Friday, July 20, 2018

Dean Talley (Part 3 of 3): Some of the Tankers that Dean Flew

Dean Talley flew a variety of types of air tankers over the course of more than 35 years. It is not my intent here to provide a history of these air tankers. Rather, my purpose here is to provide those of you who may be interested with more information and additional resources about some of the air tankers that Dean flew. I’ll start with some specific references to specific aircraft and contractors. Then I’ll move on to a couple of more general databases of historic and current air tankers. This information is only a partial listing of available information on these air tankers.

CAL FIRE has a very good website with a lot of links where you can go to for a variety of information. They do have a good section on history of the agency including a page on aviation history where you can learn about historic and current fixed wing aircraft. The California Pilots Association has a nice webpage on the agency’s current fixed wing aircraft with links to photos and videos.

One of the contractors that used to have contracts with the US Forest Service for air tankers was Aero Union. Aero Union was founded in 1961 and over the years they had a variety of different aircraft that served as air tankers, including C-54/DC-4 tankers, a variation of the Lockheed P2V that Aero Union called the SP2H and the P3 Orion. I believe that Dean also flew the Lockheed P3 Orion. Here is a short video of an Aero Union P-3 making a drop. When I began writing about aerial wildland firefighting in 2009 the only type of aircraft left in their fleet were several P-3s. Aero Union lost its contract for P3s with the US Forest Service in 2011, permanently grounding Aero Union’s fleet of P3s. Wikipedia has a page on Aero Union that you may want to read.  A friend of mine, Scorched Sky Productions did a nice tribute video on Aero Union and the P3 Orion that you may find here.

Minden, out of Reno Nevada had three Lockheed P2V Neptunes at one time. By 2013, there was only one P2 left in Minden’s stable, tanker 48. Dean Talley was flying tanker 48 for Minden up until the incident in 2014 with the collapsed nose gear. Dean and his co-pilot were flying the Shirley Fire just before the hydraulic failure resulting in the nose gear collapse with no injuries. There  is a short video taken of Tanker 48 over Shirley Fire just before nose gear collapse. Tanker 48 was taken out of service after the nose gear collapsed.

A couple of different types of Lockheed P2V Neptune’s saw service as air tankers, flown by Aero Union, Minden Air, Neptune Aviation and other companies.. There is a nice webpage on P2V Neptune Airtankers with links to different contractors. For example, you may read about Minden Air’s and Aero Union’s air tankers.

My friend, Gordon Koenig was Dean’s co-pilot in Aero Union tanker 18 in 1996. Gordon spent a few years as captain flying Lockheed P2V Neptune air tankers for Neptune Aviation after he flew with Dean. Aero Union retired their P2V tankers several years ago. Gordon explained the difference between Neptune Aviation’s P2V tankers and Aero Union’s “SP2H” tankers in 1996 when he flew with Dean: 
Aero Union used to have 3 P2V's in the stable. They were modified by Aero Union to meet the California rule of being able to land loaded. They did things a bit differently at CAL FIRE (formerly known as the California Department of Forestry or CDF). When a smoke is spotted, they launch everything they have within a certain radius. Most everybody got cancelled on the way to the fire, unless the thing is huge and growing.
A loaded P2V, such as the one’s flown by Neptune Aviation (formerly Black Hills), is above its maximum landing weight. So, a cancelled dispatch in one of those P2's meant you had to pitch the load in the woods in order to land. Aero Union pulled off the jets and used only the inboard fuel tanks in order to meet the maximum landing weight. They were good airplanes, faster than the Black Hills model and they climbed better once you got them up to speed. Dean and I were flying an Aero Union version, which they called the SP2H. They sold them all and they have all now been scrapped.
That SP2H designation was borrowed from the Navy and has nothing to do with the real SP2H designation that the Navy used on some Neptune’s. I think Aero Union didn't know what to call their version and they wanted the agencies to be able to recognize and differentiate between theirs and the other P2's flying at the time. Aero Union especially wanted CDF to recognize the Aero Union version as an airplane that met the loaded landing requirements of a CDF contract.

There are two other databases that I use when I quickly need to find information online about historic air tankers. The first one I have already referenced in parts 1 and 2, that is Ruud Leeuw’s  database of air tankers including tanker number, contractor, type of aircraft, registration and c/n, and link to an outside (copyrighted) photograph. 

Another nice database of historic and some current air tanker types is by napoleon130 with some basic information along with a history of the development of the aircraft, specifications, and a photo. You start by going to napoleon130’s air tanker listing (by retardant capacity), find the tanker you are interested and click on the link. While some of the information found on this site is likely found elsewhere, I like it because it is one-step shopping.

