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High Sierra Peak damaged by fire plane drop

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High Sierra Peak damaged by fire plane drop

Postby Cy Kaicener » Fri Dec 21, 2007 12:24 pm

A bright red stripe from fire retardent is visible for miles on Feather Peak near Florence Lake. :(
http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?a ... E-12-20-07
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Re: High Sierra Peak damaged by fire plane drop

Postby The Chief » Fri Dec 21, 2007 12:46 pm

Cy Kaicener wrote:A bright red stripe from fire retardent is visible for miles on Feather Peak near Florence Lake. :(
http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?a ... E-12-20-07


Old News! Unless you have been in a scenario which most likely occured to the P2 (which BTW is a 60 year old Navy ASW recip), and your SOP's dictate that you "Dump any excess weight" or potentially crash, you wouldn't understand. What would have been worse, drop the load or have A/C debris scattered for miles and two dead crewman?

Besides, the following statement from the USFS investigator, doesn't make a lick a sense either...
"I didn't find any evidence that he purposefully marked that peak," Brown said. "I didn't feel it was malicious. ... But it looks now that maybe (the pilot) didn't have an emergency situation that would've forced him to drop the retardant."

It'll wash off and most likely be gone by this next summer.

Amazing though how you never hear about the GOOD things that these brave crews do in risking their lives to save homes and land from the devastation of fire. But when something like this happens, they are shetwads. SP wasn't whining when this same A/C played a major role in saving the Big Pine area from being destroyed by fire the month prior... :roll:
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Postby cp0915 » Fri Dec 21, 2007 3:16 pm

"Old News!"

Not for me. Thanks for posting the link, Cy.

"Unless you have been in a scenario which most likely occured to the P2 (which BTW is a 60 year old Navy ASW recip), and your SOP's dictate that you "Dump any excess weight" or potentially crash, you wouldn't understand."

Interesting assumption...and wrong.

"SP wasn't whining..."

I don't hear anyone whining. Although it's completely understandable to me that some folks might be less-than-thrilled that there's a bright red stripe on a mountaintop, regardless of the reason it's there.
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Postby ksolem » Fri Dec 21, 2007 3:48 pm

Easy Chief. I didn't hear anyone raggin' on our brave firefighters. There are some questions to be asked about the use of air dropped retardant though. For example, it is all over the Kern Canyon. Many acres of it. And nowhere near where the fire was - you can see this clearly if you get up there and walk through it. All they accomplished there is to make a huge mess of things.

Some interesting quotes from the article:

The pilot and co-pilot were unaware they were flying above a wilderness area and regretted their choice of dumping ground, Brown said.

"I was told the plane developed engine trouble and they had to jettison the load, which is the proper thing to do in that situation," Brown said. "Since then, we've found out maybe that wasn't an accurate story."

Experts say the red stripe across Feather Peak won't fade for several years because the retardant, sold as Phos-Chek D-75R, contains iron oxide. The bright color helps pilots ensure they've hit their targets.

"That stuff in a body of water is an environmental nasty," Fairbanks added. "On the side of the peak, it's an aesthetic issue."


So when it washes off it won't end up in Royce Lakes or some other pristine body of water? :idea:

The pilot said they did not know they were over a wilderness area? :?:

If they were actually in some sort of trouble it is one thing. But...
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Postby Dave Daly » Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:08 pm

You're fishing Kris. Please recall that these guys regreted making such a decision. Being the pilot of such an aging A/C, you don't have much choice when an engine runs into problems. Engines also support electrical (navigation systems and related avionics), hydraulics (flight control surfaces and landing gear) and environmental control systems (cooling and pressurization). Flying on one engine with a heavy load also creates weight and balance issues and can cause an aircraft to pitch. roll or yaw off its course axis. Had I been the pilot of this plane and ran into this issue, I would have not regretted making that decision to dump that Phos-chek one bit, knowing I saved life and equipment.....in order to "fight another day". It's not like they specifically targeted Feather Peak for the pleasure of making some red mark on it. Shit happens in the state of any emergency and each person handles these emergencies differently. Again, it'll wash off within one or two seasons. An environmental hazard? My sneeze is an environmental bio hazard.
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Postby NewDayRising » Fri Dec 21, 2007 5:02 pm

The pilots f$#ked up and tried to cover it up. If they had mechanical problems, why didn't they report it?

