Last updated 26.6.17
US FIRE BOMBER OPERATORS: B to C

A historical survey of US fire attack air tanker companies to the year 2000, compiled by Geoff Goodall

B & B Flying Service, Waterville Washington
B & B Flying Service Inc, PO Box 1606, Wenatchee WA
A long established agricultural spraying operation which used a Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon fire tanker on contract to USFS during the 1963 season (at least) based at Wenatchee WA. The Harpoon had been fitted with a fibreglass belly liquid retardant tank by Robert Larabee at Seattle-Boeing Field WA and leased to B&B Flying Service. No record of the company after the late 1960s.
Other aircraft:
Boeing Stearmans: N48782, N56275, N56909, N58622
Vultee BT-13 N67022
Piper Cub N29083
PV-2 Harpoon
N7086C
Bu37443
1963
  F62
Leased from Robert L. Larrabee, Seattle WA
Sold c65 to Bill Dempsay/ D&D Aero Inc


Ball-Ralston Flying Service, Hillsboro, Oregon
Established circa 1946 at Hillsboro Airport near Portland OR by Ed Ball and Norman "Swede" Ralston. Both had been pilots at this airfield prewar and served as military flying instructors during WWII.  Ball-Ralston was built up as an FBO and flying school, but the partners branched out into more adventurous pursuits including Ball-Ralston Flying Circus with a P-38 and P-40 and Ball-Ralston Aerial Spraying with Vultee BT-13 sprayers.  They pioneered spraying of budworm in Oregon forests and gained similar early work in Idaho.
Four Grumman Avengers were acquired and tanked. The first, a veteran TBF-1C was purchased in 1954 in poor condition from US Navy disposals at Chicago and ferried to Hillsboro by Norm Ralston as N7922A. A chemical tank was installed in the bombay and spraybars for forest spraying. N7922A is reportedly the first Grumman Avenger adapted for spraying in USA.
In 1957 Ball-Ralston leased their four Avenger sprayers to Skyway Air Services, Langley BC for the 1957 Canadian forest spraying season. They retained their N numbers but were painted with "Skyway" titles.
Circa 1960 Ball-Rallston Flying Service was restructured as Aero Air Inc, still operating today at Hillsboro as Aero Air LLC.
Grumman TBF-1C
N7922A
Bu48032
1954-c1960

purchased .54 ex USN surplus at Chicago IL, ferried to Hillsboro by Ralston for conv. to tanker
sold c60 to Parsons Airpark, Carpenteria CA
Grumman TBM-3
N7026C
Bu69294
1957-c1960
  D4
purchased .57 ex Chris D. Stoltzfus & Assoc, PA
ferried to Hillsboro in US Navy paintwork
sold c60 to Parsons Airpark, Carpenteria CA
Grumman TBM-3E
N66475
Bu69344
1956-1964

CofA issued 11.6.56 as sprayer
sold c64 to AV Aircraft, Deming NM
Grumman TBM-1C
N5635N
-
c1951-c1960
  D3
sold c60 to Parsons Airpark, Carpenteria CA


Ball-Ralston Avenger N5635N leased to Skyway Air Services for thre 1957 Canadian forest spraying season.
Note the modified cockpit area.                                                                      Photo:  nbavengers.com


Bellroy Air Tankers, Long Beach California
J. M. Jackson Inc, Lacey Building, 27th and Lime Avenue, Long Beach CA trading as Bellroy Air Tankers
During 1960 J. M.Jackson Inc purchased three North American AJ-1 Savage naval bombers from US Navy disposals at NAS  Litchfield Park, Arizona.  They were acquired via Allied Metal Industries which had bid for a batch of AJ-1s for scrap metal.  The three were prepared at Litchfield to be ferried to Long Beach, each having the Allison turbojet engine in the rear fuselage removed. One was lost during the delivery flight in June 1960 when an in-flight fire caused the ferry pilot to bale out.
At Long Beach the remaining two Savages were rebuilt with a 2,000 gallon liquid tank in the bombay and P&W R2800 Double Wasps were replaced by R2800-CB16 models with water injection to increase power for takeoff. The first tanker was test flown in June 1960, the second two months later. In a press statement Bellroy Air Tankers claimed that the Savages would handle twice the load at twice the speed of other fire bombers at that time.They were deployed to the nearby Van Nuys Airport fire tanker base where they flew the 1960-62 seasons.
Other aircraft: P-51D Mustang N5480V was owned by J. M. Jackson Inc, Long Beach CA between 1960-1963.

During 1962 the Bellroy Air Tankers business was taken over by Jack Folz and continued under new name A.J.Air Tankers Inc.
Noth American
AJ-1 Savage
N9142Z
Bu124158
1960-1962
  E88
sold .62 to AJ Air Tankers, Burbank CA
AJ-1 Savage
N9143Z
Bu124167
1960-1962
  E77
sold .62 to AJ Air Tankers, Burbank CA
AJ-1 Savage
N9144Z
Bu124164
1960
   -
crashed 6.6.60 during ferry flight from Arizona


AJ-1 Savage N9143Z #E77 at Van Nuys CA.                                                          Photo by Eddie Coates


J.M.Jackson Inc's P-51D Mustang N5480V parked with the two Savages at Van Nuys CA in September 1960.
Photo by Robert T. O'Dell


Biegert Brothers Inc, Lincoln, Nebraska, later Shickley Nebraska, Phoenix Arizona *
Agricultural dusting and spraying business established in 1947 by brothers Max L. and John Biegert, Lincoln, Nebraska
Operated under the names Biergert Bros and Biegert Bros Aerial Spraying
The brothers moved into heavy spraying aircraft in April 1953 when they acquired a derelict B-17F that had been a war memorial at Stuttgart Arkansas since 1946. They rebuilt the Flying Fortress to airworthy as a sprayer, installing 7 chemical tanks in the cabin as well as two more underwing chemical tanks in fuel drop tanks from a USAF Lockheed F-94 Starfire jet fighter. A rear fuselage entry was constructed using a cabin door from a Lockheed Lodestar.  Registered N17W the B-17F commenced a two year contract for Central Aircraft Corp,Yakima WA on large scale mosquito spraying across USA.
A second B-17 was acquired in 1956 and finished its conversion to a sprayer in April 1957.
The original B-17 was replaced in 1960 by a former Skyspray fruit fly spraying Fairchild C-82A Packet.

By 1959 the Biegert Brothers business was based at Phoenix AZ with address 5915 E Exeter Blvd, Phoenix
Manager Max L. Biegert was listed with address 8941 North 12th Street, Phoenix
Other aircraft:
Boeing Stearmans N73349, N4809V
Vultee BT-13 N61129
Cessna T50 Bobcat N50022, N61398
Lockheed Lodestar N34E (2082) purchased 10.65, sold 8.70, retired at Mesa-Falcon Field, to Aircraft Specialties Inc.
Lockheed Lodestar N6060 (2623) purchased 2.6.65, sold 10.65 to Mexico
North American T-28A Trojan N8098H (1961-1963, sold to Aircraft Specialties Inc, Mesa AZ)
Beech D50 Twin Bonanza (1964-1968)
Boeing B-17F
N17W
42-29782
4.53-5.60
 
sprayer from 1954
modified as fire tanker 5.60 and leased then sold to
Abe's Aerial Service, Stafford AZ as tanker #E84
Boeing B-17G
N117W
44-85806
10.56-12.64

sprayer from 4.57
sold 12.64 to Bolivia as freighter, to CP-762
B-25 Mitchell
N9877C
44-29145
1959-10.61

Max Biegert, sold 10.61 to Crowl Dusters AZ
B-25 Mitchell
N3155G
44-30832
1.59-3.59

Max Biegert, on-sold 3.59
B-25 Mitchell
N3337G
44-86891
4.59-12.59

Max Biegert: purchased at USAF disposal sale
Fairchild C-82
N4833V
44-23031
4.60-3.61

Biegert Bros: purchased 29.4.60, sold 30.3.61


Biegert Brothers B-17G N117W in the late 1950s, with underwing chemical tanks and spray bars

Biegert Aviation Inc, Phoenix Arizona *
Max L. Biegert, previously manager of Biegert Brothers Aerial Spraying, Phoenix, formed a new operation Biegert Aviation circa 1974. Financing was gained to allow the purchase of a large fleet of ex-military surplus Douglas C-54 transports then available for civil disposals at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson. The C-54 was chosen as a reliable and effective spraying platform, which would allow Biegert Aviation to offer wide-scale spraying of insecticides as well as the growing market of ocean oil-slick dispersant spraying.
The C-54 fleet was delivered in 1975 to the original base Falcon Field, Mesa AZ, where they were fitted with fuselage tanks and wing spray bars. A variety of work was undertaken, including forest budworm spraying in Maine and Canada.
Biegert Aviation moved from Falcon Field to nearby Chandler-Memorial airfield during 1980. The stripped parts C-54 was made airworthy for the short ferry flight
In 1989 it was reported that Biegert was leasing a civil C-130 Hercules for an oil slick dispersal contract around oil rigs off the US coastline.
By that time Max Biegert had retired and Biegert Aviation's President was James C. Jeffries.

During 1994 Biegert Aviation President Jim Jeffries announced plans to use some C-54s under the name Classic Air for vacation flights from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon Railway. The tourist railroad business was owned by one Max Biegert!

All C-54s were purchased by Biegert Aviation during 1975 from US Navy surplus sales at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona
Douglas C-54
N44904
Bu56530
9.75-1998
 
purchased 23.9.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 28.10.75. Operated as a sprayer
ditched 14.6.79 in Eagle Lake, Maine while spraying against spruce budworm, salvaged;
Sold .1998 to Airliners of America, later Brooks Fuel: remained stripped at Chandler, derelict 2015
Douglas C-54 N44905
Bu56534


purchased 2.9.75 as N42SB ex International Air ex Davis Monthan 11.2.75; rereg N44905 12.2.76
Operated as a sprayer
crashed 15.5.79 on takeoff Mesa AZ
Douglas C-54 N44906
Bu90389
9.75-3.01

purchased 2.9.75 as N44SB ex International Air, ex Davis Monthan 11.2.75; rereg N44906 9.76
Operated as a sprayer
Sold 3.01 to Brooks Fuel, Fairbanks AK
Douglas C-54 N44908
Bu90393
9.75-12.97

purchased 23.9.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 28.10.75. Operated as a sprayer
Sold 12.97 to Brooks Fuel, Fairbanks AK
Douglas C-54 N44909
Bu90415
9.75-1986

purchased 23.9.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 28.10.75. Operated as a freighter
Leased 9.88 to Aero Amazonico as HC-BPB, departed Chandler 12.9.88
Reg 23.3.90 N44909 on return to Biegert
Sold c1986 to Seafood Resources International
Douglas C-54 N44910
Bu56493
9.75-12.97

purchased 22.9.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 28.10.75. Operated as a sprayer
Sold 12.97 to Brooks Fuel, Fairbanks AK
Douglas C-54 N44911
Bu50857


purchased 19.9.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 28.10.75. Operated as a sprayer
Sold 9.96 to Brooks Fuel, Fairbanks AK
Douglas C-54 N44912
Bu90391


purchased 22.9.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 28.10.75. No civil conversion, stored stripped at Mesa then Chandler in faded US Navy markings
last noted at Chandler 10.98 as stripped hulk
struck-off USCR 8.87. Scrapped
Douglas C-54 N44913
Bu56542


purchased 19.2.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 9.75.  No civil conversion
stored stripped at Mesa in faded USN markings
Douglas C-54 N44914
Bu56498
2.75-3.96

purchased 19.2.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 28.10.75. Operated as a sprayer
Sold 3.96 to Atlantic Warbirds Inc
Douglas C-54 N44915
Bu56528
9.75-1981

purchased 10.9.75 ex Robert Audiss, ex Davis Monthan disposal 21.2.75; no civil conversion,
stripped for parts, stored faded US Navy markings at Mesa, made airworthy for ferry to Chandler 1980, Scrapped
Douglas C-54 N44918
Bu90409
9.75-1981

purchased 25.9.75 ex US Navy surplus
Reg to Biegert 11.11.75.
struck-off USCR 9.2.81
Douglas C-54 N67109
Bu50855