Note: this is part 3 of a three-part series on Dean Talley.  Part 1 focuses on Dean the family man and tanker pilot, and part 2 focuses on remembrances of Dean from fellow tanker pilots. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Dean Talley (Part 2 of 3): Remembrances From Fellow Tanker Pilots

Dean at the beach
There is no better way for you to know Dean than to read some remembrances shared by a couple of his long-time friends and fellow pilots.  I begin with the full remembrance given by my friend Jerome Laval at Dean’s memorial service on April 14, 2018. I share this with you with the permission of Jerome Laval (also on this Facebook post).
So long Dean…
Nancy, Stephen, Michelle, Laura: my sincere condolences and thank you for gathering all of us to celebrate Dean’s life. And what a great life he had. Ravi, thank you very much for the hangar. Very appropriate. Much appreciated. Knowing Dean, being around him and laughing with him were a privilege. I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt to honor Dean and his lifestyle. I think he would approve and smile. 
I met Dean 20 years ago at a tanker base somewhere in the West when I was flying a C-130 for TBM. “Coming from France? Well that’s interesting… “ He said with a big smile. For few years we crossed paths and fought fires on the Fed side. In 2005 and 2006 he spent a lot of time in Chico where I was based with Walt Darran. So we got to know and appreciate each other. I also met Nancy and Christine. As you know this career is really tough on the family life. Wives or husbands and children should get more recognition for putting up with this lifestyle and all the sacrifices made so we can fly and drop retardant on fires all over the state or the country. Dean was a free spirit. As far as Aerial firefighting, he flew everything (O-2, OV-10, S-2, P-2, DC-4, P-3, Bae-146, S-2T…). He was a legendary tanker pilot. Very professional, passionate and excellent in his craft of fighting fires with aircraft.  We can all attest to that statement. A great sense of humor and always putting things in perspective. We laughed a lot at the base, coming up with ideas from “Thinking outside the box”… Way outside the box. Did you know Captain Dean O. Talley was a Fire Pirate? AAARRR !!! 
He was also a philosopher who followed the “Hu Khayr” philosophy. One can answer many issues or important questions saying; “Hu Khayr!”. Who cares; It was a joke because actually he cared a lot. He was a board member of Associated Aerial Firefighters and active member of the California Fire Pilots Association. He cared for this mission, his fellow pilots, mechanics and this industry. In 2015, we got based together again in Santa Rosa and it was really a pleasure to work with him. After a long day of aerial firefighting, we would meet with Bob Valette at “the beach”, our spot behind the tanker base, tell funny stories and laughed. We protected the Turtle Frogs…Yes they exist. Dean laughed a lot and enjoyed life to the fullest. Besides flying, Dean was interested in discovering other countries, different cultures and traveling the world. We all know that he was also a talented writer and I was looking for reading his third book but … 
I still can’t believe Dean isn’t with us anymore. I really can’t. So long my friend. I miss you. We miss you.
Thank you for being the great person you were. I still can’t believe I’m writing this and saying it out loud…. So long Dean.
Load and hold my friend, load and hold…. 
Jerome Chico, CA. 4/14/2018

The second remembrance is a story from Jim Barnes, also shared at Dean’s memorial service. I only just recently got to know Jim. He has been very helpful to me in writing about Dean. I like this story because it speaks to his skill at working in support of the wildland firefighters on the ground (see this Facebook post for the full remembrance):
The story that epitomizes the kind of tanker pilot Dean Talley was for me occurred at the Mount Vision fire near Pt. Reyes about 12 miles from my house. The vision fire was a fast moving north east wind driven fire and was closing on a hillside community. 
Then, Fire Captain Tim Thompson of Marin County Fire took a strike team down a long, narrow road surrounded by dense vegetation and forest canopy in an attempt to rescue and evacuate the citizens that lived there. As he arrived things went terribly wrong. 
Suddenly, the firefighters and citizens found themselves surrounded by crowning fire.  
Captain Thompson said that he decided to circle the wagons in an attempt to survive an over burn. Just as suddenly a DC-4 appeared overhead and salvoed 2,000 gallons of fire retardant right on their position. Once again Dean had saved the day. 
But that wasn’t unusual for Dean. He had a long history of performing monumental saves. Many times, I have heard air attack officers and lead plane pilots say things like, “We were in a tense situation and we were afraid we were going to lose homes then Dean showed up in his P-3 and saved our ass."

