Aerial firefighting
Overview
 
Aerial firefighting is the use of aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 and other aerial resources to combat wildfire
Wildfire
A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, bushfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, squirrel fire, vegetation fire, veldfire, and wilkjjofire may be used to describe the same...

s. The types of aircraft used include fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Smokejumpers and rappellers are also classified as aerial firefighters, delivered to the fire by parachute from a variety of fixed-wing aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

, or rappelling from helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

s. Chemicals used to fight fires may include water, water enhancers such as foams and gel
Fire-retardant gel
Fire-retardant gels are superabsorbent polymer slurries with a "consistency almost like petroleum jelly." Used as fire retardants, they can be used for structure protection and in direct-attack applications against wildfires.- History :...

s, and specially formulated fire retardants.
A wide variety of terminology has been used in the popular media for the aircraft (and methods) used in aerial firefighting.
Encyclopedia
Aerial firefighting is the use of aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 and other aerial resources to combat wildfire
Wildfire
A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, bushfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, squirrel fire, vegetation fire, veldfire, and wilkjjofire may be used to describe the same...

s. The types of aircraft used include fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Smokejumpers and rappellers are also classified as aerial firefighters, delivered to the fire by parachute from a variety of fixed-wing aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

, or rappelling from helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

s. Chemicals used to fight fires may include water, water enhancers such as foams and gel
Fire-retardant gel
Fire-retardant gels are superabsorbent polymer slurries with a "consistency almost like petroleum jelly." Used as fire retardants, they can be used for structure protection and in direct-attack applications against wildfires.- History :...

s, and specially formulated fire retardants.

Terminology

A wide variety of terminology has been used in the popular media for the aircraft (and methods) used in aerial firefighting. The terms Airtanker or air tanker generally refer to fixed-wing aircraft based in the United States; "airtanker" is used in official documentation. The term "waterbomber" is used in Canadian government documents for the same class of vehicles.

Air attack is an industry term used for the actual application of aerial resources, both fixed-wing and rotorcraft, on a fire. Within the industry, though, "air attack" may also refer to the supervisor in the air (usually in a fixed-wing aircraft) who supervises the process of attacking the wildfire from the air, including fixed-wing airtankers, helicopters, and any other aviation resources assigned to the fire. The Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS), often called "air attack," is usually flying at an altitude above other resources assigned to the fire, often in a fixed-wing plane but occasionally (depending on assigned resources or the availability of qualified personnel) in a helicopter.

Depending on the size, location, and assessed potential of the wildfire, the "air attack" or ATGS person may be charged with initial attack (the first response of firefighting assets on fire suppression), or with extended attack, the ongoing response to and management of a major wildfire requiring additional resources including engines, ground crews, and other aviation personnel and aircraft needed to control the fire and establish control lines or firelines
Firebreak
A firebreak is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a bushfire or wildfire. A firebreak may occur naturally where there is a lack of vegetation or "fuel", such as a river, lake or canyon...

 ahead of the wildfire.

Equipment

A wide variety of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are used for aerial firefighting. In 2003, it was reported that "The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior which administers America's public lands, totaling approximately , or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state and private...

 own, lease, or contract for nearly 1,000 aircraft each fire season, with annual expenditures in excess of US$250 million in recent years".

Helicopters

Helicopters may be fitted with tanks (helitankers) or they may carry buckets. Some helitankers, such as the Erickson AirCrane, are also outfitted with a front-mounted foam cannon. Buckets are usually filled by submerging or dipping them in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, or portable tanks. The most popular of the buckets is the flexible Bambi Bucket
Bambi bucket
A helicopter bucket is a specialised bucket suspended on a cable carried by a helicopter to deliver water for aerial firefighting. Each bucket has a release valve on the bottom which is controlled by the helicopter crew. When the helicopter is in position, the crew releases the water to extinguish...

. Tanks can be filled on the ground (by water tenders or truck-mounted systems) or water can be siphoned from lakes, rivers, reservoirs, or a portable tank through a hanging snorkel. Popular firefighting helicopters include variants of the Bell 204
UH-1 Iroquois
The Bell UH-1 Iroquois is a military helicopter powered by a single, turboshaft engine, with a two-bladed main rotor and tail rotor. The helicopter was developed by Bell Helicopter to meet the United States Army's requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter in 1952, and first flew...

 and the Erickson S-64 Aircrane helitanker, which features a sea snorkel for filling from a natural water source while in flight.