9.75-12.76

purchased 16.9.75 ex Robert Audiss, ex Davis Monthan disposal 12.3.75; no civil conversion
sold 17.12.76 to Jerry L.Wilson
Douglas C-54 -
Bu56524
9.75-1979

purchased 19.9.75 ex US Navy surplus, ferried to Mesa, stripped for parts, derelict by 1978
Douglas C-54 -
Bu39120
9.75

purchased 24.9.75 ex US Navy surplus stripped for parts. Not seen at Mesa


Biegert C-54 sprayer N44912 at home base Chandler Memorial AZ, November 1981.  Photo by Geoff Goodall

Big Piney Aviation, Big Piney, Wyoming *
Big Piney Aviation Inc, Post Office Box 98, Big Piney WY
Founded as an aerial insecticide spraying business by Truman E. Miller who lived in the small town of Big Piney. In 1950 he acquired a Douglas B-18A N66809 fitted out for spraying by its previous owner "Ace" Demers of Salem, Oregon. The B-18 was registered in Miller's name, ownership transferring to his wife Midred M. Miller in September 1952 for the next four years until sold to another sprayingoutfit.
Other aircraft:
Cessna 180 N3642C, Cessna 172 N5869A, PA-11 Cub N778838, PA-18 Super Cub N3289Z
Douglas B-18A
N66809
37-554
5.50-2.56

Purchased 16.5.50 ex Leo J. Demers Selem OR
sold 27.2.56 to K & C Aviation, Missoula MT
Fairchild C-82 Packet
N4830V
45-57763
1.61-7.64
 
Purchased 7.1.61 ex Truman Miley, Roy UT already tanked for spraying
sold 7.64 to Peru as OB-T-749
Consolidated P4Y-2 Privateer
N7620C
Bu66260
By 1963-1964

sold c64 to Avery Aviation, Greybull WY,
conv. to fire tanker #123


Black Hills Aviation, Spearfish, South Dakota, later Alamagordo, New Mexico
Arnold A. Kolb trading as Black Hill Aviation Inc, Spearfish SD commenced fire bombing operations in 1964 with B-17s.
Arnold Kolb had an aerial agricultural business at Beulah, Wyoming with Piper Pawnees in 1966
Two B-17s were acquired from Californian tanker operator Ewing Aviation Co and a business partnership was formed Ewing-Kolb Aircraft, Spearfish SD. This seems to be part of an arrangement in which three Black Hills B-17s had major structural rebuilds at Spearfish by Black Hills Aviation using fuselage and wing sections from other B-17 airframes probably from Ewing spares.

After moving base to Alamogordo NM circa 1971, Black Hills Aviation decided to standardise on Lockheed Neptune air tankers and from 1976 acquired a sizeable fleet of former Royal Canadian Air Force and US Navy aircraft. The first three were purchased already converted as fire tankers, but the following were tanked by Black Hills Aviation at Alamogordo with tanks and delivery system designed by the company.

Company President Arnold Kolb was still a rated Neptune tanker pilot in a 1985 USFS listing, along with his son Nathan Kolb.
By 1993 Arnold Kolb had logged 24,500 flying hours.

Black Hills Aviation was also an aircraft dealership and General Aviation maintenance organisation, with large numbers of Piper, Beech and Cessna types registered to the company over the years. These included top of range aircraft such as new Cessna 208 Caravan N9413F (1.86) and Beech 200 N707BC (9.88)

Arnold Kolb sold Black Hill Aviation's air tanker business in 1993 to the newly-formed Neptune Inc. The maintenance bas at Alamogordo were retained, but the operational base moved to Missoula, Montana where the company was renamed Neptune Aviation Services.

Boeing B-17G
N9323R
44-85828
10.62-1970
  B30
purchased 4.10.62 ex Dothan Aviation sprayer, modified to fire tanker #B30, entered service 1964
sold c70 to Aeroflite Inc, Cody WY
Boeing B-17G N66573
42-102715
7.64-7.79
  85
  A10

  B10
  C10
  10
purchased 15.7.64 ex Ewing Aviation #E85
crashed 21.7.79 during fire attack Cayuse Saddle  near Superior MT
(wreck parts displayed at Mountain Flying Museum at Missoula MT)
Boeing B-17G N73648
44-83864
4.68-7.72
  E56
purchased 2.4.68 ex Cal Nat Airways #B11,
crashed 12.7.72 during fire attack, Socorro NM
Boeing B-17G N66571
44-83814
1969-1.82
  A18
  C13
  09
purchased .69 ex Kenting Aviation CF-HBP
complete airframe rebuild 69-71 at Spearfish SD using sections from other B-17s,
reg N66571 Black Hills Avtn 1.4.71, tanker #A18
traded 7.1.82 to National Air & Space Museum, ferried .82 to Pima Air Museum Tucson for storage
Boeing B-17G N6694C
44-85813
8.69-4.80
  C12
  12
purchased 15.8.69 ex Ewing Aviation CA spare aircraft; ferried to Spearfish .68 for rebuild with replacement forward fuselage due engine test mods, reg N6694C Black Hills Avtn 30.7.70, tanker #C12
crashed 16.4.80 on takeoff Bear Pen NC
Douglas DC-7
N6357C
45490
1977-1.80
   -
purchased c77 ex Travel A Go Go Club
not tanked, advertised for sale 5.78 by Arnold Kolb
sold 1.80 to C. Ricks, McAllen TX as a freighter
P-2H Neptune
N14447
RCAF 24110
1975-9.93
  11
purchased .75 ex Johnson Flying Service, MT
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
P-2H Neptune
N14448
RCAF 24113
1975
  A16
purchased .75 ex Johnson Flying Service, MT
crashed destroyed Wenatchee WA 1975
P-2H Neptune
N65170
RCAF 24125
1975-9.90
  17
  08
purchased .75 ex Johnson Flying Service,
crashed 30.9.90 fire bombing Montesano WA
SP-2E Neptune
N96278
Bu131459
10.76-9.93
  05
purchased 29.10.76 ex US Navy disposals Davis Monthan AFB AZ, conv. to tanker
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
SP-2E Neptune N96271
Bu131434
1977-9.93
  07
purchased 5.11.76 ex US Navy disposals Davis Monthan AFB AZ, conv to tanker CofA 18.5.77
crashed 10.9.87 fire bombing White Sands Missile Range NM
SP-2E Neptune N9855F
Bu131445
1977-9.93
  06
purchased .77 ex US Navy disposals Davis Monthan AFB AZ via Granek Co
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
SP-2E Neptune N96264
Bu128346
11.75-9.93
  12
purchased 11.11.76 ex US Navy disposals Davis Monthan AFB AZ
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
SP-2H Neptune N4235N
Bu144681
USAF
6.81-9.93
  10
purchased 8.6.81 ex US Navy disposals Davis Monthan AFB AZ
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
SP-2H Neptune N4235T
Bu150282 USAF
6.81-9.93
  09
purchased 8.6.81 ex US Navy disposals Davis Monthan AFB AZ, conv to tanker, CofA 3.5.84
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
SP-2E Neptune
N13852
Bu131506
3.82-9.93
   -
purchased 3.82 ex Consolidated Aeronautical Corp
no civil conversion
stored Alamagordo stripped USN markings
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
SP-2E Neptune
N13859
Bu131463
3.82-9.93
   -
purchased 3.82 ex Consolidated Aeronautical Corp
no civil conversion
stored Alamagordo stripped USN markings
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
SP-2E Neptune
N1386C
Bu128422
3.82-9.93
   -
purchased 3.82 ex Consolidated Aeronautical Corp
no civil conversion
stored Alamagordo stripped USN markings
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
later rebuilt as tanker #113
SP-2E Neptune
N1386K
Bu 131434
3.82-9.93
   -
purchased 3.82 ex Consolidated Aeronautical Corp
no civil conversion
stored Alamagordo stripped USN markings
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
rebuilt 1995 at Alamagordo as tanker #07
SP-2H Neptune
N918AP
Bu145918
4.88-9.93
  04
purchased 4.88 ex Aerospace Products Inc
sold 13.9.93 to Neptune Inc, Alamagordo
P-3A Orion
Spanish
P.3-6
Bu150513
1992-1994
   -
ex Spanish Air Force P.3-6 '22-25"
parked at Alamagordo in Spanish markings by 11.92, planned conversion to fire tanker not commenced;
ferried to tech college Abilene Airport TX
later to Aero Union as tanker N920AU #20

      Note: The air tanker Neptune displayed at Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson AZ painted to represent a Black Hills Aviation tanker
     "N65170 #08" on left side, "N14448 #08" on other side, was not a Black Hills aircraft.  It is in fact SP-2H Bu147957/N7060X,
      ex Hawkins & Powers Aviation storage stock, acquired by Pima via the USAF Museum.


Black Hills Aviation B-17G N6657 at Troutdale OR in September 1974.                   Photo by Ron Olsen


N6694C at Greybull WY in 1979. It was lost in a takeoff crash the following year.      Photo by Larry Johnston


Black Hills Aviation Neptune N4235T tanker #09 at Wenatchee WA October 1991.   Photo by Geoff Goodall 


N9855F #06 landing at Billings MT in August 1989 late afternoon, one of four tankers working a
fire in the nearby Bighorn Mountain range.                       
                   Photo by Geoff Goodall


N96278 #05 at home base Alamogordo NM in November 1992.                                 Photo by Geoff Goodall


Neptune Bu128422 with hand-painted registration N1386C was one of four stored at Alamagordo in 1992.
It later became tanker #113 with Neptune Aviation  Services.                                Photo by Geoff Goodall


Black Hills Aviation coffee cup in the company office at Alamogordo NM

Blue Mountain Air Service, La Grande, Oregon
Blue Mountain Air Service Inc, P.O.Box 12, La Grande OR.
Founded early 1950s by Eldon Down at La Grande Airport, Oregon as an agricultural spraying company.
Between 1958-1962 tanked and operated a number of USAF surplus North American B-25 Mitchells for fire bombing
The operation was taken over in 1962 by Gerald D. Wilson with new name Hillcrest Aircraft Company, P.O.Box 12, La Grande OR
Other aircraft:
Boeing Stearman N1181N, N3955B, 3960B, 49700, N49255, N56236, N5685N, N58712, N58957, N62775
Beech AT-7 N8036H purchased 12.10.56 ex USAF disposals, CofA 30.4.57, tfd 7.62 to Hillcrest Aircraft Co
Cessna 180 N1530C, N5329D
Aeronca 7AC N83841
Bell 47 N6752D
TB-25N Mitchell
N2887G
44-86716
9.58-3.61

purchased 10.9.58 ex USAF disposals sales at
Davis Monthan AFB AZ,
1000 gallon retardant tank installed 5.59,
sold 3.61 to Idaho Aircraft, Boise ID
TB-25J Mitchell
N2888G
44-86872
9.58-3.61
 
purchased 10.9.58 ex USAF disposals sales at
Davis Monthan AFB AZ
sold 3.61 to Idaho Aircraft, Boise ID
TB-25N Mitchell
N9856C
43-28204
9.58-3.61

purchased 10.9.58 ex USAF disposals sales at
Davis Monthan AFB AZ
1000 gallon retardant tank installed 5.59,
sold 3.61 to Idaho Aircraft, Boise ID as tanker
TN-25N Mitchell
N9857C
43-28059
9.58-12.59

purchased 10.9.58 ex USAF disposals sales at
Davis Monthan AFB AZ
1000 gallon retardant tank installed 4.59,
sold 12.59 to Red Dodge, Alaska as tanker #4
TB-25N Mitchell
N5239V
44-30079
1.59-4.59

purchased 1.59 ex Mack Ballard CA already tanked
sold 4.59 to Ballard & associates, Riverside CA
TB-25N Mitchell
N3503G
44-30085
7.59-7.60

purchased 7.59 ex USAF disposals sales at
Davis Monthan AFB AZ via Ace Smelting Inc,
1000 gallon retardant tank installed 9.59
destroyed 22.7.60 during fire attack near Baker OR, structural failure of wing spar
TB-25K Mitchell
N9642C
44-29725
6.59-9.59
registered 24.6.59 Blue Mountain
struck-off USCR 15.9.59
TB-25M Mitchell
N8194H
44-86749
7.59-2.63

purchased 7.59 ex USAF disposals sales at
Davis Monthan AFB AZ via Ace Smelting Inc
tfd 7.62 to Hillcrest Aircraft Co, La Grande OR
sold 2.63 to H.M.Trusell, Houston TX
TB-25N Mitchell
N3521G
44-86853
12.59-5.67

purchased 12.59 ex Red Dodge, Anchorage AK
1000 gallon retardant tank installed
tfd 7.62 to Hillcrest Aircraft Co, La Grande OR
converted 5.63 to pesticide spraying with wing leading-edge spray bars,
converted 7.63 back to fire retardant tanker
destroyed by fire 6.5.67 on ground after emergency landing at Red Bluff CA

