The aircraft coming and going at the airport is really something to see. Sadly, it is because of the fires, but if you want to see air tankers in action, now is the time.
The planes arrive every 30-40 minutes from the firelines and quickly taxi over to the CalFire filling station on the tarmac.
Smaller twin engine planes are tanked up in minutes, large planes like the DC9 could take about 20 minutes. It’s quite impressive to watch, in particular the old radial engine planes, which are mainly P2’s. The P2’s were supposed to be taken out of service days ago. Now they are back in service for at least the duration of the fires in Redding and Santa Rosa. This will be their last fire season, at least in the US, then no more P2’s due to frame and wing spar metal fatigue.
Maybe they will wind up in Mexico or South America ferrying American tourists?
While I was out to the A-P today I learned from one of the pilots that they couldn’t get into Santa Rose area due to the heavy smoke. Apparently the winds shifted and this obscured the fireline where they were supposed to drop retardant. Talk about bad luck. Meanwhile, according to the latest news reports, thousands of ground crews were becoming exhausted trying to defend homes against raging firestorm whipped up by winds.
Thanks to our museum computer app we are able to track the planes. We noticed one odd thing, a U2 from NASA flying over the fire scene. Not sure what that was all about, but mostly like it was a survey mission for a federal agency, possibly FEMA.
If you are interested in watching tanker aircraft and history in the making, you should come out to the Chico Air Museum. We have a safe area to watch planes and ground crews. There is no charge, but seating is limited to about 25 in the gallery area.