Airtankers

Airtankers or water bombers are fixed-wing aircraft fitted with tanks that can be filled on the ground at an air tanker base or, in the case of flying boat
Flying boat
A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water. It differs from a float plane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage...

s and amphibious aircraft
Amphibious aircraft
An amphibious aircraft or amphibian is an aircraft that can take off and land on either land or water. Fixed-wing amphibious aircraft are seaplanes that are equipped with retractable wheels, at the expense of extra weight and complexity, plus diminished range and fuel economy compared to planes...

, by skimming water from lakes, reservoirs, or large rivers.

Various aircraft have been used over the years for firefighting. In 1947 shortly after World War Two ended the USAF and US Forestry Dept. did an experiment in which World War Two aircraft dropped water bombs similar to those used in wartime napalm attacks. It was not found successful, and internal water tanks were found the solution. Though World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

-era bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

s were for a long time the mainstay of the aerial firefighting fleet, and are still in use newer purpose-built tankers are coming online. The smallest are the Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs). These are agricultural sprayers that generally drop about 800 gal of water or retardant. An example is the Airtractor AT-802F, which can deliver around 800 gal of water or fire retardant solution each drop. Medium aircraft include the S-2 Tracker
S-2 Tracker
The Grumman S-2 Tracker was the first purpose-built, single airframe anti-submarine warfare aircraft to enter service with the US Navy. The Tracker was of conventional design with twin engines, a high wing and tricycle undercarriage. The type was exported to a number of navies around the world...

 (retrofit
Retrofit
Retrofitting refers to the addition of new technology or features to older systems.* power plant retrofit, improving power plant efficiency / increasing output / reducing emissions...

ted with turboprop engines as the S-2T) as used by the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CDF), as well as Conair Group Inc. of Abbotsford, British Columbia
Abbotsford, British Columbia
Abbotsford is a Canadian city located in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, adjacent to Greater Vancouver. It is the fifth largest municipality in British Columbia, home to 123,864 people . Its Census Metropolitan Area, which includes the District of Mission, is the 23rd largest in Canada,...

, while the Douglas DC-4
Douglas DC-4
The Douglas DC-4 is a four-engined propeller-driven airliner developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. It served during World War II, in the Berlin Airlift and into the 1960s in a military role...

, the DC-7, the Lockheed
Lockheed Corporation
The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace company. Lockheed was founded in 1912 and later merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.-Origins:...

 C-130 Hercules
C-130 Hercules
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport...

, P-2V Neptune, P-3 Orion
P-3 Orion
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy and introduced in the 1960s. Lockheed based it on the L-188 Electra commercial airliner. The aircraft is easily recognizable by its distinctive tail stinger or...

 and others have been used as heavy tankers.

The largest aerial firefighter currently in use is a Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

 aerial firefighter, known as the Evergreen Supertanker
Evergreen Supertanker
The Evergreen Supertanker is a Boeing 747-100 widebody aircraft that was modified into an aerial firefighting aircraft by Evergreen International Aviation. The aircraft was originally manufactured by Boeing in 1970 for Delta Air Lines. With a capacity of 20,500 US gallons , it is the largest aerial...

 that can carry 24000 gal fed by a pressurized drop system.The Supertanker entered service for the first time in 2009, fighting a fire in Cuenca, Spain
Cuenca (province)
Cuenca is a province of central Spain, in the eastern part of the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha.-Guide to the area:Located in a natural setting of beauty, the Old Town of Cuenca occupies a superb site between two river gorges. Famous are its 15th Century "hanging houses" , that appear...

. The tanker made its first American operation on August 31, 2009 at the Oak Glen Fire.

The next largest aerial firefighters currently in use include two converted Martin Mars flying boats in British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

 (one of which was brought to southern California in September 2007 to help battle the wildfires there). Each Martin Mars can carry approximately 7200 gal of water or fire retardant each, and the Tanker 910
Tanker 910
Tanker 910 is the call-sign of a wide-body jet air tanker currently in fire service. The aircraft, operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, is a converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft used for fighting wildfires, typically in rural areas...