Douglas A-26
N9161Z
43-22621
by 1962
  F23
tfd 7.62 to Hillcrest Aircraft Co, La Grande OR
Douglas A-26
N9159Z
43-22673
by 1962
  F24
tfd 7.62 to Hillcrest Aircraft Co, La Grande OR


Les Bowman, Los Angeles, California
Les Bowman, Bowman Engineering Co, Long Beach Airport, CA
An early fire tanker operator using USAF disposals North American B-25 Mitchells
Bowman operated in partnership with Paul Mantz Air Service, Santa Ana CA to promote aerial fire bombing.  The enterprise was named
Les Bowman and Paul Mantz Air Service.
The high profile movie aviator Paul Mantz sent two Les Bowman B-25 tankers to Caracas, Venezuela for the 1960 fire season. One was sold to the Venezuelan Government while the other B-25 returned to California. The following year a different Bowman B-25 tanker was ferried to Caracas for the 1961 season before returning to California
TB-25D Mitchell
N7493C
43-3376
9.57-10.57

Reg 12.9.57 ex USAF disposals
sold 10.57 to Paul Mantz Air Service, Santa Ana CA as a fire tanker
B-25H Mitchell
N3970C
43-4999
(1957)

purchased .57 ex Babb Co in stock military configuration with guns:  sale not completed
B-25J Mitchell
N3969C
43-36075
(1957)

purchased 11.57 ex Babb Co in stock military configuration with guns:  sale not completed
TB-25K Mitchell
N7707C
44-30690
6.58-10.58

reg 16.6.58 Les Bowman ex USAF disposals
sold 10.58
TB-25J Mitchell
N5256V
43-28222
1.58-11.64
  81
Reg 13.1.58 Les Bowman ex USAF disposals,
converted 4.59 to fire tanker with 1,000 gallon tank
operated .60 to Paul Mantz Air Service as #81
fire bombing contract in Venezuela
sold 2.63 to Zack Monroe, Burbank CA as sprayer
repurchased 11.63 by Les Bowman, Long Beach
sold 11.64 to Cal Nat Airways CA
A-26 Invader
N7705C
44-35710
3.58

Purchased 3.58 ex USAF disposals for $2,084.
Reg 3.58 Les Bowman, Balboa, California
Sold
TB-25N Mitchell N3516G
44-29035
7.59-5.60
  82
Purchased 7.59 ex National Metals, Tucson AZ,
reg. to Les Bowman & Paul Mantz, Santa Ana CA;
conv. 11.59 to fire tanker with 1,000 gallon tank,
leased .60 to Paul Mantz Air Services as #82
fire bombing contract in Venezuala,
sold 5.60 to Venezuelan Air Force
TB-25N Mitchell
N3515G
44-31042
7.59-11.64

Purchased 7.59 ex National Metals, Tucson AZ,
reg. to Les Bowman & Paul Mantz, Santa Ana CA;
conv. 11.59 to fire tanker with 1,000 gallon tank
sold 2.63 to Zack Monroe, Burbank CA as sprayer
repurchased 11.63 by Les Bowman, Long Beach
sold 11.64 to Cal Nat Airways CA
TB-25N Mitchell
N9456Z
44-29939
5.60-11.61

Purchased 5.60 ex National Metals, Tucson AZ,
reg. to Les Bowman & Paul Mantz, Santa Ana CA;
civil conversion, CofA issued 19.9.61;
sold 11.61 to Tallmantz Aviation for avionics tests
TB-25N Mitchell N9455Z
44-30210
5.60-11.64
  82
Purchased 5.60 ex National Metals, Tucson AZ,
reg. to Les Bowman & Paul Mantz, Santa Ana CA;
conv. 8.60 to fire tanker with 1,000 gallon tank,
flown to Caracas .61 for next fire season as #82
sold 2.62 to Zack Monroe, Burbank CA as sprayer
repurchased 11.63 by Les Bowman, Long Beach
retired u/s at Grass Valley CA by 1963
sold 11.64 to Cal Nat Airways CA


B. B. Burson & Associates, Columbia California
B.B.Burson and Associates, Columbia-Gravelly Valley Airport CA
An early operator of Consolidated Catalinas as fire tankers.  The company ceased operating by 1969 when all Catalinas were sold.
Other aircraft: Beech C-45G N5246V (by 1963, sold .65)
PBY-6A Catalina
N6453C
Bu64041
1962-1967
  E54
purchased c1962 ex Sonora Flying Service, Columbia CA
modified with Wright Cyclones as a Super Cat
sold c67 to Cal Nat Airways, Grass Valley CA
Canso A
N9752Z
RCAF 11040
1962-1964
  E48
purchased .62 ex RCAF disposals
minor damage 9.8.64 undercarriage retracted during landing Columbia Airport CA
sold
PBY-6A Catalina
N2886D
Bu64034
by 1963-1967
  E49
modified with Wright Cyclones as a Super Cat
sold c67 to Sis-Q Flying Service, CA as #E49
PBY-6A Catalina
N2887D
Bu64098
by 1963
  E93
modified with Wright Cyclones as a Super Cat
sold 2.7.63 to Routh Aircraft, Tucson AZ


B.B.Burson Super Cat N6453C tanker #E54 makes a demonstration retardant drop at Columbia Airport in 1964


Butler Aircraft Co, Redmond Oregon
Aviation business founded in 1946 by Calvin J. Butler at Redmond and Corvallis in Oregon.
Cal Butler was born in Redmond in November 1918 and learnt to fly at age 15. He was a USAAF pilot during WWII and when his P-38 was shot down over Europe in June 1944. he was captured and held as a German PoW. After the war back home in Oregon he established Butler Farm Air Service Co in March 1946 to conduct agricultural spraying intially with three Piper Cubs. He moved on to a fleet of Boeing Stearmans, and later Grumman Willdcats and TBM Avenger sprayers before deciding in late 1950s to enter the growing aerial fire bombing business.  He began with two TBMs followed by more TBMs, F78F Tigercats and a B-17.
Butler Farm Air Service was FBO for Redmond Airport, for refuelling and maintenance for over 50 years.
Butler Aircraft associate Butler Rental Co at Redmond provided general aviation light aircraft hire

The Butler agricutural spraying business used a variety of types:
Boeing Stearman: at least six, re-engined with P&W R-985s removed from surplus Vultee BT-13s which were then discarded: N3956B, N49292, N4764V, N62934, N63070
Convair L-13 N4961V sold to Rosenbalm Aviation Medford OR
Stinson L-5 Sentinel N49279. N57254, N54920, N54769, N69091
Grumman FM-2 Wildcat: 5 operated as sprayers with underwing chemical tanks,  N1352N, N58918 are the only ones identified so far
The agricultural spraying operation seems to have been taken over during the 1960s by Henderson Aviation Co which shared the same Corvallis P.O. Box address as Calvin Butler. By 1966 Boeing Stearmans owned by Henderson included N1069N, N1222N, N4797V, N4764V, N52273, N56769, N57047, N58703. Henderson Aviation also had a base at Eugene OR with Bell 47 sprayers.

Butler Aircraft Co was established as an associated company in 1963 to take over the fire bombing operations.  To add Klamath Falls OR as a tanker base Butler bought out Liston Aircraft at Klamath Falls but did not use their Catalina fire tankers, on-selling them to other operators.

A Butler Aircraft Co hangar was destroyed by fire at Redmond Airport on 30 December 1969, claiming the following Butler aircraft parked inside:  Douglas A-26 N9161Z, Stearman N63070, Cessna U206 N4880F. In addition two PA-18 Super Cubs, a Beech Bonanza and
Stinson 108 owned by local owners were lost.  The financial ramifications of that hangar fire had a serious impact on Butler's ability to maintain the services required by the USFS contracts, resulting in Calvin Butler selling 50% of his company to Californian fire bomber company TBM Inc, Sequoia Field, Tulare CA.  Butler became a subsidiary of TBM Inc, but TBM Inc President Hank Moore let both companies continue under their own names and management, but on a shared basis, pooling resources and aircraft. USFS annual tanker contracts often listed Butler DC-7s as operated by TBM Inc, and show TBM Inc's address as Redmond OR. Hank Moore visited the Butler operation at Redmond 3 or 4 times each year.

One of the worst tragedies in the history of the US fire tanker business occurred on 14 September 1979 when Butler's DC-7 N4SW struck a mountain ridge after departing Klamath Falls OR on a night visual sector to Medford OR. The DC-7 had worked a fire that day before departing Redmond in the evening, the two pilots carrying 8 Butler personnel to a celebration at Medford OR, via a stop at Klamath Falls to collect two more staff based there. All 12 on board were killed. The accident investigation suggested pilot familiarity with the area contributed to the flight crew's decision to make the night flight at low level.

A combined Butler Aircraft/TBM Inc investment to transition into turbines resulted in each company putting a C-130A into service, with high tech computerised retardant dump sysems. Butler's N531BA tanker #67 entered service in 1991, only to have its USFS contracts cancelled the following year. Structural failure accidents to C-130A and PB4Y aircraft during the 1992 fire season resulted in USFS dropping both types permanently. Worse was to come. The USFS attitude against aging piston-engined tankers came to a head in 1994 when no annual contracts were awarded to Butler's DC-7s. Half the Butler workforce lost their jobs. The way it was handled infuriated Calvin Butler and his team who made strong protests. Calvin died two months later at age 85.

TBM Inc took over management of Butler, which was now flying vastly reduced hours on fire fighting and support work for State agencies in Oregon and California. In October 1996 Butler Aircraft Co was purchased by longtime Ops Manager Nan Garnick and her husband Travis.
Butler Aircraft Co continued at Redmond until taken over by the newly-formed Erickson Aero Tankers in 2012, commencing with three of the former Butler DC-7s.

