Death of Pilots Fighting Forest Fire

Discussion in 'What's On Your Mind?' started by RB, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. RB

    RB Founding Member

    I suspect most have read about the loss of two pilots in Utah flying very old P-2 Neptune aircraft that had been converted to the role of fire fighting . I don't have any info on why the plane went down but I suspect age may have been a factor. A second P-2 Neptune made a landing without one of the main gear not fully extended severely damaging that airplane but the crew was ok.

    The P-2 Neptune's were old when I enlisted in the Navy in the late 60's with most being replaced already although a few remained in service until later. These were post WWII technology airplanes.

    I have to wonder just how we as a country can spend over 8 billion dollars a year on TSA yet can't afford a modern fleet of fire fighting aircraft so firefighters can have the tools they need to fight major forest fires like the one currently burning in Utah.

    Last I read there were nine flyable P-2 Neptune airplanes in the fire fighting fleet, now reduced to seven. What happens when the remaining museum pieces can no longer be coaxed into the air?
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  2. Doober

    Doober Original Member

    One of my memories from living in CA is of watching a tanker plane fighting a fire go down and then watching the plume of smoke from the burning plane. A couple of sleepless nights followed.

    BTW, has DHS go involved in this yet? You know, the terrorists have been encouraged to set forest fires.
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  3. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Those older airframes are better suited for slow, low-altitude work like that. Most other large capacity aircraft than can be had on the cheap are swept-wing jets. They're also a lot cheaper than a bunch new C-130's.

    You're really on the mark about the money, this would be a great investment for REAL homeland security infrastructure. Additionally, if they'd upgrade hardware, it would easier to loan them to other countries (e.g. Australia) when the fires are raging there instead of here.

    There was one in California a couple years ago that broke up due to the airframe stress as it was dumping its load. They literally flew until it was worn out in mid-air.

    However, I would NOT make it a DHS responsiblity. It would great job for the Idaho Air National Guard (I interned for their commander exactly 40 summers ago, a few years before he was their commander). The Inter-Agency Fire Center is at the Boise Airport, and a number of states' ANG units already fly C-130s.
  4. RB

    RB Founding Member

    The aircraft used for fire fighting seem to be privately owned with contracts back to the forest service to support fire fighting efforts. I agree fully that DHS should have no role in this, or anything else for that matter. The problem of a shrinking fleet is real and the problem is now. Won't be long that there will not be enough assets to do any fire fighting unless steps are taken now to replace the museum pieces being flown now.

    I hadn't thought of speed for this type of work but you are right. So what happens when the remaining 7 flyable P-2 Neptune's are either retired or crash. I know that some P-3 Orion's have been configured for this role but these aircraft all have lots of hours not to mention that even the aircraft still in Naval service have needed some heavy duty refits due to structural cracking. Those aircraft are being phased out for the new P-8 Poseidon, essentially a Boing 737 derivative.

    The C-130's also have been converted to the fire fighting role (that is aircraft type that you mentioned failing in flight) but I have no idea of availability of airframes. In my opinion the C-130 production line could supply badly needed airframes for this purpose and I would support tax dollars being used for this purpose. New purpose built aircraft would give many years of service and better serve those people putting their lives on the line.
  5. Doober

    Doober Original Member

    Let me clarify: I did not mean for DHS to get involved in the fire fighting itself. Rather, with the recent warnings that terrorists have been called to start forest fires, I was wondering if DHS had insinuated itself into looking for the cause of the fires and perhaps even the cause of the crashes.
  6. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    I think you were right in your first post. Let DHS shovel the borate. I believe I saw the video about the CA crash Boggie Dog referred to. As I recall, the entire wing assembly came off and the fuselage rolled right off of it. Never saw anything like it. It looked like an old piece of junk. I wouldn't want to be in one of those things. We have money to pay 60K clerks to feel genitals and scanner machines that don't work, but not to buy decent aircraft for those firefighter pilots.

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