US Forest Service, Military Prepare For MAFFS Training
The U.S. Forest Service will conduct its annual training for military MAFFS C-130 air tankers the week of May 6 over southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.
Last year, the entire MAFFS fleet was activated to help fight deadly wildfires, including the Waldo Canyon Fire. It was the first time in four years the planes were called into service.
During similar training in Colorado Springs last year, Lynn Ballard, military liaison with the U.S. Forest Service explained yearly training on the special C-130’s is necessary to keep crews ready the moment they're needed. “In the past we had a pretty significant fleet. And that’s deteriorated because a lot of the old air tankers are too old, and they have stress cracks and they’re just not airworthy,” Ballard said. “If we do have a significant fire season, and those are being used, then we have that capability to bring eight air tankers into the system.”
The four day training session will take place over areas including the Canyon Lakes Ranger District northwest of Red Feather Lakes. Area residents may see low flying C-130’s during the day. The training will include crews from the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne and the 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte North Carolina.
There are currently around nine civilian air tankers on exclusive use contract with the Forest Service. Officials say if needed up to 25 planes can be called up, and when those are fully committed they will rely on the U.S. Military’s MAFFS equipped C-130’s.
It takes just five seconds for the C-130’s to drop their 3,000 gallon load of slurry or water. The Air National Guard says when dropped, retardant from the MAFFS system covers an area one-quarter of a mile long and 60 feet wide.
The MAFFS equipped planes are based around the country including at the Air National Guard’s 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs . The MAFFS program was created in the 1970’s after a major fire in California overwhelmed the air tanker fleet of the U.S. Forest Service.