Monday, August 26, 2013

Fuego Grande and airplanes. It doesn't get any better.

Ok, it could have been better, better if I had been shooting the video.

As most of you have probably heard by now, The Rim fire has been burning on the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountains since August 17th. It has burned through almost 144,000 acres of woodland and timber, some of which has been in Yosemite National Park. The main part of Yosemite and numerous small towns are threatened by this fire. Over $20,000,000 has been spent in fighting it, the end is not in sight.

One of the tools being used to fight this fire is the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) equipped C-130 cargo aircraft, supplied by either Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve units. Basically, MAFFS allows Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft to be easily converted into firefighting aerial tankers and then converted back into their original configuration as the mission requirements change. It can drop up to 3400 gallons of retardant onto a wildfire either all in one pass of smaller amounts in several passes. It shows how adaptable our Air Guard and Reserve units can be.

This video was shot from MAFFS 6, a C-130 from the California Air National Guard based at Port Hueneme CA, as it made a drop on the Rim fire last week. This video gives a decent perspective as to the immensity of the Rim fire, though it is only of a small portion of it. The video also gives you an idea of the precision required for the drop to be effective and the amount of coordination needed to keep the various firefighting aircraft safely separated while conducting operations.

Many people deride the C-130 as an ugly, slow trash hauler that no testosterone equipped air warrior would want to fly. I gotta tell ya, I think that the C-130 is the world's most beautiful "ugly" airplane and is a terrific flying machine that I would love to fly. Fighting fire with it would be a bonus.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Oh, that's incredible.

    My favorite flight footage is always just this: Great video and audio with nothing stupid added: No music (especially no music), no commentator, and no stupid editing tricks.

    I had no idea they had a spotter plane, but it makes perfect sense. I wonder what plane the spotter is flying. It's gonna be a little faster than your garden variety Cessna/Piper/etc.

    I'm struck by how high the workload is. Those guys are communicating a tremendous amount of information while flying in a dynamic and potentially deadly environment. Low and slow is never where a pilot likes to be, but these guys do it on purpose in order to achieve their mission. In mountainous terrain. With smoke, fire, and other air traffic.

  2. Did you see the photos of Tanker 910's rear engine belching fire at the Beaver Fire in Idaho?