The aircraft in the following listing were registered in the names of Calvin J. Butler, Butler Aircraft Co, Butler Farm Air Service Inc or Butler Rental Co, all with the same address at Redmond Airport:
Grumman TBM
N9596C
Bu69361
pre 1963
  E19
purchased ex USN disposals, Litchfield Park AZ
tanked by Clayton Curtiss at Visalia CA
sold by 1963 to P& B Aviation CA
Grumman TBM
N9597C
Bu85499
pre 1963

purchased ex USN disposals, Litchfield Park AZ
tanked by Clayton Curtiss at Visalia CA
sold 10.6.63 to Johnson Flying Service MT





two additional TBMs used late 50s, not identified
one traded .61 to Aero Union on B-17 N5237V
Boeing B-17G/ PB-1W
N5237V
Bu77233
12.61-c1974
   E15
   F15
   65
purchased 27.9.61 ex Aero Union Corp CA
conv. to fire tanker 5.62 as sprayer, later modified as fire tanker #E15
sold c1974 to TBM Inc, Sequoia CA
Grumman F7F-3P N7235C
Bu80425
1959-c1967
   F17
Butler's first Tigercat, purchased 1959
sold c1967 to TBM Inc SequoiaCA
Grumman F7F-3P
N6129C
Bu80390
5.63-6.66
   F16
 
purchased 9.5.63 ex Johnson Flying Service MT sold 6.66 to TBM Inc, Sequoia CA
Grumman F7F-3
N7654C
Bu80373 
by 1963-c1968
   F18
sold c68 to TBM Inc, Sequoia CA
Douglas A-26
N5457V
44-34313
1965-4.75
   A20
   16
purchased .65 ex Wilson Aviation Industries ID
sold 4.75 to Conair, Canada as C-GHLK
Douglas A-26
N9161Z
43-22621
9.65-12.69
   F23
   17
purchased 14.9.65 ex Hillcrest Aircraft ID #F23
leased 6.69 to Conair, Canada
destroyed 30.12.69 in hangar fire Redmond OR
Douglas A-26
N9159Z
43-22673
1965-4.75
   F18
   18
purchased .65 ex Hillcrest Aircraft ID #F24
sold 4.75 to Conair, Canada as C-GHLM
Douglas DC-6
N90739
43044
1970s
   68
leased for periods from TBM Inc, Sequoia CA
Retired at Redmond OR
sold to Everts Air Fuel AK for parts,
remainder of airframe scrapped at Redmond 2007
Douglas DC-7
N6318C
44282
3.73-2007
   F17
   67
purchased 3.73 ex Argosy Travel Club
tanked with AU design belly tank, CofA 24.5.73
retired Redmond by 1990 due wing spar cracks,
used as engine test bed.
scrapped Redmond 2007, struck-off USCR 23.8.07
Douglas DC-7
N6353C
45486
.73-3.75
   66
purchased .73 ex Ports of Call Travel Club
Aero Union belly tank and drop system
tfd 3.75 to TBM Inc, Sequoia CA
Douglas DC-7
N4SW
44287
8.73-9.79
   69
purchased 27.8.73 ex dealer
Aero Union belly tank and drop system destroyed 14.9.79 near Klamath Falls OR,
struck mountain on travel flight at night, 12k
Douglas DC-7C
N74303
44885
1975-5.78
    -
purchased .74 ex Club International
not tanked, stored at Redmond OR,
sold 5.78 to Kevin OMahony, arrived Miami on delivery 5.78 still Club International paintwork
Douglas DC-7
N401US
45145
3.76-2012
   14
   62
purchased 3.76 ex Hemet Valley Air Service CA
already tanked by Aero Union
to Erickson Aero Tanker in 2012
Douglas DC-7B
N756Z
45400
4.78-10.85
    -
purchased 4.78 by TBM Inc ex BMR Aviation.
not tanked, stored at Fresno CA 82-86,
ferried to Redmond as a parts source by 89,
to Erickson Aero Tanker in 2012
Douglas DC-7B
N838D
45347
1980s
   60
leased for periods from TBM Inc, Sequoia CA
tfd 90s to Butler Aircraft Co
to Erickson Aero Tanker in 2012
Douglas DC-7
N6353C
44586
8.82-2012
   66
tfd 8.82 ex TBM Inc, Sequoia CA #66
to Erickson Aero Tanker in 2012
Fairchild C-123K
N3836A
54-610
8.83-1988
  (65)
acquired 3.83 by TBM Inc, stored Sequoia CA in USAF camouflage with two others, not tanked
Reg 8.83 to Butler Aircraft Co
USFS allocated N3836A Tanker #65 to TBM Inc
stored Sequoia CA until traded to USAF Museum in 1988 and ferried to Hill AFB Utah
Lockheed C-130A
N531BA
56-0531
3.91-11.06
  67
Registered 8.3.91 to Butler, after storage at Chico.
Flew 130 hrs in 1991 & 1992 seasons, then grounded by USFS ban on the type
tfd 9.11.06 to TBM Inc, Sequoia CA
Lockheed C-130A
N479TM
57-0479
12.91-2012
   -
Registered 13.12.91 to TBM Inc
no civil conversion
stored Redmond in USAF camouflage 1992-2012
ferried to Visalia CA 2012 still camouflage


Butler Aircraft Company Douglas A-26 N5457V at Redmond OR in May 1971 with curved-down wingtip mod.
A replacement rudder has yet to be painted to restore the tail tanker code #16.        Photo by Ron Olsen


Butler Aircraft Co DC-7B N6353C tanker #66 at Pocatello ID in October 1992.         Photo by Geoff Goodall


Tanker 69 tragedy memorial at Medford Airport.       Photo by Geoff Goodall


DC-7B N401US tanker 62 at Medford OR October 1992 fitted with a spare rudder.     Photo by Geoff Goodall


Butler C-130A N531BA tanker #67 at Redmond in October 1992.  It had flown 130 hours during the past
two fire seasons but was affected by the USFS grounding.                                    Photo by Geoff Goodall


Cal-Nat Airways, Grass Valley California
Cal-Nat Airways Inc, Loma Rica Airport, Grass Valley CA. Associate company was Cal-Nat Airways Corp
Founded in 1959 by R. J. (Jim) Stevenson at Grass Valley. Commenced with Twin Beech tankers and Grumman F7F Tigercats fitted with a 800 gallon fibreglass retardant tank installed, with a single drop door.
Cal-Nat Airways quickly became a major USFS fire tanker player through the 1960s with a large and varied fleet.
Ralph M. Ponte, Grass Valley CA was a maintenance engineer and tanker pilot closely involved with the company. He remained based at Grass Valley into the 1980s specialising in rebuilding former tankers as warbirds.
By 1970 the operation had been taken over by other operators and Cal-Nat Airways Inc was wound up.

Other aircraft:
Beech D18S N44620 (A-28) 1963-64
Beech C-45G Conrad 9800D trigear N7203C (AF-131) 1967-1969
Beech C-45G N9542Z (AF-674) 1965
Beech C-45G N9663C registered to R.J. Stevenson, Grass Valley 1968-1970
North American Harvard N16730 (75-3473) 1966-1969
North American Harvard N28500 (66-2583) 1966-1969
Champion 7AC N82107, N82859 both sold in 1964
Cessna 172 N7215T,
Cessna 182 N2970Y, N2846F, N3570Y
Bell 47 N73991, N8529F
Beech AT-11 Kansan
N6957C
43-10383
1959-7.60
 
crashed 11.7.60 fire bombing near Yuba City CA
Beech AT-11 Kansan N6656C
43-37323
1959-1970
  90
retardant tank installed inside bombay,
based Ramona CA for 1960 season tanker #90
struck-off USCR 13.1.72
Beech C18S
N68854
43-35618
11.59-1970

purchased 12.11.59
struck-off USCR 13.1.72
Grumman F7F-3
N7626C
Bu80404
c1960-1969
  E42
purchased c1960 ex Aero Ads Inc skywriter
sold .69 to Sis Q Flying Service, Montague CA
Grumman F7F-3N
N7627C
Bu80410
c1960-1969

crashed landing 31.8.62 Grass Valley
sold as wreck .69 to Sis-Q Flying Service
Grumman F7F-3N
N7628C
Bu80412
c1960-1969
  E59
crashed landing 7.6.66 gear-up Grass Valley CA
sold as wreck .69 to Sis-Q Flying Service 
Grumman F7F-3N
N7629C
Bu80374
8.60-1968
  E62
  E41
purchased 24.8.60,
800 gallon retardant tank installed 6.64
sold .68 to Sis-Q Flying Service, Montague CA
Grumman F7F-3
N6178C
Bu80483
1964-1968
  E43
purchased .64 ex George Kreitzberg , Salem OR
struck trees during fire bombing Ukiah CA 7.8.66 but landed safely
sold .68 to Sis-Q Flying Service, Montague CA
Grumman F7F-3
N7238C
Bu80525
1963
  E41
leased 1963 ex Dick Gordon, Santa Rosa CA
sold 11.6.64 to Sis-Q Flying Service, Montague CA
Grumman F7F-3
N7619C
Bu80400
1963
  E43
leased 1963 ex Dick Gordon, Santa Rosa CA
Grumman TBM
N9651C
Bu91664
by 1962-5.67
  E57
crashed 24.5.67 on takeoff from a road Jiggs NV
to Ralph M. Ponte, Grass Valley: rest. as warbird
Grumman TBM
N6825C
Bu85883
by 1963-1968
  E37
leased ex Ralph M. Ponte, Grass Valley
sold .68 to Hemet Valley Flying Service CA
Boeing B-17G
N73648
44-83864
3.64-4.68
  B11
purchased 6.3.64 ex Mark Hurd Aerial Surveys ,
lengthy rebuild at Grass Valley and conv to tanker
sold 2.4.68 to Black Hills Aviation SD
TB-25J Mitchell
N5256V
43-28222
12.64-1970

purchased 12.64 ex Les Bowman CA
retired, stripped at Grass Valley by 1968
to Ralph M. Ponte, Grass Valley: rest. as warbird
TB-25N Mitchell
N9455Z
44-30210
12.64-2.70

purchased 12.64 ex Les Bowman CA
retired, stripped at Grass Valley 1963-1968
sold 2.70 to Sis-Q Flying Servuces
TB-25N Mitchell
N3515G
44-31042
12.64-1970

purchased 12.64 ex Les Bowman CA
retired stripped at Grass Valley
Northrop F-15A Reporter
N9768Z
45-59300
1965-1967
  E35
owned by Aero Enterprises Inc, Fresno CA
tanked by Cal-Nat Airways early 1964 for AE
leased by Cal-Nat for 1965-67 seasons
PBV-1A Canso/
Steward-Davis
Super Catalina
N609FF
RCAF 11060
1964-1965
  E40
leased ex Firefly Inc, Portland OR
land-based water or chemical retardant tanker
PBY-6A Catalina
N6453C
Bu64041
1967-1968
  E54
purchased ex B.B. Burson, Columbia CA #E54
sold .68 to Hemet Valley Flying Service CA
PB4Y-2 Privateer
N6813D
Bu59876
4.67-11.69
  
purchased 10.4.67 ex Loening Air, Boise ID
sold 11.69 to Hawkins & Powers Aviation WY
TB-25N Mitchell
N2887G
44-86716
4.67-12.67

purchased 10.4.67 ex Loening Air, Boise ID
sold 12.67 to DuPre Air Activities, Puerto Rico


Cal Nat Airways' first fire bomber was this Beech AT-11 Kansan N6656C tanker #90


Cal-Nat Airways Grumman F7F N7629C at Fresno CA in September 1968.      Photo by Barney Deatrick


B-25 Mitchell N5256V retired at Grass Valley in September 1968, showing the retardant tank and drop doors.
Photo by Gordon Reid


Californian National Air Service, San Francisco California
Californian National Air Service Inc, Pacheco CA (1978), to Concord CA (1979), to Richmond CA (1981)
Operated a Douglas DC-4 on USFS fire tanker contracts
Douglas DC-4
N31356
42914
2.76-9.82
  117
purchased 5.2.76 ex Canada,
noted at Oakland CA 7.76 #117
sold 9.82 to Central Air Service as #117


Californian National's DC-4 N31356 at Tucson-Ryan Field AZ in November 1981. The belly retardant tank
is a different design to those used on most C-54s.                                        Photo by Geoff Goodall

Capitol Aire, Carson City, Nevada
Capitol Aire Inc, Carson City Airport NV
Tanker operator, the company name reflecting Carson City being the Nevada state capitol.
Grumman TBM
N7226C
Bu85938
1968-c1975
  44
purchased .68 ex Whirly Birds, Porterville CA
sold c75 to Craig Aero Service, Buttonwillow CA
Grumman TBM N6447C
Bu53575
c1970-c1975
  47
purchased c70 ex Sonora Aviation, Carson City NV
sold c75 to Craig Aero Service, Buttonwillow CA
Grumman TBM N9433Z
Bu91586
c1970-c1975
  56
purchased c70 ex Sonora Aviation, Carson City NV
sold c75 to Craig Aero Service, Buttonwillow CA
Grumman TBM N5260V
Bu91726
c1971-c1975

purchased c70 ex Aero Union Corp CA
sold c75 to Bernard Hinman, Liberal KS


Capitol Aire's Grumman TBM N7226C at Carson City NV in September 1968.     Photo by Ron Olsen

Alvin B. Celcer
Operated a leased B-17 tanker under his own name for the 1983 season on a USFS contract. The B-17G N3509G was owned by Los Angeles aircraft dealer Richard M. Vartanian who handled large numbers of military disposals aircraft, specialising in P-51 Mustangs. It was registered to Aircraft Component Equipment Supplies Inc, Klamath Falls OR 3.82-7.90 but was retired at Stockton CA from 1984 onwards.

