Firefighting aircraft have often been older airframes converted for the task when their primary life is over. This has meant a lot of old piston types -both civil and military – have become tankers. Now there is a generation of jet airliners that are becoming viable candidates for conversion. I previously posted some shots of a BAe146 tanker. Erickson has been active in converting McDonnell Douglas MD-87 airframes to tankers and has a number already in service.
Dominating the flight line outside the Erickson hangars was a line of three MD-87s that had been acquired from Spain. They appeared to have come from a couple of operators and we sitting in storage. Most apertures were taped up and some panels/doors had been removed. However, these airframes are not destined to be parts donors. All of them are scheduled for conversion to tankers. Before too long they will be active supporting firefighting efforts across the country. The introduction of modern jet types to service should provide increased performance and the ability to respond faster to situations further away. They should provide a welcome boost to firefighting capability.