Tuesday, October 7, 2014

LODD: Pilot of S2T Air Tanker 81 Fighting Yosemite National Park #DogRockFire Reported Dead After Crash

 CAL FIRE has announced that an S-2T air tanker has crashed killing the contract pilot while fighting the Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite National Park in California.

An air tanker fighting a wildfire near Yosemite National Park in Northern California smashed into a steep canyon wall Tuesday, killing the contract Dyncorp pilot, who was believed to be the only person aboard, officials said. No injuries reported by nearby fire crews on the ground

Air Tanker 81
Bruce Dembecki 
Update 2400: Cal Fire PIO: "This evening emergency personnel were able to access the crash site of a Cal Fire airtanker that had crashed near Yosemite National Park and determined that the pilot on board had died. The Cal Fire airtanker (Tanker 81) based out of the Hollister Air Attack Base had been fighting the Dog Rock Fire near El Portal when officials lost contact with it late this afternoon."
Two DC-7 air tankers and an S-2T air tanker at Paso Robles Air Tanker Base, January 19, 2014. CAL FIRE photo.
Update 2230:
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
CONTACT: Daniel Berlant
(916) 651-FIRE (3473) @CALFIRE_PIO
DATE: October 7, 2014
Crash of Airtanker Claims the Life of Pilot
Sacramento - This evening emergency personnel were able to access the crash site of a CAL FIRE airtanker that had crashed near Yosemite National Park and determined that the pilot on board had died. The CAL FIRE airtanker (Tanker 81) based out of the Hollister Air Attack Base had been fighting the Dog Rock Fire near El Portal when officials lost contact with it late this afternoon.
The pilot’s family has requested we withhold release of the pilot’s name until all immediate family can be notified.
“This crash underscores just how inherently dangerous wildland firefighting is and the job is further compounded this year by extreme fire conditions,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director. “We have secured the crash site and will be cooperating with the NTSB on their investigation.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the pilot’s family during this difficult time,” said Jeff Cavarra, program director for DynCorp International.

CAL FIRE operates 22 other Grumman S-2T airtankers across California
Update 1900: - CAL FIRE Reports Pilot Was Found Deceased.
Update 1800: - PER CALFIRE POST EARLIER TODAY : We are saddened to report that this afternoon one of our S2T air tankers crashed while fighting the Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite National Park. The rescue personnel are at scene working through extremely rough terrain to determine the condition of our pilot. Please join us in keeping our Pilot and their family in our thoughts and prayers.
Update 1730: WILDFIRE - YOSEMITE (CA): The following press release from the Cal Fire PIO: "This afternoon contact was lost with one of our airtankers flying over a fire near Yosemite National Park. Emergency personnel are currently responding to the last known location of the aircraft. The airtanker was assigned to the Dog Rock Fire burning near Yosemite’s Arch Rock. The status of the aircraft and the pilot have not been determined. Additional information will be provided as its made available."
The plane went down about 4:30 p.m. within a mile of the park's west entrance, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said. Rescue crews were working their way through difficult terrain to reach the plane's wreckage.

"It's very rugged terrain," said Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "We determined there was a crash, but they're still trying to work their way through pretty rugged terrain to determine the status of the pilot. Obviously we're hoping for the best, but the situation is very serious."

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Chris Michael said he was stopping traffic along state Route 140 at the west entrance to the park about 4:24 p.m. when he witnessed the crash.
Official CAL FIRE NEWS Release 10-7-14

"I heard a large explosion, I looked up on the steep canyon wall and saw aircraft debris was actually raining down the side of the mountain after the impact," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "It hit the steep side of the canyon wall. It appeared from the direction he was going, he was trying to make a drop down the side of the canyon when he hit the canyon wall."

The fire was spreading up the canyon wall, and it appeared the pilot was trying to lay down fire retardant to stop its progress, Michael said.

"It most definitely did disintegrate on impact," he said. "It was nothing. I didn't see anything but small pieces."

Pieces of the aircraft landed on the highway and came close to hitting fire crews on the ground nearby, but no one on the ground was injured, he said.

"It came pretty close to hitting them, but they were far enough away that it missed them, fortunately," he said.

The airplane, manufactured in 2001, is an S-2T air tanker, which is flown by a single pilot and normally has no other crew members. The tanker uses twin turbine engines and is capable of carrying 1,200 gallons of fire retardant, said another CalFire spokesman, Daniel Berlant.

Don Talend, of West Dundee, Illinois, said he also may have seen the plane go down. Talend and friends were vacationing at the park when they stopped to snap some photographs of the fire, which was several miles away.

The plane "disappeared into the smoke and you heard a boom," he told The Associated Press by phone.

"I couldn't believe what I saw," Talend said. "There was actually a ranger there behind us. ... He had a look of disbelief on his face."

The missing pilot is an employee of DynCorp., a contractor that provides the pilots for all CalFire planes and maintenance for the department's aircraft, Upton said.

The fire had broken out about 90 minutes earlier Tuesday near Route 140, which leads into the heart of the park. It had grown to about 130 acres by Tuesday evening and forced the evacuation of several dozen homes near the community of Foresta.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration were investigating the crash and were expected to arrive at the crash site Wednesday morning, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

FAA records show the plane is registered to the U.S. Forest Service, which originally provided the plane to CalFire, Upton said.

The last time a CalFire air tanker crashed was in 2001, when two tankers collided while fighting a fire in Mendocino County, killing both pilots, Berlant said.

The agency had another plane crash in 2006, when a fire battalion chief and a pilot were killed while observing a fire in a two-seat plane in Tulare County

Last article from: http://t.co/0bqJk36BXs http://www.katu.com/news/national/Air-tanker-crashes-while-fighting-Yosemite-fire-278463271.html

The aircraft: Marsh Aviation S-2 TurboTracker
As part of its response plan to wildfires, the CDF operates a network of air attack bases, equipped with a team of aircraft and ground personnel, who work in unison to battle these fires as soon as they are detected. The aerial component consists of fixed wing tanker aircraft, helicopters and also observation aircraft equipped for command and control of the assets deployed. Currently the air tanker portion of this team is the Marsh Aviation S-2 TurboTracker, an updated and modernised variant of the Grumman S-2 Tracker, produced at Marsh Aviation’s facility in Mesa, Arizona.

The benefits of the modernisation program are obvious - retardant capacity increased from 800 gallons in the piston-engined S-2 to 1200 gallons (or 1100 gallons in some versions), cruise speed increased from 150 mph to 280 mph, and general performance, especially in hot weather, improved. The TurboTracker also has an increased endurance of up to five hours - most flights only last 30 mins, so this improved endurance, coupled with the rapid re-loading, means that the aircraft can operate many trips to a fire before needing to be refuelled.

In addition to these benefits, the TurboTracker is also much more reliable and economical than earlier S-2s, boasting the highest dispatch reliability in the air tanker industry. It is also capable of operating from smaller airfields than larger air tankers, and is rated to be flown by a single pilot, offering further cost savings.

The retardant tank fitted to the TurboTracker is an advanced, computer controlled system, capable of dropping specific quantities of retardant at different rates and coverage levels. This enables a flexible response, appropriate to the conditions at the fire site, meaning that it is much more effective in controlling and containing fires than older tankers, which lack the more up to date technology.


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