Other aircraft owned by Alvin Celcer:
- P-51D Mustang N12066 (1964-65)
- Beech D18S N8616A (1965-66)
- Beech C18S N52722 (1968) Wenatchee WA
- Grumman Widgeon N9311R (1975-78) Casa Grande AZ
Boeing B-17G
N3509G
44-85877
1983
  102
leased ex Aircraft Component Equipment Supplies
1983 USFS season (at least)


Central Air Service Inc, East Wenatchee, Washington, later Maricopa, Arizona
Formed in 1972 by
William A. Dempsay, Rantoul, Kansas to take over the fire tanker operations of Wenatchee Air Service Inc
(also trading as Wenairco Inc and Wenair).
Bill Dempsay was widely known from from his long experience in the insecticide and chemical spraying business with his family's Kansas based companies D&D Aero Inc, D&D Aerial Spraying Inc, D & D Aero Spraying Inc,
Central Air Maintenance Inc. He had also bought into Maricopa Dust & Spray Inc, Maricopa Arizona.

During Dempsay's move into fire bombing, a variety of aircraft types were used which were registered in his name or his various companies, until Central Air Service was fully established and gaining USFS contracts. By 1975 Dempsay had decided to standardise on Douglas C-54s which were coming up for military disposal at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona. CAS was to acquire twelve C-54s, most of which were fitted with 2,000 gallon belly retardant tanks. As well as USFS fire attack contracts, CAS gained Bureau of Land Management contracts in Alaska.

The CAS C-54s were maintained at Maricopa AZ, later Tucson AZ, Tucson-Ryan Field AZ. During the 1980s, loss of work resulted in the majority being retired on various Arizona airfields. In April 1985 Bill Dempsay was advertising eight C-54s available for sale "ready to fly".
Central Air Service had ceased air tanker operations and the company's focus was on the sale of its remaining aircraft fleet.  Bill Dempsay personally ferried most of the aircraft between storage locations and to new owners.

Meanwhile at his rural farm airfield at Rantoul KS, Bill Dempsay continued with his other aviation ventures, including aircraft sales, jet airliner repossessions, rebuilding DC-3s and restoring ex-military aircraft which were traded with the USAF Museum in return for Convair C-131s. These Convairs were civil-registered to Central Air Service Inc while their commercial resale as freighters was undertaken.

The listing below shows Bill Dempsay had an affinity for the N number of the Privateer N6816D which he flew at Wenatchee WA in 1972 during the take over Wenatchee Air Service. Ten years later that registration and the uncomfortably close N816D, were used in a confusing series of C-54 ownership moves.

See also: D & D Aerial Spraying, Rantoul KS
Consolidated PB4Y-2
Privateer
N6816D
Bu59905
1972
  42
tfd ex Wenairco
burnt out 27.7.72 Wenatchee WA after emergency landing due in-flight fire.
wreck sections sold to Sergio Tomassoni AZ
Boeing B-17G
N3509G
44-85778
6.72-7.78
  F42
  42
  102
purchased 2.6.72 ex Aero Union Corp CA #16,
sold 6.7.78 to Western Air Contractors UT
Douglas A-26
N5544V
44-35552
1974-6.81
  104
purchased .74 ex Rosenbalm Avtn OR #12
sold 6.81 to Kinney Air Tankers MT
Douglas A-26 N9682C
41-39320
c1972-1980
  105
leased ex D&D Aero Spraying, Rantoul KS
sold .80 to Confederate Air Force TX

Douglas A-26 N7954C
44-35724
1974-1980
  106
purchased .74 ex Rosenbalm Avtn OR #83
traded .80 to USAF Museum, to Beale AFB CA
Douglas A-26 N74874
44-34508
1974-6.81
  107
purchased .74 ex Rosenbalm Avtn OR #74
sold 6.81 to Kinney Air Tankers MT
Douglas A-26 N3428G
44-35523
c1972-6.81
  108
purchased .74 ex Rosenbalm Avtn OR #F29
sold 6.81 to Kinney Air Tankers MT
Douglas A-26 N8026E
44-35323
c1973-1977
  55
purchased c73 ex Aero Union Corp CA #C55
sold .77 to Don Goodman, Missoula MT
Douglas A-26
N3428G
44-35523
7.85-Current

repurchased 5.7.85 ex Kinney MT
ferried to Rantoul KS .85, parked since all metallic
PV-2 Harpoon
N6853C
Bu37159
2.81-5.81
12.85-6.87
  176
purchased 4.2.81 ex Kinney Air Tankers MT
sold 6.5.81 back to Kinney Air Tankers MT
repurchased 3.12.85 ex Dennis Hill, Richey MT
conv. from sprayer to fire tanker .85
sold 3.6.87 to Kinney Air Tankers MT
PV-2 Harpoon
N7086C
Bu37444
c1972-1973
  F43
leased ex D&D Aero Spraying, Rantoul KS
sold .
73 to John Hamersley MO
PV-2D Harpoon
N6651D
Bu37537
1974-2.81
  E40
tfd ex Wenairco
sold 26.2.81 to Kinney Air Tankers MT
PV-2D Harpoon
N6657D
Bu64062
1974-2.79
  101
tfd ex Wenairco
sold 26.2.79 to Kinney Air Tankers MT
Douglas DC-7B
N816D
45085
6.73-11.80
  45
  111
purchased 6.73 ex Artnell Corp, Chicago IL
conv. to fire tanker
crashed destroyed 28.11.80 on takeoff Pecos TX
Douglas DC-7B
N823D
45332
2.74-2.81
  110
purchased 2.74 ex Gordon Cooper Travel Club
sold 2.81 to Kinney Air Tankers MT
Douglas DC-7B
N4889C
45353
7.82-1.83
  29
purchased 7.82 ex Douglas County Aviation #29
lsd 1.83 as a freighter
seized 7.1.83 Dodge City KS inbound from
St Maarten, Leeeward Islands with $12M marijuana
sold at auction 4.83 to Douglas County Aviation
Douglas C-54Q
N67032
Bu56529
10.76-2000

purchased 11.10.76 ex Robert Audiss,Tucson AZ
stripped for engines and parts, scrapped
Douglas C-54Q N67034
Bu56548
10.76-4.91
  150
purchased 11.10.76 ex Robert Audiss,Tucson AZ
leased 1984-85 seasons to Sis-Q Flying Svce CA
retired Avra Valley AZ
sold 1.4.91 Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson AZ
Douglas VC-54P N67040
Bu90392
10.76-4.91
  147
purchased 11.10.76 ex Robert Audiss,Tucson AZ
retired Avra Valley AZ
sold 1.4.91 Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson AZ
Douglas C-54Q N67041
Bu56505
10.76-2.89
  149
purchased 11.10.76 ex Robert Audiss,Tucson AZ
traded 6.2.89 to USAF Museum
Douglas C-54Q N67061
Bu50875
10.76-4.91
  146
purchased 11.10.76 ex Robert Audiss,Tucson AZ
retired Highland Farm, Rantoul KS, still here
sold 1.4.91 Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson AZ
Douglas C-54Q N67062
Bu56514
10.76-4.91
  148
purchased 11.10.76 ex Robert Audiss,Tucson AZ
retired Avra Valley AZ
sold 1.4.91 Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson AZ
traded to USAF Museum, flown 19.1.02 from Avra Valley to March AFB CA by Bill Dempsay
Douglas C-54Q N96451
Bu56489
10.80-4.91
  111
purchased 25.10.80 ex Stanley White
sold 1.4.91 Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson AZ
Douglas C-54Q N96454
Bu56531
7.81-4.91
  105
purchased 20.7.81 ex Robert Corey
retired Highland Farm, Rantoul KS, still here
sold 1.4.91 Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson AZ
Douglas C-54M N8049H
N816D
44-9150
7.81-4.91
  102
purchased 9.81 ex South Carolina Aeronautics Commission seizure;
rereg 1.83 as N816D
retired Highland Farm, Rantoul KS, still here
sold 1.4.91 Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson AZ
Douglas DC-4
N31356
42914
10.82
  117
purchased 10.82 ex Californian National #117
retired Avra Valley AZ,
painted "USAF 42914"at Avra Valley by 9.93;
sold 8.02 to Aces High, North Weald, England
rest. at Avra Valley ff 8.8.02 different USAF markings "USAF 44-42914", ferried to Engand,
arr. North Weald 28.9.02
Douglas C-54 N6816D (1

(1982-1983)
  109
N6816D #109 was parked at Tucson AZ 6.82 & 2.83.  Suspected mispainting of N816D
N6816D #109 seen at Fairbanks AK 6.85,
Tucson 10.86 good condition, Tucson 11.86, 10.87, 8.88 10.88
Douglas C-54Q
N96361
N6816D (2
Bu90412
10.84-8.00
  109
purchased 10.84 ex Beaufort County Sheriff's Dept Washington seizure as N96361.
rereg N6816D
N6816D #109 seen Fairbanks AK 6.85 with other CAS C-54s;
But C-54 N96361 (ex Bu90412) was registered to Services Organized Inc Arlington WA from 1982 until cancelled from USCR in 1995:
N96361 seen at Arlington 9.86 in service as a fish transporter; it was reported ditched in sea off Arlington 23.12.86 as part of attempted insurance fraud; seized by Sheriff's Dept and later offered for sale in 1987.

sold 1.8.00 Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson AZ
Douglas C-54Q N96448
 Bu56536
4.85-12.87
     -
purchased 23.4.85 ex Sea Bear Air Transport AK
stored at Tucson AZ 85-87
sold 1.12.87 to American Air Freight Co TX
Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon
N6853C
Bu37159
12.85-6.87
  176
purchased 3.12.85 ex Dennis Hill, Richey MT
sprayer, conv. 86 to fire tanker #176
sold 3.6.87 to Bruce Kinney, Richey MT
Lockheed SP-2H Neptune
N80232
Bu147948
4.89-6.00
     -
registered 4.89 CAS. Held in contractor storage yard Davis Monthan AFB,  CofA 20.11.91,
ferried to Avra Valley AZ in partial civil paintwork
sold 6.00 to Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson
Convair C-131A
N70636
52-5791
2.89-5.89
    -
registered 2.89 CAS.
sold 5.89 to Ibex Internationale
Convair C-131B
N43944
53-7802
12.92-6.00
    -
registered 12.92 CAS ex Air Freight International
stored Marana AZ
sold 6.00 to Maricopa Aircraft Service, Tucson
Convair C-131A
N81599
52-5805
5.89-9.96
    -
registered 5.89 CAS.  Stored Avra Valley AZ
sold 9.96 to Starship Inc
Convair 440
N442JM
438
3.93-8.96
    -
purchased 3.93 ex US Marshals seizure
sold 13.8.96 to Starship Inc


Central Air Service DC-7B N816D June 1976 with a very large belly retardant tank. Photo by Brian Maddison


Central Air Service Douglas C-54 N67040 #147 at Fox Air Tanker Base, Lancaster CA in September 1979.
All CAS C-54 tankers had this same attractive scheme.                               Photo by Geoff Goodall


N67034 #150 comes over the fence at Fox Field CA in September 1981.          Photo by Geoff Goodall


By August 1989 six of the C-54 fleet had been retired: these two were on an ag strip at Eloy AZ.
Most were later parked at nearby Avra Valley AZ.                       Photo by Geoff Goodall



Bill Dempsay (right) had three C-54s and a DC-3 at his farm airstrip at rural Rantoul, Kansas when
visited by Australian aviation historian Gordon Reid in 2015.

