Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

California Dreaming: The Aero Experience Tour of Cal Fire Tanker Bases - Sacramento McClellan Airfield

By Fred Harl
By Mark Nankivil
Earlier this year, a friend offered the donation of a large photo collection to the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum. My son Jack and I decided to make it into a vacation trip, and fellow The Aero Experience scribe Fred Harl decided to join us on the adventure.  To make the most of the time we had, a flight out to Sacramento and a drive home with plenty of visits worked out the best.

We had a great trip, and high on my list of things to do was visit as many of the Cal Fire tanker bases as we could along the way.  A few years ago, our visit to the Alamogordo, New Mexico airport to see the Neptune Aviation Services P-2 Neptunes configured as air tankers gave me the urge to see more and going to California made that possible.

Cal Fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) is the State's primary fire protection for the wildlands, using both ground and air forces to achieve their mission. 

The first Cal Fire base we visited was in Sacramento at McClellan Airfield.  Sacramento is where the Cal Fire aircraft fleet is maintained, and where the contractor, DynCorp, is based.  The Cal Fire fixed wing fleet is compromised of S-2T tankers (with a 1,200 gallon retardant capacity) and OV-10 Broncos which are used as air tactical "spotters" to survey the fire scene and guide the tankers into position for their drops.  Along with the fixed wing fleet, Cal Fire has a helicopter fleet equipped with the UH-1H Super Huey.  The Super Hueys are used for retardant or water drops as well as for transportation needs for the ground forces.

We want to thank Barbara Marando with Cal Fire for escorting us out on the ramp and patiently answering our questions.

Elsewhere at McClellan, we noted one of the Coulson C-130 air tankers on the ramp.  This aircraft was under contract with the U.S. Forest Service.

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