Finally, I want to share with you some remembrances of Dean from my friend Gordon Koenig. Gordon flew with Dean as a co-pilot in Aero Union tanker 18 in 1996 out of Chico, California.
Dean was always a gentleman. He never had a cross word for anyone in the industry or the Forest Service. All of us ran into a myriad of people who were frustrating to work with. Dean never wavered from his calm, polite, and professional demeanor. He always took the high road, something hardly any of us did when things got tense.
Dean was a delight to fly with. He was an absolute bird in the cockpit and flew those big heavy tankers like they were Piper Cubs. He was graceful and extremely focused and very funny. His favorite line after we came off the drop was, ‘Okay, we’re going to Cuba!’ He had spent time around there as a young pilot flying the PBY flying boats. Dean never got excited and his attitude about flying fires was that nothing should be a surprise. He gave us all a good name. I am very sorry he is gone.


I know that Dean is flying in favorable tail winds, perhaps over California. He is missed. My continued prayers and condolences for his wife Nancy, his children and the rest of his family; for  all who worked with Dean over the years; for his friends and all who love him.

This is part 2 of a three-part series on Dean Talley. Part 1 focuses on Dean the family man and tanker pilot. In part 3, I provide a very brief overview of some of the aircraft that Dean flew and where you can go for more information.

Links to the photos of the air tankers in this article are obtained from an airtanker database maintained by Ruud Leeuw. Each entry in Ruud’s data base has basic information on the air tanker and where possible, a link outside his website to a page with a copyrighted photo. It is the outside link that you see here.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dean Talley (Part 1 of 3): Family Man and Tanker Pilot

On March 10, 2018 we lost Dean Talley, one of the iconic air tanker pilots. He flew tankers for about 35 years. His wife,Nancy, told me that Dean loved his yard; he was mowing the lawn when he collapsed under a favorite redwood tree and died. He planted the Redwood as a seedling 30 years ago. Paramedics were quick to respond but were unable to revive him (see Dean’s obituary and a short tribute to Dean from Associated Aerial Firefighters). One of the things on my bucket list was to correspond with Dean Talley. It is my very great loss that I never corresponded with or knew Dean. However, over the years that I have been doing this blog on aerial wildland firefighting, I do feel like I got to know Dean through his posts on the Associated Aerial Firefighters where he served on their board and through social media. More importantly, Dean was an author (see Lone Palm Publishing) and I got to know Dean as a pilot through reading his books. 

Dean at the beach prepared for the sun

My condolences to Nancy, his children and the rest of his family, his friends and colleagues, and all who love Dean. I continue to keep all of you in my prayers. I know that Dean is flying in favorable tail winds.

There is a short biography of Dean from the Chico News and Review on Dean’s author’s page on Lone Palm Publishing.

I had some e-mail correspondence with Dean’s wife, Nancy Talley, a short time ago. I told her about the biography that I found and asked her if she would mind filling in some details. She told me they met in late September 1983. I believe that Dean may have been studying for his airframe and power plant license at that time. By 1986, he had graduated from community college and had gone back to flying air tankers. He married Nancy and they had three children, a boy and two girls. In 1989 he was flying air tankers out of the Chico Air Attack Base, so the Talleys moved to Chico so Dean could be close to the base and close to his family,

Nancy spoke to me of how much he loved his kids. They grew up at the Chico Air Attack Base.

By 2014, Dean was flying a P2V for Minden Air. Nancy spoke of his last flight at Minden and what happened next:

“In 2014, Dean and Taylor (his co-pilot) land a P2V at Fresno with hydraulic failure and a collapsed nose gear. They were within inches of the center line (of the runway) after skidding about a mile. There were no more Minden tankers to fly so Dean went to work for CAL FIRE.”  Earlier in his career, Dean had started flying tankers for CAL FIRE, then known as the California Department of Forestry.

Nancy told me that Dean had recently spent time in southern California at Hemet and Ramona Air Attack Bases covering for the regular pilots while they had a day off. Just before he died he was at ground school, pre-season training for CAL FIRE at McClellan Air Attack Base. She commented that “it was all very sad.”

Last but by no means least, Nancy shared with me about how much he enjoyed working with the young pilots, most recently at CAL FIRE, and before that at other contractors he flew tankers for.  She also told me that the young pilots enjoyed working with and hanging out with Dean. These are some of things that stood out to me of Dean’s rapport with the young pilots:
  • He was a gentleman, leaving a loving and lasting impression.
  • He told great stories about flying, told with his special sense of humor. His audience hung onto every word.
  • He made new pilots feel like they belonged.

