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CDF Airtankers Ready To Fly

Beginning Wednesday, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection´s air tankers, based at Columbia Air Attack Base near Highway 49 in Columbia, will be fully staffed and ready to fly.

CDF officials say the two white and red S-2 air tankers and one OV-10A spotter aircraft are now parked on the Columbia air base tarmac and ready to go. Ground crews who reload the aircraft with retardant will also be on-line for this fire season starting Wednesday as well.

The S-2A and S-2T air tankers were originally built for the U.S. Navy and used as carrier-based anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The S-2T were part of CDF´s reconditioning program just prior to the 2002 fire season and have been refitted with modern turboprop engines. They can cruise at a speed of 285 miles per hour and carry 1,200 gallon of retardant.

The Rockwell OV-10A airplanes are also Department of Defense veterans and are now used as the flying command and control center, coordinating air tankers and helicopters water and retardant drops, as well as providing information to ground crews on fire spread and movement.

The UH-1H Super Hey helicopters are U.S. Army troop and cargo transport veterans. These aircraft were also heavily modified by CDF and one of the nine statewide is on base a Columbia year-round.

CDF uses the Super Huey for fast initial attack on wildfires and can deliver a nine person fire crews into remote areas to battle a fire. These helicopter can also be used for numerous non-fire emergency missions.

The state contract with the pilots begins tomorrow, but officials say if needed today, the aircraft could be put into action a day early.

Last year statewide CDF aircraft, including helicopters flew more than 11,000 hours and dropped more than 11.5 million gallons of retardant and water on wildland fires.