, a converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10
McDonnell Douglas DC-10
The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a three-engine widebody jet airliner manufactured by McDonnell Douglas. The DC-10 has range for medium- to long-haul flights, capable of carrying a maximum 380 passengers. Its most distinguishing feature is the two turbofan engines mounted on underwing pylons and a...

 that can carry 12000 gal of water or retardant. The Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n Ministry of Emergency Situations operates convertible-to-cargo IL-76 airtankers that can carry up to 15000 gal but have been operating with 11000 gal tanking systems, and a few of Beriev Be-200
Beriev Be-200
The Beriev Be-200 Altair is a multipurpose amphibious aircraft designed by the Beriev Aircraft Company and manufactured by Irkut. Marketed as being designed for fire fighting, search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo, and passenger transportation, it has a capacity of 12 tonnes of water, or up...

 amphibians.

Bombardier's Dash 8 Q Series aircraft are the basis for two new ventures. Cascade Aerospace
Cascade Aerospace
Cascade Aerospace Inc. of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada is a privately-held Canadian specialty aerospace and defence contractor focused on providing long-term integrated aircraft support programs for Original Equipment Manufacturers , military, government and commercial customers...

 has converted two pre-owned Q400s to act as part-time water bomber and part-time transport for France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

's Sécurité Civile
Sécurité Civile
Operating for the French Ministry of the Interior, the Direction de la Défense de la Sécurité Civile is a French Government civil defence agency, employing some 2,500 civilian and military personnel over 60 sites...

, one of which is registered F-ZBMC, while Neptune Aviation is converting a pre-owned Q300 as a prototype to augment their P2V aircraft.

Similar in configuration to the World War II–era PBY Catalina
PBY Catalina
The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. PBYs served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other...

, the Canadair CL-215
Canadair CL-215
The Canadair CL-215 was the first model in a series of firefighting flying boat amphibious aircraft built by Canadair and later Bombardier. The CL-215 is a twin-engine, high-wing aircraft designed to operate well at low speed and in gust-loading circumstances, as are found over forest fires...

 Scooper, and Bombardier CL-415 SuperScooper are designed and built specifically for firefighting. The "Super Scoopers" are not common in the United States where only 2 operate seasonally in southern California. Los Angeles County leases two CL-415s from the Province of Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 during the fall when the Santa Ana winds are at their worst. 6 American owned CL-215s operate for various State and Federal agencies. Critics of scoopers in the US claim that there is not enough suitable water in fire prone states. CL-215s have been employed with success in North Carolina, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, Alaska, Northern Idaho, and Montana.

French "Sécurité Civile
Sécurité Civile
Operating for the French Ministry of the Interior, the Direction de la Défense de la Sécurité Civile is a French Government civil defence agency, employing some 2,500 civilian and military personnel over 60 sites...

" owns both Canadair CL-215 and CL-415, a handful of Grumman Trackers and some Russian Mil Mi-6
Mil Mi-6
|-Facts:*Test pilot N.B. Leshin has set the world record of speed. This event was awarded by the American Helicopter Society.*Small numbers are still in service, most in Siberia plus a small number with the People's Republic of China...

 helicopters. Their pilots are usually recruited amongst the best pilots from "l'Armée de l'Air", usually from "Aéronavale" (Navy pilots on aircraft carriers) or acrobatic teams like "La Patrouille de France". It is a high-risk job that requires very skilled pilots.

Croatian Air Force uses six CL-415
Canadair CL-415
The Bombardier 415 is a Canadian amphibious aircraft purpose-built as a water bomber. It is an aircraft designed and built specifically for aerial firefighting and is based on the company's CL-215 flying boat...

 planes, as well as the six AT 802s
Air Tractor AT-802
|-Specifications :-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Jackson, Paul. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group, 2003. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5.* Keijsper, Gerard...

 for (mainly) firefighting purposes.

Another amphibian is the Russian Beriev Be-200
Beriev Be-200
The Beriev Be-200 Altair is a multipurpose amphibious aircraft designed by the Beriev Aircraft Company and manufactured by Irkut. Marketed as being designed for fire fighting, search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo, and passenger transportation, it has a capacity of 12 tonnes of water, or up...

. It can carry a maximum payload of about 3170 gal of water, making "scoops" in suitable stretches of water in 14 seconds. It was successfully used to fight fires in the southern European countries such as Greece and Portugal.