This is part 1 of a three-part series on Dean Talley. Part 2 focuses on remembrances of Dean from fellow tanker pilots. In part 3, I provide a very brief overview of some of the aircraft that Dean flew and where you can go for more information.

Links to the  photo of the air tanker were obtained from an airtanker database maintained by Ruud Leeuw  on this webpage with basic information and where possible, a link outside his website to a page with a copyrighted photo. It is the outside link that you see here.

Friday, July 13, 2018

NJ Forest Fire Service 2018 Crew Deployment: Dollar Ridge Fire (UT)

I wrote the other day about what I believe is the first New Jersey Forest Fire Crew (NJS#1) to be deployed to wildfires in other parts of the United States. If you are like me and you wonder if your State has a crew deployed to other parts of the Country, you can go to the Geographic Area Coordination Center National Website Portal and find your local coordination center. In my case, this is the Eastern Area Coordination Center (EACC). Where you go next and the name of the document with crew deployment depends on how the website for your local coordination center is set up. In my case the page that I am looking for is under crews where I am looking for a document called Interagency Resource Representative  Report (IARR). The IARR, updated daily while crews are deployed out of the region, lists crews deployed outside the region. Most crews are listed starting with their two character abbreviation.

So, I know that today New Jersey has one crew, NJS#1 deployed outside the region, to the Dollar Ridge Fire. If possible, I want to know about the wildfire where the crew from my state is deployed. If the wildfire that your crew is deployed to is on federal land, that it will be listed on inciweb. Knowing the name of your fire, you can use the drop down box on the top right to locate the fire you are interested in or find the icon on the interactive map.

I am interested in the Dollar Ridge Fire, which may be found on this inciweb page. I know that the Dollar Ridge has now burned 56,687 acres and is at 60 percent containment. You may look at individual pages for information, announcements, closures, news, photographs, and maps. I usually start by looking at a map to get a geographic perspective. I found two maps of interest, both shared below. I also like to look at the photograph page, in this case there is some very fine fire photography, photos of helicopters, photos of crews, etc.

Dollar Ridge Public Information (7/13/18) obtained on 7/13/18 from

Dollar Ridge Fire Evacuation Areas (7/13/18) obtained on 7/13/18 from

Finally, I try to find out some more specifics of what the crew from my state is doing. This might be more difficult. In my case, there are some social media websites where I can find information about what the NJFFS crews are up to. You might try Facebook or Twitter or even local media. In any event, I was fortunate to find some posts from one of the crew members of the NJS#1 crew on the Facebook Page for the NJFFS Section A2 Firefighters Association. The latest update was posted late on July 12th. The crew spent yesterday working on creating firelines, among other tasks, in preparation for burnout operations that are scheduled for today (dependent on weather conditions). There are some nice photos from a July 11th post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

NJ Forest Fire Service Crews 2018 Deployments

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service has a crew, NJS#1, deployed to the Dollar Ridge Fire (Duchesne, Utah). Current information on crews deployed from the Eastern Area Coordination Center (EACC), including New Jersey, may be found on the EACC Interagency Resource Representative (IARR) Report, updated daily when crews are deployed to other parts of the country. According the EACC, the New Jersey crew is currently deployed (July 11th) to Division W constructing indirect fireline and is getting hot meals at spike camp.

As I write this on July 11th, the Dollar Ridge Fire has burned 52,256 acres and is at 50 percent containment. The fire was caused by humans. On July 5th, an IMET trainee from the NWS Fairbanks, Alaska was deployed to the fire (see this Facebook Post from the NWS IMET. The fact that an IMET trainee was deployed to this fire means that an IMET was already working the fire.

Some short videos for your enjoyment. Thanks to the crew from New Jersey helping fight the Dollar Ridge fire, stay safe.

Direct link to video on Youtube (July 4th)

Direct link to video from 97.1 ZHT on Youtube

Direct link to video from 97.1 ZHT on Youtube

Monday, July 09, 2018

Winter Hill Fire Lancashire UK

I do my best to try to follow wildfires in other parts of the world. I came across a video from the United Kingdom recently, thanks to my friends at the B10 NJ Wildland Fire Page. The video shows footage of a wildfire known as the Winter Hill Moorland in Lancashire County England. I understand that Lancashire is in eastern England

Direct link to video from LancashireFire

I went looking for more information about the Winter Hill Moorland Fire and it did not take long for me to find the website of the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Squad. I found an update dated July 9, 2018, the fire is contained to an area of about 8 square kilometers or about 1,976 acres. I also found a video about from Lancashire Fire dated July 8, 2019. According to an article from the Independent (UK), there was an arrest made of a suspected arsonist.

