Marsh Aviation Albatross firebombers?

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Marsh Aviation Albatross firebombers?

Postby Rajay » Mon Mar 19, 2012 5:14 pm

This forum was sadly in need of some new activity.

A while back, I noticed that Marsh Aviation in Mesa, AZ (USA) had started buying up most of the Grumman G-111 Albatross aircraft that Chalk's/Resorts International had put away into long-term storage and never used.

They did not however buy up N42MY (c/n G-464 - the very last Albatross ever built by Grumman) or N121FB (c/n G-339) and I've started to wonder if there is something "wrong" with those two aircraft. They are actually re-certified (FAR Part 25) G-111 aircraft and not just wannabes, but they were also the two most active G-111 aircraft still in use. Both were fixed up with fancy executive/personal "air yacht" interiors.

BTW: whereas I listed them as I feel they should be identified (by their orignal Grumman c/n) the TC for the model G-111 (A22SO) actually lists all of them by their former military serials - some USAF and some USN - go figure! (On the TC, N42MY is identified as ex-USN BuNo. 148329 and N121FB is ex-USAF s/n 51-7249.)

In any case, Wikipedia now mentions something about a Marsh G-111AT "Wildfire" air tanker program but doesn't give many details. It says just that:

"Marsh Aviation is the technical advisor and prime general contractor to Wildfire Aircraft Ltd for the G-111AT Wildfire Program. Piston-engined Grumman HU-16 and G-111 airframes will be converted turbo-prop, amphibious air tankers certificated in the Transport Category under FAR Part 25. Conversion will include the installation of new 1,400 US gallon (5,300 litre) retardant tank with an automated control system operating a variable quantity/constant flow release system, major titanium modifications to the load-bearing airframe, the installation of a quick-change cargo/passenger floor, new Honeywell TPE331-14GR/HR turbo-prop engines, new EFIS cockpit, new electrical system including new starter-generators, new hydraulic pumps and an upgraded hydraulic system, as well as such optional features as an APU."

Has anyone heard anything more about that?
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Re: Marsh Aviation Albatross firebombers?

Postby MrWidgeon » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:38 am

News to me & I have some doubts about it happening.
While Marsh Aviation has a good track record with the Grumman S-2 series I don't know how well the USFS (US Forest Service) will receive another old airplane conversion.
The USFS doesn't use the S-2, it's mostly used (in the US) by Cal Fire, the California Wildland fire fighting agency.
The USFS has wanted a totally new design for a while now and have set new minimum standards for air tankers.
(From the USFS Requests for Proposal dated Aug, 08, 2011) :

Aircraft Minimum Requirements
Proposed fixed-wing water scoopers are expected to meet the following target specifications:

• Capable of carrying a minimum of 1400 gallons up to a maximum of 4000 gallons of water with 2.5 hours fuel at cruise power.
• Have a cruise speed of 150 knots while loaded and powered by turboprop engines however other engines types may be considered
• Have been 14 CFR Part 25 Type Certificated in the Standard or Restricted Category by the FAA for the Water Scooping Firefighting mission
• Have current OEM engineering and maintenance support for the Water Scooping Firefighting mission
• Have an OEM created, FAA approved, maintenance / inspection program, Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICAs) and Airworthiness Limitations Section developed using MSG-3 process guidelines for the baseline and Water Scooper Firefighting mission and be in compliance with all inspections, inspection intervals and life limits
• Have FAA approval for all modifications and alterations of the aircraft
• Equipped with an Operational Loads Monitoring System (OLM) that has been accepted by the US Forest Service.
• Be approved by the Interagency Airtanker Board (IAB) as a waterscooper.

While the Albatross conversion would slide in under the gate, I don't know if the USFS will buy it.
I suspect it will be another one used mostly by local agencies.
Another operator is rumored to be trying to certify the Be-200 in the US for use as an air tanker, we'll just have to wait & see which one, if either, comes to fruition first.
Right now the newest air tanker in operation is Neptune Aviation's BAE-146 tanker conversion, but there's only one right now and the USFS is "studying" the airplane to see if it's suitable.
It was used briefly last fire season in Texas and got generally good reviews.
Neptune is planning on several more to eventually replace their P-2s.
What the Forest Service really wants is a brand new "Clean Sheet" design and it wants the tanker operators to pick up the tab for it (that is NOT going to happen), baring that they'd like a bunch of brand new C-130Js.
But again, at $30 Million dollars each, it isn't going to happen.
Neither the tanker operators or the USFS have the budgets for such a purchase.

(But did you know that Grumman designed a 4 engine air tanker conversion of the HU-16 for Chile ? It was never built, but the prospectus was printed up & circulated)

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