 
Central Air Service, Lewistown, Montana
Central Air Service Inc, PO Box 895, Lewistown MT
An established agricultural spraying and dusting business which acquired Grumman Avengers for spraying and fire bombing.
Other aircraft:
Boeing Stearman: N49259, N50325
PA-18 Super Cub: ag sprayers: N4586A, N2874P, N9877D, N3577Z, N54283
Bell 47 ag sprayers: N2806B, N8505F, N3080G, N8401E
Bell 206B Jet Ranger ag sprayers: N5001K, N910BR
Grumman TBM
N7001C
Bu85794
1957-1980
 
purchased .57
held as reserve aircraft, only flown 5 hours, stored
sold .80 to Gordon Plaskett, King City CA
ferried .80 Lewistown to Grass Valley CA by John Crocker,  rest. by Ralph M. Ponte as a warbird
Grumman TBM
N7017C
Bu53857
10.60-1.76
 A17
purchased 31.10.60
sold 1.1.76 Forest Protection, Canada as C-GFPM


Central Aircraft Inc, Yakima, Washington
Commenced in 1939 as a small air service at Yakima. Expanded rapidly with the awarding of wartime contracts for elementary training of military pilots.  Banched into aerial agricultural work in 1943 when a Waco was purchased and fitted for dusting potato crops. A large fleet of miltary surplus Boeing Stearmans was built up after the war, owning 30 Stearmans by 1954. Central Aircraft Inc specialised in wide-area spraying and by 1947 won Government jobs for large scale spraying of grass hopper and fire-ant plagues across USA and black-fly in Alaska plus annual forest spraying to control spruce budworm in 1.8 million acres of forests in New Brunswick, Canada. This wide-area work required multiple aircraft operating to carefully planned procedures to ensure effective application across the target area.
The company set up the first commercial school for ag pilot training. Central Aircraft commissioned Lamson Aircraft Co at Seattle WA to construct prototypes of a new design specialised agricultural biplane named the Airtractor. It was flying by 1954 and could lift 2,500 lbs for fusting, compared to the Stearman's 1,000 lbs
The Boeing 247 N13318 was used on early USFS fire bomber trials over ten days in 1956 based at Durango CO. It had an 800 gallon tank and dropped only water on wild fires, but much of the load turned to mist.  The USFS report traced the cause to the small 5 inch (13cm) diameter drop valve and recommended that suppression chemicals be mixed in the water.
Boeing 247
N13318
1699
1956

op as sprayer by Central Aircraft,
trials in 1956 by USFS as a water bomber with 800 gallons capacity
Boeing B-17F
N17W
42-29782
1954-1955
 
op. as sprayer by Biegert Bros for Central Aircraft,
low level mosquito spraying across USA
Douglas B-18A
N66116
37-628
5.55-1.57

purchased 24.4.55 used as sprayer
sold 18.1.57 to Lebanon Chemical Co, Lebanon PA


Central Aircraft's 1933 model Boeing 247 N13318 was used on eary fire bomber trials in 1956

Central Oregon Airial Co, Bend, Oregon
Central Oregon Airial Co Inc, 1436 W 3rd Street, Bend OR
Operated fire bombing with two Douglas A-26 Invaders. Both were  contracted by USFS for the 1963 summer season.
After the loss of one A-26 the company had ceased operating by 1966 and sold its remaining A-26 tanker.
Other aircraft:
Piper L-4 Cub N27198
Douglas A-26
N9423Z
44-34687
3.61-1964
  F76
purchased 30.3.61, operated as a fire tanker
crashed (no details)
struck-off USCR 13.4.64
Douglas A-26
N9425Z
44-35721
c1961-1966
  F77
sold .66 to Denny Lynch/Lynch Air Tankers MT


Christler Flying Service, Thermopolis Wyoming
Melvin H. Christler trading as Christler Flying Service Inc, Thermopolis WY
Established in 1961 by Mel Christler as a heavy aircraft aerial application business, using Dougas DC-3s fitted for spraying and dusting. One DC-3 N62374 was equipped for fire bombing but the USFS did not accept it. In 1970 five Lockheed C-121A Constellations were acquired from USAF disposals at Davis Monthan AFB AZ. Four were ferried to Themopolis where they were fitted with chemical tanks inside the cabin and wing spraying bars, to provide wide-area insecticide spraying, often involving formation spraying.

Mel Christler gained his pilot licence in 1938 and became a flying instructor at civil flying schools training military pilots before joining USAAF flying transport Liberators between over The Hump between India and China. Back home in Wyoming after the war he established Big Horn Flying Service, Greybull WY with partner Robert Watson. Their flying school used Piper Cubs and Wacos.
Among Christler's students was Greybull man Morris Avery, who was flying Lynch Flying Service at Billings MT Cessna T-50s on spraying and grass hopper baiting. In 1949 the two went into business together in a spraying operation Christler & Avery Aviation Co, Greybull WY.  Commenced using Piper Super Cubs before acquiring two Douglas B-18 Bolo sprayers which were also used for freight work. The USFS needed more aerial spraying capacity for spruce budworm infestations in forests, grasshoppers and fire-ants. In 1958 Christler & Avery Aviation Co purchased surplus US Coast Guard Consolidated PB4Y-2G Privateers. They were ferried to Greybull where they were fitted with tanks and spraybars and used on spraying contracts during the 1958-59 winter. They were then modified as fire bombers, among the first heavy tankers to be used on fire bombing contracts by USFS. Christler & Avery had also introduced the first commercial helicopters to Wyoming with a Bell 47 flown by Morris Avery. This was beginning of a substantial rotary wing division that continued at Greybull for the next two decades

In 1961 Christler took a job as a corporate with Empire State Oil Co and moved away, selling his interest to Morris Avery who continued at Greybull as Avery Aviation Inc.  Morris Avery died in 1965 following complications following leg surgery. His widow Reba
ran the company with the help of pilots Dan Hawkins and Gene Powers. She sold the company to them in 1969 and when it was renamed Hawkins & Powers Aviation Inc.

Christler and Avery Aviation Co, Greybull WY  (1949-1961):
Other aircraft: Cessna 195 N1083D, Luscombe Silvaire N1370B
Douglas B18B Bolo
N52056
37-29
1955-1961
 B20
purchased .55 ex Anthony Stinis NY, sprayer
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
Northrop 1D Delta
N13777
28
5.56-4.59

purchased 29.5.56, converted to sprayer
sold 6.4.59 to Jack Cunningham, Kansas City MO
Consolidated PB4Y-2G Privateer
N7974A
Bu66306
1958-1961

purchased .58 ex USCG surplus Elizabeth City NC
conv. to fire tanker
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
PB4Y-2G Privateer N2870G
Bu66304
1958-1961  B22
purchased .58 ex USCG surplus Elizabeth City NC
conv. to sprayer, then fire tanker
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
PB4Y-2G Privateer N2871G
Bu66302
1958-1961  A20
 B21
purchased .58 ex USCG surplus Elizabeth City NC
conv. to sprayer, then fire tanker
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
PB4Y-2G Privateer
N2872G
Bu66300
1958-1961  B24
purchased .58 ex USCG surplus Elizabeth City NC
conv. to sprayer, then fire tanker
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
PB4Y-2 Privateer N7962C
Bu66306
1959-1961
 B26
purchased .59 ex USN surplus Litchfield Park AZ
conv. to fire tanker
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
PB4Y-2 Privateer
N7682C
Bu66261
1959-1961

purchased .59 ex USN surplus Litchfield Park AZ
no civil conv, stripped for parts at Greybull
TB-25N Mitchell
N8195H
44-30748
12.59-1961

purchased 12.59 ex Alson-Niblock Flying Inc, IN
tanked and fitted for spraying 1.60
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
VB-25N Mitchell
N3699G
44-30801
1.60-1961

puchased 1.60 ex Fogle Aircraft, Tucson AZ
tanked as sprayer
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
TB-25N Mitchell
N2849G
44-30077
9.60-1961

purchased 9.60 ex Dennis Moore, Boulder CO
tanked and fitted for spraying 3.61
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull
TB-25N Mitchell
N9582Z
44-30607
9.60

purchased 9.60 ex National metals, Tucson AZ
tanked and fitted for spraying 2.61
tfd 8.61 to Avery Aviation, Greybull


 Christler & Avery Aviation's crew loading Douglas B-18B N52056 for a spraying job in 1956
Photo: Mel Christler via Ralph M. Petterson


Christler & Avery Aviation's first Privateer N7974A makes a practice retardant drop at Greybull in 1958.
It is still wearing its former USCG markings.               Photo: Mel Christler via Ralph M. Petterson

Mel Christler continued corporate flying for the next nine years, moving up from Cessna 310 to Jet Commander. In the meantime in 1962 he had formed Christler Flying Service, Themopolis WY to establish his own spraying operation.

Christler believed the Douglas DC-3 was an effective platform for spraying and fire bombing, with the bonus of easy conversion to freighter or passenger charter work. He purchased his first DC-3 N62374 in 1963 and had it modified to a multi-purpose sprayer/firebomber with detachable 1,000 gallon belly tank and plumbing to Christler's design. The work was done by Roger Keeney at Torrance CA and Christler gained an FAA Supplemental Type Certificate for the tank system, with hopes of selling the removable tank to DC-3 cargo operators to fit for fire bombing during each summer. N62374 was allocated USFS tanker number B24 for extensive flight trials dropping retardant, which were  were considered operationally successful. However the USFS was concerned that the DC-3 design was inadequate for the airframe stresses sustained during the drop and pull-up of retardant delivery and would not issue a contract for the type.

However as an insecticide sprayer, duster, or pellet bait spreader, the DC-3's performance and economics were good. Engines and spare parts were plentiful. Christler went ahead leasing or buying more DC-3s and set up a maintenance organisation at Thermopolis Airport. CFS successfully bid for a variety of annual USFS contracts: carrying teams of smoke jumpers to parachute into fire zones, forest pest eradication spraying and dusting, as well as general USFS transport work as far afield as Alaska.

In 1970, to allow CFS to bid for a lucrative 12 year fire-ant bait spreading program across the southern US states, Mel Christler decided he needed larger aircraft for wide-area application.  He made a successful bid for a group of five retired Lockheed VC-121A Constellations offered for sale at Davis Monthan AFB AZ. They were in poor condition and a major effort was required to get four airworthy and ferried to Wyoming. The fifth was left at Tucson and stripped of engines and parts. N9466 was first away, flown to Twin Falls ID where a specialist maintenance company installed grain hoppers and hydraulically activated augers for fire-ant dusting. The others were ferried to Themopolis where CFS installed their own hoppers. The 12 year fire-ant contracts were cancelled after only two years, due to environmental concerns. This had a profound effect on Christler Flying Service as well as Globe Air and RALCO, all left with an unexpected drop in income.

CFS gathered its four Constellations at Casper WY where they were modified as sprayers, each with two 1,800 gallon tanks in the cabin and spray bars along the trailing edge of the wings. They gained spraying work all over USA, Puerto Rico and budworm forest spraying in Quebec.  On one occasion all four flew in echelon formation spraying insecticide on a grasshopper plague at Moses Lake WA.
During 1978 reduced demand caused Christler to advertise the Constellations for sale and they were all sold early the following year. Mel Christler went to Canada with the three sold to Beaver Air Spray to assist the new owner. Christler Flying Service continued for several more years at Thermopolis but their DC-3 smoke jumper contracts were not renewed as the USFS introduced turbine aircraft types.

