and Canada 1980s - FIRE BOMBERS Part
Continuing a selection of my photographs of North American air tankers taken during the 1980s.
DC-4, DC-6, DC-7 and Lockheed PV-2 fire tanker photos are included in their own pages in this Photographs series.
|Lynch Air Tankers at Billings,
Montana operated Douglas A-26 Invaders with internal 1,200 gallon retardant
N4060A tanker 01, built as wartime A-26B, at Billings in October 1981. It was lost during a fire attack 18 months later.
N4818E tanker 59 at Billings October 1981 was a USAF disposals TB-26C. It has "Lynch STOL-26"modifications designed
by owner Denny Lynch including turned-down wing leading-edges and fences to improve low and slow manouverability.
|"STOL-26"on the nose
gear door of A-26C N9425Z tanker 57.
|N9425Z at Billings October
1981 was later flown by Denny Lynch in the Steven Speilberg movie Always
in 1989, with the
name Fire Eaters painted on the nose for the fire bomber action scenes filmed at Libby airfield, Montana.
Denny Lynch loaned us his Ford truck, registration plate TANKER, to see
the local sights.
|Lynch Air Tankers had
six A-26 tankers. Others were stored at Billings for future conversion or
as parts sources.
This was a former executive A-26B N5589A, held dismantled following a forced landing in trees in Georgia in 1973.
|Another Lynch Air Tankers
spare was A-26C N74833 ferried to Billings from Texas in 1979.
|Hawkins and Powers Aviation
A-26B N126HP on a cluttered ramp at Greybull, Wyoming in August 1989.
|N126HP was former Canadian Conair Ltd tanker
C-GHCF, part of an exchange deal with the USAF Museum in trade for
Grumman Trackers, then acquired by Hawkins and Powers Aviation in a three-way trade.
|Conair Ltd's home base Abbotsford Airport,
British Columbia in September 1981. DC-6B tanker C-GHLZ has centre stage,
with most of the Conair Grumman Tracker fleet at rear left, and A-26 Invader tankers lined up at rear right.
|C-GHCF tanker 28 heads a line of Conair A-26
Invaders in September 1981. This became the Hawkins and Powers A-26 above.
|A-26C C-GHLX tanker 32 had been an On Mark
executive transport for US corporations before acquired by Conair.
Conair's tanker conversion removed the On Mark lengthened nose, wingtip tanks and modified wingspar.
|Conair TB-26C Invader C-FBMS at Abbotsford
|Douglas TB-26C C-FKBM at Abbotsford in September
|Conair Ltd developed a specialised tanker
version of the Grumman Tracker which they marketed as the Conair
C-GHQY was the second Firecat completed in 1979 at Abbotsford, based on a Canadian-built CS2F-1 Tracker.
|C-GWUO was Firecat No.3, also rebuilt from
a former Royal Canadian Navy CS2F-1 later redesignated CP-121.
|At the end of the Tracker line at Abbotsford
September 1981 were these spare airframes acquired for Firecat conversions.
|CS2F-1 C-GMXY was still in Royal Candian
Navy paintwork, having been held in reserve by its previous owner Ontario
Ministry of' Natural Resources with CF-OPT applied with tape. It became Firecat No.10 and was sold to France.
|Also acquired from Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources was CF-OPY, later rebuilt by Conair as Firecat No.19.
|By far the largest operator of Tracker fire
bombers was the California Division of Forestry, which contracted their
to Californian tanker companies to operate on the CDF's behalf. Here ex US Navy Grumman US-2A N436DF tanker 100,
operated by Hemet Valley Flying Service, taxies at Fox Air Attack Base, Lancaster CA in September 1981.
|Sis-Q Flying Service was operating TS-2A
N444DF for CDF in this September 1981 photo at Santa Rosa CA.
|On Sis-Q Flying Service's junk heap at Santa
Rosa in September 1981 was the stripped hulk of TS-2A Bu136640 with
hand-painted civil registration N410DF, which was supplied by CDF for parts.
|This group of surplus Japanese Maritime Self
Defence Force Grumman S-2A Trackers were acquired by Marsh Aviation Co
and seen stored at Mesa-Falcon Field, Arizona in August 1989. Marsh Aviation was developing a turboprop conversion for
the CDF Tracket fleet using Airesearch TPE331turbines. In the foreground is N724MA ex JMSDF 4133, ex Bu136723.
|Another former US Navy patrol aircraft type
widely used as fire tankers was Lockheed's P-2 Neptune series.
Black Hills Aviation's SP-2E N9855F landing at Billings, Montana while working a mountain wildfire in August 1989.
|N9855F next morning after a night stop at
the Billings Air Tanker Base. The Neptunes carried 2,000 gallons of
|Aero Union Corp of Chico, California extensively
modified surplus SP-2H Neptunes with internal retadant tank as Firestars.
One of their first Firestars N718AU was on duty at Fox Field Air Tanker Base, California in August 1989.
|Evergreen's pair of first-generation SP-2E
Neptune tankers at the company's Marana, Arizona base in November 1981.
|Marana airfield was used for aircraft storage
and among the rows of retired jet airliners in November 1981 was this gem.
N126Z was the prototype proof-of-concept Neptune tanker, commissioned by the US Forestry Service in 1969.
Rosenbalm Aviation at Medford, Oregon was contacted to modify and operate this EP-2E.
|Hawkins and Powers Aviation at Greybull,
Wyoming had decided to tank Neptunes and C-130A Hercules for their 1990s
A visit to Greybull in August 1989 found a number of each type ferried in ex storage at Davis Monthan AFB Arizona.
Here's SP-2H N8064A at Greybull where it was later reworked to become H&P's tanker N139HP #139.
|Also at Greybull in August 1989 was SP-2H
N8063S which became H&P's tanker N140HP #140.
|First C-130A for Hawkins and Powers Aviation
N130HP (ex USAF 56-0538) was partly converted at Greybull August 1989.
It went into tanker service as #130 but was lost due wing structural failure during a fire attack in June 2002.
|C-130A N133HP (ex USAF 57-0482) stored at
Greybull August 1989. It became H&P tanker #133
|C-130A N8055R (ex USAF 56-0507) at Greybull
August 1989 as a storm approached. This became N132HP.
|Hawkins and Powers Aviation Boeing KC-97L
N97HP at Greybull, Wyoming August 1989 while carrying fire-fighting
equipment to Alaska where the company had contracts with Bureau of Land Management and state authorities.
During the 1980s Hawkins and Powers Aviation worked in association with Hemet Valley Flying Service of California to
introduce a Heavy Tanker category using USAF surplus Boeing KC-97Ls. In the event only one N1365N was tanked but
after fire bombing evaluation 1983-85, USFS decided it was not cost-effective. H&P took it over and based it in Alaska.
I did not catch up with N1365N until later, but here are some of H&P's spare KC-97Ls stored at Greybull in August 1989:
|N497HP ex USAF 53-265
|N397HP ex USAF 53-208, last unit was Arizona
Air National Guard at Phoenix.