Comparison table of fixed wing, firefighting tanker airplanes

all links, citations and data sources are listed in the paragraph above. For accident and grounding citations, see paragraph below table.
Make and model Country of origin Category Water/Retardant capacity (US Gallons)
PZL-Mielec M-18 Dromader
PZL-Mielec M-18 Dromader
|-See also:-References:*Jackson, Paul. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group, 2003. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5....

 
Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 
Light 2200 L
Air Tractor AT-802F
Air Tractor AT-802
|-Specifications :-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Jackson, Paul. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group, 2003. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5.* Keijsper, Gerard...

USA Light 807 gallons (3,054.8 l)
Air Tractor AT-1002 USA Medium 1000 gallons (3,785.4 l)
Grumman S-2 Tracker USA Medium 1200 gallons (4,542.5 l)
Douglas DC-4
Douglas DC-4
The Douglas DC-4 is a four-engined propeller-driven airliner developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. It served during World War II, in the Berlin Airlift and into the 1960s in a military role...

USA Medium no longer in service
Douglas DC-6
Douglas DC-6
The Douglas DC-6 is a piston-powered airliner and transport aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1946 to 1958. Originally intended as a military transport near the end of World War II, it was reworked after the war to compete with the Lockheed Constellation in the long-range...

USA Medium 2800 gallons (10,599.2 l)
Douglas DC-7
Douglas DC-7
The Douglas DC-7 is an American transport aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1953 to 1958. It was the last major piston engine powered transport made by Douglas, coming just a few years before the advent of jet aircraft such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8.-Design and...

USA Medium 3000 gallons (11,356.2 l)
Lockheed C-130 Hercules USA Medium National Guard MAFFS units; 3000 gallons (11,356.2 l)
P-2V Neptune  USA Medium 2362 gallons (8,941.1 l)
P-3 Orion
P-3 Orion
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy and introduced in the 1960s. Lockheed based it on the L-188 Electra commercial airliner. The aircraft is easily recognizable by its distinctive tail stinger or...

USA Medium 3000 gallons (11,356.2 l)
Evergreen 747 Supertanker USA Super Heavy 20500 gallons (77,600.9 l)
Martin Mars USA Medium 7200 gallons (27,255 l)
Douglas DC-10 USA Heavy 12000 gallons (45,424.9 l)
Ilyushin Il-76
Ilyushin Il-76
The Ilyushin Il-76 is a multi-purpose four-engined strategic airlifter designed by Ilyushin design bureau. It was first planned as a commercial freighter in 1967. Intended as a replacement for the Antonov An-12, the Il-76 was designed for delivering heavy machinery to remote, poorly-serviced areas...

Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

Heavy 11419 gallons (43,225.6 l)
Beriev Be-200
Beriev Be-200
The Beriev Be-200 Altair is a multipurpose amphibious aircraft designed by the Beriev Aircraft Company and manufactured by Irkut. Marketed as being designed for fire fighting, search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo, and passenger transportation, it has a capacity of 12 tonnes of water, or up...

Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

Medium 3120 gallons (11,810.5 l)
Bombardier Dash 8 Q400-MR Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

Medium 2600 gallons (9,842.1 l)
PBY Catalina
PBY Catalina
The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. PBYs served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other...

USA Medium 1000 gallons (3,785.4 l) (or 1500 gallons (5,678.1 l) for the Super model)
Canadair CL-215
Canadair CL-215
The Canadair CL-215 was the first model in a series of firefighting flying boat amphibious aircraft built by Canadair and later Bombardier. The CL-215 is a twin-engine, high-wing aircraft designed to operate well at low speed and in gust-loading circumstances, as are found over forest fires...

Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

Medium 1300 gallons (4,921 l)
Bombardier CL-415 Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

Medium 1621 gallons (6,136.2 l)


category legend (light: under 1000 gallons (3,785.4 l), Medium: under 10000 gallons (37,854.1 l), Heavy: under 20000 gallons (75,708.2 l) , Super Heavy: Over 20000 gallons (75,708.2 l) - currently only used for the B747 Supertanker)

Leadplanes

The Lead Plane function directs the activities of the airtankers by both verbal target descriptions and by physically leading the airtankers on the drop run. The O-2 Skymaster
O-2 Skymaster
The O-2 Skymaster is a military version of the Cessna 337 Super Skymaster utilized as an observation and forward air control aircraft...