Such was Mel Christler's affection for the Constellation that, some years after selling his sprayers to Canada, he became aware that his spares aircraft 48-610 had been President Eisenhower's personal aircraft Columbine II.  It was by now a stripped hulk resting on its tailplane in Desert Aircraft Supplies storage yard adjacent to Davis Monthan AFB. Items missing included power plants and undercarriage. Mel was determined to get her back into the air and commenced work. He acquired sister VC-121A N608AS at the closing-down auction of Globe Air at Mesa AZ in October 1985. It was in very poor condition after years retired in the open weather and missing parts. In July 1986 Mel ferried N608AS from Mesa to Tucson-Ryan Field. There the engines and undercarriage were removed and taken to Tucson for installation in 48-610. The restoration continued, now in partnership with Henry Oliver of Santa Fe NM. On 5 April 1990, the restored N9463 Columbine II was flown from Davis Monthan to Ryan Field by Lockie Christler, Mel's son. After attending air shows and historic events the aircraft was retired with only occasional flights until sold to Dynamic Aviation and delivered to their home base at Bridgewater VA in March 2016.
My thanks to Ralph M. Petterson for information and pictures relating to the career of Mel Christler

Christler Fying Service, Thermopolis WY (1963-1980)
Douglas DC-3
N62374
12534
1963-11.81
  B24
purchased .63 ex West Coast Airways CA
conv. to sprayer,
then fire bomber trials, but not accepted by USFS,
then USFS smoke jumper transport contracts
sold 11.81 to Sky Train Inc, McAllen TX
Douglas DC-3 N498
1903
6.70-11.81

sprayer, retired Thermopolis, stripped by 77,
sold 11.81 to Sky Train Inc, McAllen TX
Douglas DC-3 N86462 19581
1972-4.79

purchased .72 ex South West Aviation NM
smoke jumper transport
sold 19.4.79 to Centennial Airways, Reno NV
Douglas DC-3 N2204S
12798
1972-4.79

purchased .72 ex South West Aviation NM
smoke jumper transport, then sprayer
sold 17.4.79 to Centennial Airways, Reno NV
Douglas DC-3 N520
11851
1971-3.77

leased ex Remmert Werner until purchased 3.73
smoke jumper transport, sold 3.77 to A. Hulsey
Douglas DC-3 N51041
19851
3.74-1982

smoke jumper transport
destroyed by fire on ground at Redmond OR
Douglas DC-3 N12CA
12332
c1970

leased to replace N51041 for one summer
Douglas DC-3 N101KC
11639
c1975-3.81

retired Thermopolis by 77
USFS personnel transport
sold 3.3.81 to Royal West Airlines, Las Vegas NV
Douglas DC-3 N344
19234
c1969-c1975

smoke jumper transport
Douglas DC-3 N64766
27218
c1977-1979

leased for smoke jumper contract Missoula MT
Douglas DC-3 N64767
10199
c1977-1979
leased for smoke jumper contract Missoula MT
Douglas DC-3 N101SF
11674
c1977-1978
leased for smoke jumper contract Missoula MT
Douglas DC-3 N19922
4135
1.77-4.81

puchased 3.1.77 ex Applicators Inc, Premon TX
operated as a sprayer
sold 28.4.81 to Stanley Booker, Las Vegas NV
Lockheed C-121A Constellation
N9463
48-610
5.70-1981

stored, stripped of engines undercarriage and parts, in contractor's yard Davis Monthan AFB AZ.
restored 1985-90 by Mel Christler, flown out 5.4.90 as Eisenhower's "USAF 8610 Columbine II"
C-121A Constellation
N9464
48-609
5.70-4.79

stored at Tucson, ferried .74 to Casper WY where
tanked .74 by CFS at Casper WY for spraying
sold 18.4.79 to Beaver Air Spray as C-GXKO
C-121A Constellation N9465
48-612
5.70-4.79

conv. 71 by CFS for fire-ant dusting,
tanked .74 by CFS at Casper WY for spraying
sold 18.4.79 to Beaver Air Spray as C-GXKR
C-121A Constellation N9466
48-615
5.70-1.79

conv .71 Twin Falls ID for fire-ant dusting,
tanked .74 by CFS at Casper WY for spraying
sold 1.79 to Sea Hound International, to HI-3228
C-121A Constellation N9467
48-617
5.70-4.79

conv. 71 by CFS for fire-ant dusting
tanked .74 by CFS at Casper WY for spraying
sold 18.4.79 to Beaver Air Spray as C-GXKS
crashed 21.6.79 landing Riviere du Loup Quebec


Christler Flying Service DC-3 N62374 during fire bombing trials from a 1000 gallon belly tank.
Photo: Mel Christler via Ralph M. Petterson


Christler Constellation N9466 "SCAP" with others at a spraying base during the 1970s. Photo: Mel Christler


Mel Christler's superb restoration of his spare parts VC-121A "Columbine".              Photo by Graham Robson


Former Christler Constellation C-GXKR at St Jean Quebec in Ocober 1981, by then owned by Canadian
forest spraying operator Conifair Aviation.                                                Photo by Geoff Goodall


Mel Christler in 2003 in retirement in Texas.         Photo by Ralph M. Petterson


CISCO Aircraft, Lancaster, California
Zack C. Monroe trading as CISCO Aircraft Inc, PO Box 183, Lancaster CA.
Willis "King"Baker was also involved with CISCO (see Aero Enterprises Inc in Part 1)
Monroe had several aircraft registered in his own name with address 44021 North Fig Street, Lancaster CA
An early heavy aircraft tanker operator, providing agricultural and chemical spraying and fire bombing. Ceased operations by 1964.
The Avenger tankers were painted with large "CISCO" on fuselage sides.
Press report of the 22 July 1960 crash of B-25 N3446G states three persons on board were killed, the two pilots and "the owner of the aircraft and employer of the victims" .
Grumman TBM
N7850C
Bu69355
by 1963
 
sold .63 to Desert Aviation Service, Mesa AZ
Grumman TBM N8397H
Bu69459
by 1963

sold .63 to Aerial Applicators, UT
Grumman TBM N8398H
Bu53607
by 1963

sold .63 to Aerial Applicators, UT
Grumman TBM N9584Z
Bu85882
1961-c1963

purchased .61 ex Selk Co, Hollywood CA
not tanked, retained turret & bomb doors, stored
sold c64 to Loening Air, Boise ID
Grumman TBM N9686Z
Bu85886
by 1963

sold c64 to Loening Air, Boise ID
Grumman TBM N9307Z
Bu86091
by 1962-1964
 E82
sold 12.5.65 to D&D Aero Spraying, Rantoul KS
Grumman TBM N9595C
Bu53479
by 1962-1964
 E67
sold c65 to D&D Aero Spraying, Rantoul KS
Grumman TBM N9592C
Bu53607
by 1963

sold 28.8.63 to Aerial Applicators, UT
Grumman TBM N9564Z
Bu91388
by 1963
 E56
sold .63 to Aircraft Specialties, Mesa AZ
Grumman TBM N9569Z
Bu91438
by 1963

purchased ex Aerial Services Inc, Chino CA
sold .63 to Desert Aviation Service, Mesa AZ
Grumman TBM N9590Z
Bu91733
9.60-1962
  E81
  77
purchased 9.60, tanked at Chino CA .61,
first fire attack mission 16.8.61 as #E81
(flew only 50 hours with Cisco)
sold .62 to Desert Aviation Service, Mesa AZ
Grumman TBM N9565Z
Bu91580
by 1963

registered to Zack C. Monroe
Consolidated PB4Y-2
Privateer
N6813D
Bu59876
12.59-11.61
    -
purchased 3.12.59 ex Lysdsale Flying Service MN
used a sprayer, wing trailing edge spray bars
sold 11.61 to Sun Valley Insurance CA
TB-25N Mitchell
N3446G
44-31466
4.60-7.60
  66
purchased 4.60 ex Les Bowman CA, tanked
destroyed 22.7.60 during fire attack, Acton CA
TB-25J Mitchell
N5256V
43-28222
2.62-11.63

registered to Zack C. Monroe, Burbank CA
purchased 2.62 ex Les Bowman CA, tanked
spray bars installed 6.62
sold 11.63 to Les Bowman, Long Beach CA


CISCO Grumman TBM N9590Z #77.                                                                             nbavengers.com


Former CISCO Grumman TBM N8397H parked on flat tyres at Salt lake City UT in August 1966, while held
in reserve by Aerial Applicators Inc. It was later returned to fire bomber service.              Photo by Neil Aird

Clarks Aerial Service, Brownfield Texas *
Clarks Aerial Service Inc, PO Box 807, Brownfield TX. Based at Terry County Airport, Brownfield TX.
Also used name Clarks Aero Service Inc, Brownfield
Aerial application operation established in the 1950s by Lonnie D. Clark, Brownsville TX. Advertised as aerial spreading, dusting and seeding contractors. Heavy aircraft were introduced in the 1960s with the Lockheeds fitted with a liquid or granular chemical hopper in the cabin with dump door or spreader gear through the bomb-bay. Manager at this time was Wayne C. Hill. The company gained large scale contracts across USA which allowed introduction of Curtiss C-46s for low-level wide-area seeding.

Clarks appears to have operated in association with another Brownfield ag operator Brownfield Aerial Service, President Harley D. Wilke.
In 1977 the assets and remaining aircraft of Clarks Aerial Service were transferred to Brownfield Aerial Service, which also used the names Brownfield Aerial Inc,  Brownfield Aero.  However operations had ceased by 1977 and the Lockheeds were left parked outside at Brownfield waiting to be sold.
Other aircraft:
Boeing Stearman: N64708, N59659, N64974, N4591N
T-6G Texan N2892G, N2893G: both ex USAF to Lonnie D. Clark, then Clarks Aerial Service, sold by 1970
Mooney M20 N5942Q
Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon
N7272C
Bu37276
6.66-10.77
 
purchased 9.6.66 ex Donaire Inc, Phoenix AZ
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc
sold 21.3.79 to Oklahoma Aircraft Corp Yukon OK
Lockheed PV-2
N7458C
Bu37234
.66-10.77

purchased .66 ex Quintana Petroleum TX
conv. to agriculural spreader 7.66,
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc
sold 9.78 to Oklahoma Aircraft Corp Yukon OK
Lockheed PV-2
N7459C
Bu37230
.68-10.77

purchased .68 ex Aero Ag Inc, Medford OR
accident .71 DeRidder LA, left there damaged til 79
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc
sold.79 to Oklahoma Aircraft Corp Yukon OK
Lockheed PV-2
Howard Cargo Harpoon
N7428C
Bu37262
5.69-10.77

(4 feet fuselage stretch, cargo door, other mods)
purchased 26.5.69 ex Jewell Foilage Co
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc TX
sold 17.2.78 to Julian Giraud, Ft Lauderdale FL
Lockheed PV-1 Howard Super Ventura
N131A
Bu33153
1.68-10.77

purchased 19.1.68 ex Ada Oil Co, Houston TX
converted 4.68 to duster by Spartan Aircraft ,Tulsa
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc TX
derelict stripped by 87, abandoned at Brownfield
Lockheed PV-1
Spartan Ventura
N164H
Bu33323
1969-10.77

purchased .68 ex Gulf & Western, Houston TX
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc TX
sold 31.3.78 to E. R. Miether, Odessa TX
Lockheed PV-1
Spartan Ventura
N159U
Bu33369
2.69-10.77

purchased 25.2.69 ex Spartan Aircraft, Tulsa OK
delivered Tulsa-Brownfield 25.2.69 after being tanked by Spartan
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc TX
sold 11.12.77 to Aristera Co, Lubbock TX
Lockheed PV-1
Howard Super Ventura
N45CK
Bu33324
7.69-5.73

purchased 17.7.69 ex University of Minnesota
crashed 4.5.73 fire-ant dusting, Union Springs AL
Lockheed PV-1
Howard Super Ventura
N4680
Bu34605
7.69-1976

purchased 24.7.69 ex Howard Aero, San Antonio
u/s abandoned Montgomery AL, to Montgomery Airport Authority 1.77 to be used for fire practice
struck-off USCR 24.3.77
Lockheed PV-1
Ohio Executive Ventura
N151V
Bu34807
1.70-10.77

purchased 23.1.70 ex John W. Debaun NJ
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc TX
sold 11.78 to I. N. Junior Burchinal, Paris TX
Lockheed PV-1
Spartan Ventura
N165H
Bu48654
10.77-79

purchased by Brownfield Aero 7.10.77 ex
Flying W Airways, Medford NJ already tanked.
sold.79 to Oklahoma Aircraft Corp Yukon OK
Curtiss C-46 Comando
N67935
44-78560
7.72-10.77

purchased by Clarks Aerial Service 7.7.2
retired at Brownfield by 1977
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc
sold 15.2.78 to Sek Inc
Curtiss C-46
N9890Z
4-77715
7.72

purchased by Clarks Aerial Service 11.7.72
retired at Brownfield by 1977
sold 7.10.77 to Brownfield Aerial Inc
sold 17.3.78 to Onyx Avtn, Oklahoma City
Curtiss C-46
N9906F
42-96615
7.72

purchased by Clarks Aerial Service 28.7.72
sold 9.6.79 to Aerospace International, Miami FL
Curtiss C-46
N355CC
42-107368
1972-1975

purchased by Clarks Aerial Service 1972
sold, with Air Haiti by 1976


Ventura N151V at Brownfield TX in May 1973. Despite the chemical hopper inside the cabin the windows
retain their curtains from its executive transport days.                                 Photo by Jay L. Sherlock      