An air tanker working for the U.S. Forest Service last summer dropped a load of fire retardant across the summit of a pristine High Sierra peak, leaving a bright red stripe that is visible for miles.

Investigators still are trying to determine what took place July 8 in the skies above 13,200-foot Feather Peak, about 15 miles northeast of Florence Lake in California's John Muir Wilderness. No fire was burning nearby.

The incident went unreported until wilderness rangers from the Inyo National Forest began fielding questions from hikers and climbers about the large, red stain across an otherwise white granite mountaintop.

"It's a mess -- the stain is very obvious," said Robert "SP" Parker, who co-owns Sierra Mountain Center, a guiding service in Bishop, Calif. "It definitely detracts from the mountain's wilderness character."

Dennis Brown, aviation safety manager for the Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Region, said retardant is commonly jettisoned if not used on fires because tankers cannot land while loaded. However, pilots are instructed not to dump their loads in sensitive areas except in an emergency. Most airfields have designated areas for retardant drops, either nearby or on private property.

But crewmembers said it was, in fact, an emergency that caused them to drop 1,800 gallons of retardant on Feather Peak -- a claim that officials have come to doubt.

Brown said he wasn't informed about the drop until a month after it occurred. He then interviewed the plane's two crewmembers, employees of Nevada-based Minden Air Corp., who told him the Lockheed P2V developed engine trouble while trying to cross the Sierra Nevada during daylight hours. They dropped the 17,500-pound load of retardant to avert a potential crash.

The pilot and co-pilot were unaware they were flying above a wilderness area and regretted their choice of dumping ground, Brown said.

"I was told the plane developed engine trouble and they had to jettison the load, which is the proper thing to do in that situation," Brown said. "Since then, we've found out maybe that wasn't an accurate story."

Brown wouldn't go into detail about his findings. But enough questions remain that the Office of General Counsel referred the matter to the Forest Service's Law Enforcement & Investigations branch in Washington, D.C., Sierra National Forest spokeswoman Sue Exline said.

"It's an ongoing investigation," Exline said. "I can't say anything more."

Leonard Parker, the CEO of Minden Air Corp., a private contractor that assists the Forest Service in fire prevention, declined to name the crew members or make them available for interviews.

"(The stain) is there for everyone to see, and no one is denying it happened," Parker said. "Other than that, I'd rather not comment."

Experts say the red stripe across Feather Peak won't fade for several years because the retardant, sold as Phos-Chek D-75R, contains iron oxide. The bright color helps pilots ensure they've hit their targets.

Rich Fairbanks, a fire management expert for the Wilderness Society, called the stain "unfortunate, but not permanent."

"That stuff in a body of water is an environmental nasty," Fairbanks added. "On the side of the peak, it's an aesthetic issue."

Because the drop occurred on a rocky mountaintop high above the tree line and not near a water source, it is not being treated as an environmental hazard. The retardant, which has the consistency of heavy liquid, contains mostly phosphates similar to those found in fertilizer. It is not toxic to humans, Brown said.

Officials are confident that snow and rain common to the area in winter and spring will help the fading process.

"It happened, and there's not much we can do about it," said Rob Mason, wilderness manager of the High Sierra Ranger District. "We're not going to send crews out there to scrub rocks."

Although Feather Peak lies in the Sierra National Forest, it is more accessible through the Inyo National Forest on the range's eastern side.

According to Forest Service officials, Tanker 55 launched from the Porterville Air Base headed to Cedar City, Utah, when a call came in from the Fresno-Kings Unit that diverted the plane north.

While flying over the Sierra National Forest, the call from Fresno-Kings was canceled, so Tanker 55 resumed an easterly heading. It was then, crewmembers said, that the plane developed engine trouble while approaching Pine Creek Pass.

"They had to get rid of the load somewhere," Brown said. "In hindsight, they certainly picked the worst possible spot."

After the drop, the engine trouble seemed to correct itself and the plane landed safely at the Cedar City Air Base. The pilots did not report any mechanical issues.

The pilot purposefully flew close to the ground so that the retardant would be spread over as small an area as possible, Brown said. He added that both crewmembers were remorseful about the result.