 and OV-10 Bronco
OV-10 Bronco
The North American Aviation Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is a turboprop light attack and observation aircraft. It was developed in the 1960s as a special aircraft for counter-insurgency combat, and one of its primary missions was as a forward air control aircraft...

 have all been used as spotter and lead plane platforms. The Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

 Ministry of Natural Resources has also used the Cessna 337. The Beechcraft Baron
Beechcraft Baron
|-See also:- Further reading :*Harding, Stephen. U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947. Shrewsbury, UK:Airlife Publishing, 1990. ISBN 1-85310-102-8.*Michell, Simon. Jane's Civil and Military Aircraft Upgrades 1994-95. Coulsdon, UK:Jane's Information Group, 1994. ISBN 0-7106-1208-7.*Taylor, John W. R....

 was long used as a leadplane or air attack ship, but most were retired in 2003; more common now is the Beechcraft King Air
Beechcraft King Air
The Beechcraft King Air family is part of a line of twin-turboprop aircraft produced by the Beech Aircraft Corporation...

, used as an air attack ship and leadplane. The Department of Environment and Conservation
Department of Environment and Conservation
The Department of Environment and Conservation is a department of the Government of Western Australia that is responsible for implementing the state's conservation and environment legislation and regulations...

 (DEC), in Western Australia operates a fleet of nine American Champion Scouts 8GCBC during the summer months as spotter aircraft and Air Attack platforms.

Fleet grounding

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, most of these aircraft are privately owned and contracted to government agencies, and the National Guard
United States National Guard
The National Guard of the United States is a reserve military force composed of state National Guard militia members or units under federally recognized active or inactive armed force service for the United States. Militia members are citizen soldiers, meaning they work part time for the National...

 and the U.S. Marines also maintain fleets of firefighting aircraft. On May 10, 2004, The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior which administers America's public lands, totaling approximately , or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state and private...

 (BLM) announced that they were cancelling contracts with operators of 33 heavy airtankers. They cited liability concerns and an inability to safely manage the fleet after the wing failure and resulting crash
2002 airtanker crashes
In 2002, two large airtankers – a C-130 Hercules and a PB4Y-2 Privateer – crashed about a month apart while performing aerial firefighting operations. These crashes prompted a review of the maintenance and use of the entire U.S. large airtanker fleet. Ultimately, the whole fleet was...

 of a C-130A Hercules in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and a PB4Y-2 in Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

 during the summer of 2002. Both aged aircraft broke up in flight due to catastrophic fatigue
Metal Fatigue
Metal Fatigue , is a futuristic science fiction, real-time strategy computer game developed by Zono Incorporated and published by Psygnosis and TalonSoft .-Plot:...

 cracks at the wing roots. After subsequent third-party examination and extensive testing of all USFS contracted heavy airtankers, three companies were awarded contracts and now maintain a combined fleet of 23 aircraft.

Fire retardant


Borate
Borate
Borates are chemical compounds which contain oxoanions of boron in oxidation state +3. The simplest borate ion, BO33−, has a trigonal planar structure. Other borates are made up of trigonal BO3 or tetrahedral BO4 structural units, sharing oxygen atoms...

 salts were used in the past to fight wildfires but were found to sterilize the soil, were toxic
Toxin
A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms; man-made substances created by artificial processes are thus excluded...

 to animals, and are now prohibited. Newer retardants use ammonium sulfate
Ammonium sulfate
Ammonium sulfate , 2SO4, is an inorganic salt with a number of commercial uses. The most common use is as a soil fertilizer. It contains 21% nitrogen as ammonium cations, and 24% sulfur as sulfate anions...

 or ammonium polyphosphate
Ammonium polyphosphate
Ammonium polyphosphate is an inorganic salt of polyphosphoric acid and ammonia containing both chains and possibly branching. Its chemical formula is [NH4 PO3]n showing that each monomer consists of an orthophosphate radical of a phosphorus atom with three oxygens and one negative charge...

 with attapulgite clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 thickener or diammonium phosphate
Diammonium phosphate
Diammonium phosphate is one of a series of water-soluble ammonium phosphate salts which can be produced when ammonia reacts with phosphoric acid...

 with a guar gum
Guar gum
Guar gum, also called guaran, is a galactomannan. It is primarily the ground endosperm of guar beans. The guar seeds are dehusked, milled and screened to obtain the guar gum. It is typically produced as a free-flowing, pale, off-white-colored, coarse to fine ground powder.-Production:Guar gum is an...

 derivative thickener. These are not only less toxic but act as fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s to help the regrowth of plants after the fire. Fire retardants often contain wetting agents
Surfactant
Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, the interfacial tension between two liquids, or that between a liquid and a solid...