Former Clarks Aerial Service Ventura N165H on the Oklahoma Aircraft sales lot at Yukon OK in 1981.
The roof hopper loading hatch can be seen in the faded paintwork.             Photo by Geoff Goodall


Cochise County Airport, Willcox, Arizona
Cochise County Airport Inc was a Fixed Base Operator which operated Grumman Avenger fire tankers in the early 1960s.
The following two were in the USFS tanker allocation list for 1963 summer season based at Willcox and Marana AZ
Grumman TBM
N6826C
Bu86244
by 1962
 C53
sold .63 to Sonora Flying Service CA
Grumman TBM
N3968A
Bu53692
by 1962
 C46
sold .63 to Sonora Flying Service CA


Colco Aviation, Anchorage, Alaska
Colco Aviation Inc, Anchorage AK (1963), to Fairbanks AK (1969)
Tanker operator which provided fire bombing as well as a range of Alaskan services such as dropping sand on frozen rivers.
Despite the USFS ban on B-25 fire bombers from 1962 due to wing structural failures during retardant drops, the type continued to be used in Alaska operating for State authorities.
TB-25N Mitchell
N9936Z
44-30756
5.61-c1972
   3
purchased 5.61 ex Paul Hanson CA
retired Fairbanks, stripped hulk by 75
TB-25N Mitchell
N9937Z
43-3910
5.61-6.67
   2
purchased 5.61 ex Paul Hanson CA
crashed 27.6.67 while fire bombing Rampart AK
TB-25N Mitchell
N9444Z
44-29943
5.61-c1972

purchased 5.61 ex Kenneth Patterson Tucson AZ
retired Fairbanks early 70s, stripped for parts
derelict hulk to Fairbanks Airport fire station by 77
B-25D Mitchell
N88972
43-3318
RCAF KL161
4.69-c1972

purchased 4.69 ex North Star Aviation, Fairbanks
retired Fairbanks 77-81
sold 5.80 to Merrill Wien, Kent WA


Colco's B-25 N9936Z tanker #3 at Fairbanks, Alaska in September 1968.                         Photo by Neil Aird


Colco's last B-25 N88972, retired at Fairbanks AK in September 1979. The tyres were flat and the name of its
previous owner North Star Aviation remained in faded paint under the cockpit.        Photo by Geoff Goodall


Columbia Flying Service, Hollister, California
Columbia Flying Service was contracated in the 1963 USFS fire tanker allocations for these two Avengers stationed at Hollister CA.
Grumman TBM
N9710Z
Bu53804
by 1963-c1965
 E79
sold c65 to George C. Abell, Topanga CA #E79
Grumman TBM
N9718Z
Bu53818
1963-c1965
 E89
purchased c63 ex Ewing Aviation CA
sold c65 to George C. Abell, Topanga CA #E79


Craig Aero Service, Buttonwillow, California
Danny Wayne Craig operated an agricultural spraying business in central California. Former fire bombing Grumman TBM Avengers were acquired in the mid 1970s, two retaining their fire tanker code numbers while spraying with Craig. Although single-engined tankers were no longer contracted by USFS, they may have been used for fire bombing for State authorities.
Craig Aero Service operated in association with another spraying operator Stewart Aviation, Moses Lake WA and the TBMs were moved between the two companies.
Other aircraft: Champion 7EC N1883G (1968-1971)
Grumman TBM
N9586Z
Bu85886
c1974-5.75

purchased c1974 ex Hillcrest Aircradt ID #A9
forced landing gear-up 23.5.75 Winters CA while spraying a tomato crop
sold damaged to Ralph M. Ponte, Grass Valley CA who rebuilt it as a warbird
Grumman TBM
N6447C
Bu53575
c1975-c1984
  47
purchased ex Capitol Aire NV #47
sold c84 to Northwest Warbirds ID
Grumman TBM
N9433Z
Bu91586
c1975-c1984
  56
purchased ex Capitol Aire NV #56
sold c84 to Northwest Warbirds ID
Grumman TBM
N7226C
Bu85886
c1975-c1983
 
purchased ex Capitol Aire NV #44
sold c83 to Stewart Aviation, Moses Lake WA


Crowl Dusters, Phoenix Arizona
Crowl Dusters Inc, 1125 W.Soland Drive, Phoenix. Based Air Haven Airport, Phoenix.
Founded by early 1950s by Cliffird R. Crowl, Glendale AZ
Agricultural operator. Held FAA type certification for military surplus Navy N3N biplanes and marketed agricultural modifications including extended wing span on the lower mainplanes.  One B-25 Mitchell was used for fire bombing
Other aircraft:
Boeing Stearman N5354N
Navy N3N N44863, N44842, N44700
Vultee BT-13 N61119
Piper J3 Cub N91983
TB-25N Mitchell
N9877C
44-29145
10.61-9.65
 C39
purchased ex Max Biegert, Phoenix
sold 9.65 to Allied Aircraft Sales, Phoenix


Crowl Dusters B-25 Mitchell N9877C #C39 with belly retadant tank

Clayton V. Curtis, Visalia California
Clayton Curtis was a veteran of the tanker business. In the mid 1950s he was a mechanic at Visalia CA specialising in agricultural tanker maintenance. Calvin Butler had three Grumman TBMs he purchased from US Navy disposals at Litchfield Park AZ ferried to Visalia, where Curtiss stripped out the military gear and installed chemical tanks for spraying to two TBMs, keeping the third as payment. 
By the early 1960s he operated TBMs as sprayers and fire bombers in California under the name Frontier Airways, Visalia CA.
During 1961 Clayton Curtis owned at least one Beech AT-11 tanker N6414C in an arrangement with Texas Air Chemical Corp and
Donald R. Curtis, who traded as Curtis Air Ranch and aircraft dealership Airplanes Inc, Hominy OK. Whether Donald Curtis was a relative is not known. Airplanes Inc purchased for resale the majority of the FAA Beech 18 fleet when retired 1959-61.

The 1963 USFS tanker contract list shows Grumman Avenger N9593C contracted to Clayton Curtiss, Boise ID.
Curtiss' Boise operation appears to have been taken over the following year by Michael T. Loening trading as Loening Air, Boise ID which shared the same PO Box number.  In 1964-65 Loening Air purchased three TBMs including N9593C, a B-25 and a PB4Y-2 Privateer.
N9593C later reverted to Curtiss' ownership in 1968,

Curtiss believed retired Martin 404 airliners would make efficient agricultural sprayers or spreaders and designed a modification scheme to tank the type. In 1969-70 he installed tanks and spray systems in four ex Piedmont Airlines Martin 404s for Charlotte Aircraft. During the 1970s he was engaged to modify Martin 404s for other agricultural contractors in Mississippi and California.
Meanwhile, from 1973 operating as Frontier Airways Inc, Crowville Louisiana, Curtiss was operating his own 404 sprayer N9234C.
Later a new operating base was established at Sheridan, Wyoming under the Frontier Airways name, operated by Clayton and his son Sam. More Martin 404s were acquired and used to apply liquid or granular pesticides against grasshoppers and other pests   Two Martins were lost in takeoff crashes and the business ceased operations by 1989.
Clayton Curtiss was working on his Callair A9 N8246H when the airfield was visited in Augsut 1995.

The NTSB summary of the loss of Martin 404 N40443 at Buffalo WY on 27 June 1986:
"N40443 was contracted by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to spray grasshoppers. The aircraft collided with a dirt bank during takeoff and was destroyed. 3 on board Fatal. Investigation revealed the Pilot held a Private Certificate with multi-engine rating. His Medical Certificate was denied because he failed to provide information concerning high blood pressure and alcoholism.  Copilot held a Commercial Certificate with a single engine rating. No evidence was found to indicate either pilot had any operating experience in the Martin 404 aircraft. Former employees of the operator stated that N40443 was not well maintained: the Attitude Direction Indicator instrumentation and interior lighting were inoperative.
Weight of the aircraft at the time of the accident was calculated to be 44,492 pounds. The Max Gross Weight for a Dry takeoff from a 4,500 feet runway was approx 37,900 pounds. The Flight Manual performance charts indicate that a runway length of over 5,500 feet would be needed at 44,492 pounds."
Grumman TBM
N9593C
Bu69472
by 1963-c1970
 D5
registered to Frontier Airways, Visalia CA
operated 63 as fire tanker C. V. Curtiss, Boise ID
sold c65 to Loening Air, Boise ID
repurchased c68 C. V. Curtiss, Boise ID
sold c70 to Bill Dempsay/D&D Aero Spray KS
Grumman TBM
N6827C
Bu91110
7.57-6.59
  -
purchased 19.7.57 by Clayton Curtis ex US Navy surplus at NAS Norfolk VA, ferried by him to Bakersfeld CA, conv. 6.58 to sprayer, flew forest insecticide spraying Colorado by 7.58;
sold 24.6.59 to TBM Inc, Visalia CA
Beech AT-11
N6414C
41-1144
1961

leased ex Rosenbalm Aviation, Medford OR tanker
sold 12. 61
Martin 404 N9234C
14143
11.73-1989
   -
purchased 17.11.73 ex CMH Leasing Corp,
had been conv. to sprayer 6.73 by Clayton Curtiss
open storage Sheridan WY by 1989, still there 2010
Martin 404
N40418
14124
4.82-1989
   -
purchased 12.4.82 ex Marvin L. Janzen, had been parked at Madera CA since 1976, stripped for parts, hulk remained at Madera, broken-up for scrap 2.89
Martin 404 N40443
14228
5.82-6.86
   -
purchased 26.5.82 ex Marvin L. Janzen, had been parked at Madera CA since 1976,
tanked for spraying by Clayton Curtiss
crashed on takeoff 27.6.86 Buffalo WY
Martin 404 N40445
14230
4.82-5.82
   -
purchased 12.4.82 ex Marvin L. Janzen, had been parked at Madera CA since 1976,
crashed on takeoff 15.5.82 Madera: engine failure on departure for ferry flight to Wyoming, forced landing in wheat field, wing torn off
Martin 404 N461M
14227
4.82-1989

purchased 12.4.82 ex Marvin L. Janzen, had been parked at Madera CA since 1976,
ferried .82 to Sheridan, not tanked, used for parts
open storage Sheridan WY, still there 2010
Martin 404
N462M
14153
c1986-1989

purchased ex Marvin L. Janzen,
tanked for spraying 6.87 by Clayton Curtiss,
but did not enter service
open storage Sheridan WY by 1989
sold 9.01 to Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson


Martin 404 N461M was one of six owned by Clayton Curtiss' Frontier Airways in Wyoming for spraying.
Seen in 1977 at Madera CA where six Martins were gathered to be tanked.       Photo by Geoff Goodall
 
Part 3: D - G

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