Last November, I brought you an initial introduction into the world of Aerial Firefighting. That article focused on the concept, tactics and state of aerial firefighting. I promised a second look at the aircraft of Aerial Firefighting, so here we go!
First, let’s review the types of fixed-wing aerial firefighting aircraft and the associated designations and acronyms.
SEATs (Single Engine Air Tankers) are short-range, small, one-person aircraft with less than approximately 1,000 gallons of usable retardant capacity. The most well-known example here is an AT-802F Air Tractor and the “Fire Boss”, which is a model AT-802F fitted with floats.
Next we have the Large Air Tankers (LATs): of Type III, II, and I. Type III air tankers can dispense approximately 1,200 gallons per drop. The best example in this class could be the Grumman S-2T, which are re-engined Grumman S-2 “Tracker” Navy patrol aircraft. CalFire currently has 20+ of these in service.
Type II tankers include such interesting aircraft as the purpose-built Canadair CL-215 “SuperScooper”, with high, oversized wings and v-hull for scooping up up to 1,250 gallons of water to deliver to a fire.