FIRE BOMBERS - 1970s
A selection of my photographs of fire bombers seen in USA in the late 1970s
A number of US air tanker operators used military disposals Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcars, most fitted with a jet pak on the roof
for additional power for takeoff from hot and high airfields. Here's two C-119s seen from the US Forestry Service tower at the
Fox Field Aerial Fire Attack Base at Lancaster, California in September 1977
|Hawkins & Powers Aviation
at Greybull, Wyoming had the largest C-119 fleet, from USAF and RCAF disposals
|Also on station at Lancaster
was Hawkins & Powers Aviation's N383S tanker #133.
This former RCAF C-119G had made a European sales tour in 1968 as the prototype Steward-Davis STOLMaster freighter conversion.
|Hawkins & Powers
Aviation also operated Consolidated P4Y-2 Privateers. N2872G tanker #124
at Fox Field in September 1979
|Hemet Valley Flying Service
C-119C N13743 tanker #81 at the Fox Field fire attack base, Lancaster California
in September 1979
|C-119F N15509 tanker #36 operated by T&G
Inc, at home base Chandler Arizona in October 1979.
Its RCAF origins are obvious from the paint scheme, however the right rudder is an ex-US Navy spare unit
|Also deployed to Fox
Field in September 1979 were two C-54 tankers of Central Air Service from
Central had tanked a number of US Navy disposals C-54s, N67040 tanker #147 starting out as a R5D-2Z
|Aero Union at Chico, California also operated
military disposals C-54 tankers, alongside a variety of other types.
C-54D N62342 tanker #13 was at Fresno, California in September 1977
On the next readiness stand at Porterville Attack Base in September 1977 was Sis- Q Flying Service DC-6A N777SQ tanker #50.
It was fitted with an impressively large belly tank, with cockpit controls for eight different retardant drop sequences
|Douglas DC-7s were the heavy lifters of the
1970s era fire tankers.
DC-7C N90802 at Chandler Arizona in October 1979 was previously BOAC's Seven Seas G-AOIB
|At Fresno in September
1977 was DC-7C N9734Z tanker #32, parked at the attack base with retardant
pressure hoses on the ramp.
This was one of the DC-7 fleet of experienced operator Sergio Tomassoni, who used them as fire bombers and sprayers
|Inside the DC-7C's cabin,
no obstructions when the fire liquid retardant tank is mounted under the
Some cabin placards revealed its Scandinavian Airlines System heritage as SE-CCF on the SAS New York trans-Atlantic run
|The Californian Department of Forestry had
decided on the Grumman S-2A Tracker as the standard fire tanker type for
Over thirty TS-2As were ferried to Fresno from Davis Monthan AFB storage, and parked at the Fresno attack base pending conversion.
The Fresno CDF staff kindly allowed us to inspect these Trackers. Here my wife Jane opens up the compound.
|All TS-2A Trackers stored at Fresno had wings
folded and hand-painted civil registrations in the N4..DF series
|Also at Fresno in September 1977 was TBM
Inc's Grumman F7F Tigercat N6129C tanker #E62.
It was up for sale and its belly retardant tank and plumbing had been removed, hoping for a sale on the warbird market
|Here's the same Tigercat at the Confederate
Air Force airshow at Harlingen Texas the following month.
It attracted a lot of attention with a recent repaint and impressive flying displays, but a quick sale did not eventuate
|The last F7F Tigercat operator was TBM Inc,
based at Sequoia, California. N7235C tanker #E64 at home base September
|Another of TBM Inc's Tigercats N7654C #E63
on the ramp at Sequoia in September 1977
|The tanker operator TBM Inc took its name
from its original fleet of Grumman TBM Avenger tankers.
This TBM-3E Bu53593 had not been converted and was stored at Sequoia in September 1977 alongside other military disposals types.
N5567A had been hand-painted over the Navy markings, despite N6822C being allocated when TBM purchased it back in 1958.
After 25 years sitting in the weather, it was repaired by TBM Inc for a ferry flight to the US Navy Museum at Pensacola in 1982.
|Near the Avenger were three Grumman US-2A
Trackers, stored in their Davis Monthan AFB protective coverings
|Stored Tracker N413DF at Sequoia Caliornia
September 1977. They were owned by the Californian Department of Forestry
|TBM Inc used this US Navy disposals SNJ-6
Texan N9800C on company business and pilot refresher. Sequoia September
|The first Neptune fire tanker was N126Z tanker
#H1 operated by Rosenbalm Aviation in Oregon on contract to the US Forestry
Here it is at the Porterville Aerial Fire Attack Base, California in September 1977, with a recently modified belly tank
|Aero Union's Boeing B-17 N5230V tanker #19
on the readiness stands at Porterville in September 1977.
It had been a US Navy PB-1W Bu77244 until sold as surplus from NAS Litchfield Park, Arizona in December 1957
|Aircraft Specialties Inc B-17 N9323R tanker
#37 retired at the operator's home base Mesa, Arizona, October 1979
|Aircraft Specialities Inc's B-17 N9563Z tanker
#89 at Mesa in October 1979, when it as rigged for a spraying contract
|B-17 Fortresses were the mainstay of US heavy
fire tankers in the 1960-70ss, and most went on to long lives as warbirds.
N9323Z of Confederate Air Force seen in October 1977 was formerly Aero Union's tanker #C17
|Just across the Canadian
border at Kamloops BC in September 1977 were two Douglas A-26 Invaders from
the largest Canadian
tanker operator Conair. C-GHCF was once a US executive aircraft, and still flies with the Lauridsen Aviation Museum in Arizona
|C-GHCE at Kamloops BC.
The tanker base administration office and pilot accommodation block is behind
|The way it was: this rare Douglas B-18 was
among early ex-military types used in USA as fire tankers, utilising its
N52056 tanker #B20 was used by Avery Aviation until the 1960s at Greybull, Wyoming, where it still sat in October 1979
|North American B-25 Mitchells
were used as fire tankers in 1950s-1960s until banned by US Forestry Service,
following a series
of fatal crashes due to structural failure during the pitch-up after dropping their retardant load. However the type did continue
as fire bombers on Alaska state contracts. I was pleased to find three long-retired B-25s still sitting at Fairbanks in September 1979.
N3478G was Alaskan tanker #6 and had wonderful nose art depicting a horse pulling an old-fashioned fire wagon
|B-25 N9857C was Alaskan tanker #8 and had
the same nose art
Happily, all three B-25 Mitchells at Fairbanks were saved, to be restored as warbirds.
North Star Aviation's N88972 later became G-BYDR with The Fighter Collection at Duxford and is now back flying in USA