ... access.pdf

https://www.10tanker.com/

https://fireaviation.com/


Those numbers are way off for most of those aircraft as you have to include tanks, pumps, and discharge systems which are a lot of weight.
-A 772 (LR or F) converted to carry water might be able to carry 150,000 lbs of water tops, and the ER would be significantly less. Heck, 227,000 lbs is more weight than the 777F max payload.
-The DC-10 tanker carries 100,080 lbs of water/retardant

If I had the startup money, I'd take 25 744's and convert them to firefighting tankers. Still boggles my mind how so many are in the desert and yet there is only one tanker. The fire losses this year alone are in the multiple billions. This country definitely has an air tanker problem- as in way to few.

Frankly, the way things are going, Boeing could propose a supertanker version of the 748F. Designed from the ground up as a tanker I'll bet it could carry at least 30,000 gallons of water or retardant (~250,000 lbs) even more if Boeing went with the 28,000 lb MTOW increase that was proposed. 100 of those could really put the hurt to the California and Colorado wildfires for a fraction of the cost of the damage over the next 25-30 years.
 
Utah744
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:14 pm

I can't believe the P-3 isn't mentioned. There are tons of them flying as tankers and being converted and for one big reason. They have bombay doors and the conversion is much easier. They don't need a 10,000 foot runway and are a very nimble aircraft. There are also lots of them available as the world Navies are going to P-8s.
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basspaul
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 9:21 pm

One can't forget than some aircraft, if flown unpressurized, actually reduces the life of the airframe. The airframe is stiffer in flight when pressurized.

Adding tanks, bomb doors, etc and maintaining the pressure vessel can get tricky.
 
Tailwinds
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 9:55 pm

A couple thoughts about the 747 tablet I haven't seen mentioned yet.

1. It takes off 200k lbs below MTOW, so it doesn't need as big a runway as you might expect.

2. One of it's big understated advantages might be loiter time. It can loiter for hours, awaiting the command to drop. That's great for changing situations where you need to protect life and property but can only choose one of many spots to do it.

3. Per their website they can cover seven times the length and nearly twice then breadth as other jet tankers.

As has been mentioned often, you need many different capabilities so one plane will never be sufficient.
 
aklrno
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:03 pm

I can now add MD-87 and B737 to the list of tankers flying over my house. The Air Force flies their RNO based C-130s nearly everyday for training. Is there an air tanker adaptation they could be using?
 
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Spacepope
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Fri Sep 04, 2020 1:19 am

Utah744 wrote:
I can't believe the P-3 isn't mentioned. There are tons of them flying as tankers and being converted and for one big reason. They have bombay doors and the conversion is much easier. They don't need a 10,000 foot runway and are a very nimble aircraft. There are also lots of them available as the world Navies are going to P-8s.


There are less than a handful of P3s in this role, with several parked and none being converted.

Bomb bay doors don’t matter anyway, P3 tankers have a custom built canoe pod on their belly for retardant drops.
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Spacepope
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Fri Sep 04, 2020 1:25 am

aklrno wrote:
I can now add MD-87 and B737 to the list of tankers flying over my house. The Air Force flies their RNO based C-130s nearly everyday for training. Is there an air tanker adaptation they could be using?

Yes, it’s called MAFFS. USAF reserve had 8, with 2 at several bases in the west (COS, Cheyenne, California). See them flying over here all the time training, they are the ones with the giant day glow orange numbers on them.

They don’t get called in often though. USFS contractors demand to get paid to do work first, military only called in as a last resort.
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IADFCO
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:06 am

Although none are available or under development AFAIK, a quadrotor/quad-coax unmanned helicopter with 1-2K payload would be excellent for this purpose. It could not compete with any of the dedicated aircraft for any single drop, but a fleet of 10-15 and even more could be easy to assemble and could work around the clock, regardless of weather or smoke. The guidance, navigation and control logic to perform the mission with minimal intervention from the ground, if not fully autonomously, is within the current state of the art. The tank, pumps, and other hardware could be all packaged in a pallet-like container that would be attached to the drone and removed at the end of the mission if desired. Obviously, no pilot lives would be at risk.
 
ThePointblank
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Re: Best airframe for fire-fighting tankers

Fri Sep 04, 2020 5:54 am

The issue is that airborne fire fighting isn't really meant to put out forest fires, they are supposed to help buy time for firefighters on the ground to work to contain the fire.

That means suppressing the fire with water, so the rate of burn slows down, and laying down lines of retardant, to permit fire fighters on the ground to dig and clear fire lines to contain the fire.

A video explaining how wildfires are fought is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EodxubsO8EI

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