"I didn't find any evidence that he purposefully marked that peak," Brown said. "I didn't feel it was malicious. ... But it looks now that maybe (the pilot) didn't have an emergency situation that would've forced him to drop the retardant."

Stains from retardant drops can remain visible for years.

Though remote, Feather Peak is frequently climbed in the summer and early fall. Hikers who passed through the area in August left with red stains on their hands and clothes.

In an e-mail, Leor Pantilat, a Stanford University law student who photographed the stain from nearby Royce Peak, said it spoiled his experience in the mountains.

"It takes away from the wilderness feeling to find such large evidence of human impact," Pantilat wrote.
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Postby KathyW » Fri Dec 21, 2007 5:55 pm

From Royce Peak on 8/19/07:

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Postby Dave Daly » Fri Dec 21, 2007 5:57 pm

The pilots f$#ked up and tried to cover it up. If they had mechanical problems, why didn't they report it?


The pilots themselves aren't likely to contact the wilderness agency directly. That's the responsibilty of the company management, my man

So, now are you going to start calling out all those pilots (commercial and military) for dumping their many thousands of gallons of fuel loads over land and sea when they need to acquire landing weight (which is done quite frequently BTW)? Or the inconsiderate tourons who leave trash behind in wilderness area?

Read on...

The Phos-Chek name has been synonymous with world-class fire fighting chemicals for over forty years. Originally part of Monsanto, the folks at Phos-Chek have been working in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and other international fire management agencies since the late 1950s to further the safety and effectiveness of aerial applied fire retardant technology.

Currently part of ICL Performance Products LP, North America's largest phosphorus chemical manufacturer, Phos-Chek has an unparalleled record of product innovation and technological advancement. We are committed to continuously providing fire managers and fire fighters with the safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly products available.

Our fire and flame-retardants and suppressants are the world's leading chemical solutions for management of wildland and structural fires. Phos-Chek Long-Term Fire Retardants are the safest, most effective and environmentally friendly retardants available and are fully qualified by the USDA Forest Service. All Phos-Chek brand fire retardants are the only qualified cyanide-free retardants available.

Our Class A foams are relied upon by wildland fire management agencies municipal and industrial fire fighters around the world to effectively and safely suppress wildland and structural fires. Phos-Chek Class A foam concentrates have been tested and approved for use by the USDA Forest Service along with our Phos-Chek fire retardants.

The Phos-Chek family of industrial flame-retardants has set the industry standard for more than four decades. These products provide effective flame-retardant properties to paints, coatings and plastics and are unsurpassed for safety and cost-effectiveness.
Last edited by Dave Daly on Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby livenbig » Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:01 pm

Good aim, looks to me like they have good aim and hit their target.
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Postby The Chief » Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:28 pm

If you have a fluctuating oil light or fuel control light, especially with a 60 year old A/C, as the Aircraft Commander, you are responsible for the A/C and the crew. Being a pilot of a heavy old A/C like this requires lots of experience. Like I said in my original post, unless you have been in the shoes of this pilot flying a prehistoric recip A/C, you can't make judgements on this crew nor their actions.

BTW: fluctuating oil or fuel lights, if they rectify themselves, are none issues on post flight other than paperwork. As DD stated, it's not the pilots responsibility to report their actions to the USFS. The Company has a USFS rep that may have dropped the ball.
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Postby ExploreABitMore » Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:34 pm

it would suck to have been climbing the peak when that got dropped! :shock:
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Postby ksolem » Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:55 pm

Dave Daly wrote:You're fishing Kris...


:?:

It appears they were not in trouble... They didn't know they were over wilderness?

Judging by Wingdings picture, it looks like they were engaged in a little target practice.

I'll take some pics of the mess in the Kern Cyn over New Years. If this topic is still alive then I'll post 'em.
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Postby MoapaPk » Fri Dec 21, 2007 7:02 pm

Usually, I tend to dismiss people who have their "wilderness experience" ruined by seeing anything anthropogenic.

However, I'll cast my vote: I think this was probably mischievous target practice by the pilots. Though, I can see why one would get nervous topping a range of mountains, and pick that moment to drop a load (no pun intended).

This isn't about the unquestionable hard work and bravery of firefighters. This is about the possible misbehavior of those specific pilots.
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