As Air Force C-130s continue to battle forest fires in the western U.S., one company wants to put Russian water bombers into the fight.
TTE International Inc, based in Santa Maria, Calif., has contracted to buy 10 jet-powered BE 200 aircraft, which can make a water landing, scoop up 12 tons of water and then drop it on a blaze. The planes can also carry flame retardant.
But the Russian planes are currently not suitable for use against forest fires, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Mike Ferris.
“All airtankers used to suppress wildland fires on National Forest lands must have a Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness certificate; must have approval from the Interagency Airtanker Board for the tanking system and retardant delivery performance standards; and must be maintained under a Continued Airworthiness Program acceptable to the USDA Forest Service that addresses the structural loads encountered in the fire environment,” Ferris said in an email. “The Be-200 currently does not meet any of these requirements.”
TTE President David Baskett said the Russian government has already asked the FAA to certify the BE 200.
“The FAA responded, I think it was in December – a year-and-half ago – with a letter saying, ‘Here are the rules; however, there is a special clause in the bilateral agreement that we maybe can work with you on for firefighting aircraft; please send us your proposal,’” Baskett told Air Force Times. “Russia has not yet sent the proposal. That proposal is supposedly, I’m told, is being worked on and developed to be sent.”