Re: 737-200 water bomber!

From:         jliebson@roadrunner.COM (John Liebson)
Organization: ISFSI
Date:         10 Jun 96 12:22:22 
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Don Stokes <Don.Stokes@vuw.ac.nz> wrote:


>When we talk about a "waterbomber", are we talking about something
>designed to drop ordinary H20, say that scooped out of a lake, or a more
>complex manufactured fire retardent?  I note that a lot of "waterbombers"
>are converted float planes or flying boats, which I'd assumed scooped
>water into their tanks.

In general, tankers (for that's the proper nomenclature in the U.S.
wildland fire service) drop a slurry, which may be  composed of either
or  both short- and long-term fire retardants.

It is possible to add class A foam to the water used, in place of the
slurry, but this is not often done for various reasons, mainly
relating to the type of aircraft in use and their dumping systems. (My
specialty is the use of class A foam in the structural fire service.)

There are actually relatively few scoop-type tankers in use, the
Canadairs being perhaps the most common world-wide.

>I wouldn't have thought a 737 -- designed for a cruising altitude in the
>vicinity of 30,000 ft and a speed to match -- would be that well suited
>to the job.  What about an aircraft like a BAe146, with much better low
>speed characteristics, yet still with a reasonable cruising speed?  Am I
>missing something here?
>

While I'm not  a wildland firefighter, I know a fair amount about the
subject; I have to agree that, in general, jet aircraft are not
suitable for tanker use. Drops are made at very low altitudes and slow
speeds, for example, places such as deep into canyons, that I'm not at
all certain would be even safe in tanker terms for jet aircraft. I
don't see even a BAe146 being overly useful in this application,
although in terms of the aerodromes often used by tankers, this plane
might have some advantages: Fields are often mountain-surrounded, have
short runways, require steep approaches/departures, etc.

With fires burning in New Mexico, most of the tankers are stationed at
Kirtland Air Force Base, which is also the Albuquerque airport; a  WW
II bomber field, it has a *long* runway, but that one's out of service
for rebuilding, so the somewhat shorter ones are in use, and are quite
sufficient for the DC-4s/6s/7s, even the KC-97 being employed.
However, this airport is really the exception: During the Hondo Fire,
the Taos, NM, airport was used, and it is quite small and unsuited for
most jet airplanes.

We do use quite a few helicopters here, too: Both the Dome and Hondo
fires saw even Skycranes in use.

Now, the structural fire service is sometimes a bit bemused when a
call is made for a tanker, and one shows up with wings attached,
because the structural fire service more or less refuses to adopt the
newer nomenclature of "water tender" for a tanker having wheels, a
transmission, a road license, and no wings.....