, preservative
Preservative
A preservative is a naturally occurring or synthetically produced substance that is added to products such as foods, pharmaceuticals, paints, biological samples, wood, etc. to prevent decomposition by microbial growth or by undesirable chemical changes....

s and rust inhibitors and are colored red with ferric oxide or fugitive color to mark where they have been dropped. Brand names of fire retardants for aerial application include Fire-Trol and Phos-Chek
Phos-Chek
Phos-Chek is a brand of long-term fire retardants, class A foams, and gels manufactured by ICL Performance Products in Ontario, California and Moreland, Idaho.-Fire retardants:...

.

Some water-dropping aircraft carry tanks of a guar gum derivative to thicken the water and reduce runoff.

Tactics and capabilities

Helicopters can hover over the fire and drop water or retardant. The S-64 Helitanker has microprocessor
Microprocessor
A microprocessor incorporates the functions of a computer's central processing unit on a single integrated circuit, or at most a few integrated circuits. It is a multipurpose, programmable device that accepts digital data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory, and...

-controlled doors on its tank. The doors are controlled based on the area to be covered and wind conditions. Fixed-wing aircraft must make a pass and drop water or retardant like a bomber. Spotter (Air Tactical Group Supervisor) aircraft often orbit the fire at a higher altitude to coordinate the efforts of the smoke jumper, helicopter, media, and retardant-dropping aircraft; while lead planes fly low-level ahead of the airtankers to mark the trajectory
Trajectory
A trajectory is the path that a moving object follows through space as a function of time. The object might be a projectile or a satellite, for example. It thus includes the meaning of orbit—the path of a planet, an asteroid or a comet as it travels around a central mass...

 for the drop, and ensure overall safety for both ground-based and aerial firefighters.

Water is usually dropped directly on flames because its effect is short-lived. Fire retardants are typically dropped ahead of the moving fire or along its edge and may remain effective for two or more days. This can create artificial firebreak
Firebreak
A firebreak is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a bushfire or wildfire. A firebreak may occur naturally where there is a lack of vegetation or "fuel", such as a river, lake or canyon...

s where the terrain is too rugged or remote for ground crews to cut fireline.

Aerial firefighting is most effectively used in conjunction with ground-based efforts, as aircraft are only one weapon in the firefighting arsenal. However, there have been cases of aircraft extinguishing fires long before ground crews were able to reach them.

Some firefighting aircraft can refill their tanks in mid-flight, by flying down to skim the surface of large bodies of water. One example is the Bombardier CL-415. This is particularly useful in rural areas where flying back to an airbase for refills may take too much time. In 2002 an Ontario CL-415 crew was able to refill 100 times within a 4 hour mission, dumping an astounding 162000 gal or 1350000 pounds (612 MT) of water on a fire near Dryden Ontario.

Urban legends about aerial firefighting

  • An urban legend
    Urban legend
    An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

     arises sometimes about a water bomber, or a helicopter with a dangling water bucket, scooping up a scuba diver and dumping him on a wildfire site. Urban legend debunking site Snopes.com reports there are no proven cases of this happening in reality.

See also

  • Smokejumper
    Smokejumper
    A smokejumper is a wildland firefighter who parachutes into a remote area to combat wildfires.Smokejumpers are most often deployed to fires that are extremely remote. The risks associated with this method of personnel deployment are mitigated by an extremely well developed training program that has...

  • Wildland fire suppression
    Wildland fire suppression
    Wildfire suppression refers to the firefighting tactics used to suppress wildfires. Firefighting efforts in wildland areas requires different techniques, equipment, and training from the more familiar structure fire fighting found in populated areas...

  • Glossary of wildland fire terms
    Glossary of wildland fire terms
    The following is a glossary of wildfire terms. Except where noted, terms are taken from a 1998 Fireline Handbook transcribed for a Conflict 21 counter-terrorism studies website by the Air National Guard....

  • Women in firefighting

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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