It seems that the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 is following the path set by the Douglas DC-9. That is to say, it is an airplane that keeps on going. The latest version of this airplane is finding a new life as a water bomber. The process started earlier this year.
Wild fires are extremely dangerous and cause tremendous damage. USAToday reported last year that 2012 was looking like the worst year on record – in August 7 million acres had been burned. By year’s end the total damaged was roughly the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. July 2012’s Colorado fire created $450m in damages and total fire damage for the year was estimated at $1 billion. The damage on the surface is what one sees, but there is more one does not see. The Washington Post reported that “Water quality, for example, is being compromised up to 100 miles from burn sites.” Global re-insurer Aon Benfield estimated the 10-year annual average for fire damage at (2002-2011) $1.2 billion.
This makes fire fighting a big business. Which brings us to Erickson Aero Tanker. This firm was created out of Aero Air and Butler Aircraft (both Oregon based). The company has added some former SAS MD-87s and converted these to water bombers. The water tanker fleet in the US has been based on very old airframes so this is a significant upgrade. Aviation Week had this good summary of the “next generation” water bomber fleet.
Here is short video showing the MD-87 in its new role.
Novel, but let’s see how it manoeuvres at low level and how the fatigue life is affected with the different load spectrum.
Erickson Aero is moving forward and Jack Erickson is an incredible person. What a great vision for the U.S. and the world to achieve this challenge.
I am glad I was a part of it.
I have a prejudice-Douglas product and gravity feed tank fan. The DC-9/MD87 is
a stout of airframe as it gets for an airliner. They have a Winner here…
With 300+ hours flying the C-9A Nightingale (DC-9-30) for the USAF, I can tell you low level maneuvering is not a problem for a DC-9 (or it’s descendent MD-87). The basic design & aerodynamics is surprisingly good. We used to land at small general aviation airports routinely (sometimes uncontrolled), flying a normal visual pattern, although a bit faster than the average Cessna.
With enough hours in DC9 s and MD80s to say so, a 10 series right through the 87 this is an excellent design, airframe, handling. . I loved it. So don’t worry about it. Maneuver at low alt? Ha, you can roll the damn thing as long as wingtips clear. Fatigue, it’s a McDonnell Douglas airplane. How many DC3s are flying and have you ever even seen a Boeing 247 – fatigue covered. And I’ve flown 737s which I used to tell fans of “want to fly a jeep with bad shocks? 737 Want to drive a Caddy? MD80. Glad to see it in such use cause central Texas is on fire tonight and glad one of the fine man Mr. Erickson ‘ s DC10 s should be getting here on about an hour. That’ll do it!
I certainly agree. My Grandsons will be flying these.