By Jennifer Schlueter
Due to rising number of wildfires and an outdated fleet of air tankers to defeat them, Los Angeles County called for international support for firefighting planes. The Russian company Beriev Aircraft Co. suggested their amphibious Be-200, which already battles wildfires in Europe and Asia. “I truly believe that the Be-200 is the best piece of equipment for the aerial firefighting mission,” Jim Bagnard, Project Manager at the International Emergency Services, a veteran and former pilot himself. The IES solely represents the Beriev Aircraft Company in the US.
Due to its advanced engineering, the multi-purpose aircraft can scoop more than 3,167 gallons of water in 18 seconds, almost twice as much as the CL-415, a plane manufactured in Canada. Two of these Canadian planes, also-called Super Scoopers, were used to prevent further damage in January’s Colby Fire in Glendora.
The twin-jet powered aircraft has 8 tanks, can scoop water from rivers, lakes, or oceans at a rate of one ton per second, and can drop the water all at once or multiple times. Because landing to refill is not necessary for the BE-200, it can alternatingly fly from fire to water source at fast speeds.
The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CalFire, and the U.S. Forest Service, as well as the counties of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are discussing to lease the Be-200 air tanker from the IES for a 180-day fire season for $8 million or a yearly cost of $16 million. “We are ready to assist So. Cal. in providing a very affordable solution for year-round service. We can provide this service with the state-of-art, purpose-built, multi-role and amphibious aerial firefighting Be-200 with complete flight crews, maintenance, and insurance which is managed by IES,” said Bagnard.
Azusa City Councilman Angel Carrillo suggested for the state, the federal government and other Southern California counties to share the cost.
Currently, the aircraft is waiting certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.