Static Display and Live Demonstrations Provided a Spectacular Culmination of Aerial Firefighting North America's First Day

There were an impressive 15 aircraft parked in the static display on Monday afternoon, when the aerial demonstrations also took place.  They ranged from two AT-802 Fire Boss from Air Spray all the way up to the Global SuperTanker Boeing 747. But it wasn’t just about fixed-wing aircraft, there were also three helicopters - two UH-60As and a CH-47D Chinook. They may all vary in sizes and formats but they have one thing in common – they fight fires.

Sacramento-based Helimax, is showing off an immaculate looking CH-47D Chinook. The company’s fleet of six ex-US Army CH-47Ds is being put to good use fighting fires around the USA and Australia.  Four are already painted in the new colour scheme, we are seeing here.

Aero-Flite from Spokane, Washington is exhibiting a BAe Avro RJ 85 and a Canadair CL-415 Super-Scooper.  It operates six land-based RJ 85s, each fitted with 3,000 gallon tanks purpose engineered for the fire-fighting role. They fly alongside four CL-415s amphibious water bombers, which can drop 1600 gallons of water or retardant.


Conair out of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada have brought a Citation Jet C525, which they use for air attack operations, although in the US it is often termed as a ‘Bird Dog’ or ‘lead plane’. 

Coulson Aviation is exhibiting one of its Boeing 737-300 Fireliners. The company recently acquired six of these former airliners from Southwest Airlines with plans to convert them all into 4,000-gallon air tankers.  Casting a large shadow across all the exhibits is the Global Supertanker Boeing 747, normally based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  It arrived from Marana Pinal Air Park, where it had been undergoing routine maintenance, on Sunday afternoon, with the CEO Jim Wheeler on board.  

CAL FIRE contributed a S-2F and a OV-10 Bronco, both defied their years and looked in immaculate condition.  

HP Helicopters flew in one of the two S-70As it operates from its base at Redlands, California.  Formed in November 2017, the company has been busy building up its business over the winter working in the construction industry – building ski-lifts and repeater towers.  With the fire-season looming the aircraft is being prepared to join the fire-fighting fleets.  Here at Aerial Firefighting North America 2018 it is fitted with a 900 gallon bambi-bucket. 

The second UH-60A is from PJ Helicopters based out of Red Bluff, California.  This particular helicopter is fitted with a Simplex 370i internal tank which can carry 850 gallons of water.  Mark Zimmerman, President and CEO of Simplex Aerospace said: “It is the first installation of this series in a helicopter, which will be operational by the summer.  


But for those who simply like veteran aircraft, the star of the event was the Air Spray L188 Electrica, which came in on Monday morning but left before the conference opened.  Fitted with a RADS 2 tank, the prop-liner looked stunning in the California sun parked in front of a vintage-60s hangar.


Aerial demonstrations are planned by Air Spray Airtanker, and two of its Fire Boss single engine air tankers (SEATs) as well as their BAe146.  The company expects one of the latter to make a single drop pass over McClellan airfield, while two Fire Bosses will perform a tandem-trailing drop.  The company has sent its own Mobile Mix truck, which holds 200 gallons of retardant, which can be pumped into the Fire Bosses.  “No need for a dedicated retardant facility, we just require a fire hydrant or a swimming pool to be able to use the system” the Air Spray Mobile Mix truck driver told Tangent Link.



Alan Warnes