Direct link to video from LancashireFire

Friday, July 06, 2018

2018 Fire Season: Wildfires Burning in Western US

For the last few days I have been hard at work on some articles that I hope to post in a few days, stay tuned. In the meantime, I am aware of the wildfires burning in the Western United States.

I came across a nice New York Times article (limited free articles for non-subscribers) written by Thomas Fuller and Julie Turkewitz (with a video) on July 2nd. Thomas and Julie summarize 29 wildfires that were then burning in the Western United States. The title of the article uses the phrase, new normal, I certainly hope that this is not the new normal. But with the changing climate, I do wonder. Anyway, my thoughts and meditations are with all the wildland firefighters on the ground and in the air working these wildfires, support staff, and affected residents and business owners. I hope that everyone stays safe and heeds evacuation orders, whether they be mandatory or voluntary.

Among the wildfires burning out west are:

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Happy 4th of July

On this fourth of July in the United States, I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday. Enjoy this five minute video from Fleur de Lee Productions of fireworks over Phoenix Arizona on July 4, 2010, Taken from a Cirrus SR-22.

Direct link to video on Youtube

Monday, July 02, 2018

Aviation History: footage of 1929, 1931, and 1931 National Air Races

I enjoy reading about aviation history and I was reading about the 1929 National Air Races in Cleveland Ohio in a book by Elinor Smith. Among other things, she got her pilot's license at 16 and flew under all four spans on the East River in New York City when she was 17. Elinor was named women aviator of the year in 1930. Elinor wrote her autobiography, Aviatrix, in 1981 and if you enjoy reading about early aviation history you will enjoy reading her autobiography. Here is short piece from NPR (2010).

Elinor was at the 1929 National Air Race in Cleveland, Ohio. Among other things she dropped parachuters and did some stunt flying. I got interested in seeing if I could find some footage of the 1929 National Air Race and came across this great footage posted by PeriscopeFilm on Youtube. The footage is just under 24 minutes with some very cool old airplanes and some nice footage of stunt flying. As I understand it this footage is compilation of footage from the 1929, 1931, and 1930 air races (in that order, see the information in this Youtube link for more information.

Direct link to Youtube video uploaded by PeriscopeFilms

Friday, June 29, 2018

Reflections on 10 years of blogging on wildfires: early explorations into the world of wildfires

June 29, 2018
Reflections on 10 years of blogging on wildfires: early explorations into the world of wildfires

After I first got interested in wildfires in July 2008, I recognized that I knew very little about wildland fires. By mid=August 2008, I had a couple of humbling and embarrassing conversations with folk in the business of fighting wildfires. These conversations demonstrated how much I did not know. I suspect that there are some things that I got wrong in my first few weeks of writing about wildfires, especially but not including what I wrote about the Basin Complex Fire (Los Padres National Forest, California. However, even though my ramblings at that time were those of someone who was very new to the world of wildland firefighting, I did care. Perhaps I was not then able to articulate my caring about wildland firefighters and those affected by wildfires in words. But I did care. And it was that caring which kept me going through those sometimes difficult period in the fall and early winter of 2008 to January 2009.

In the early fall of 2008, not quite knowing what else to do, but knowing that I wanted to learn more about fighting wildfires, I did a couple of things on my own. I also kept blogging about other things I was interested in.

The first and perhaps most important thing I did was to continue reading various books and articles I found on the internet about wildland firefighting. After reading Norman MacClean’s book, Young Men And Fire, on the smokejumpers who died in the 1949 Man Gulch Fire, I read about some historic wildfires, as well as other accounts of wildfires where firefighters died. I also read at least one book by a wildland firefighter. I enjoyed that first hand account. I did most of this reading quietly, taking in what I was learning and making notes of things that I wanted to learn more about.

I knew how to do research on the internet, and began to explore the internet for good information on wildland firefighting based in part on what I had been reading. Thanks to a now defunct wildland fire forum, wildlandfire dot com, I began to learn about wildland firefighting from folk who were on the frontline fighting wildfires and their friends. They had a links page, and I began to explore those links. I got interested in how wildland firefighters stay safe, and began reading up on safety. I did some blogging about what I learned, while at the same time trying to be careful of my sources.

I began to follow wildfires around the country, although I suspect that I may have had more of a focus on California. However, I also tried to pay attention to wildfires that burned closer to home, reading and then writing about a couple of late summer wildfires in New Jersey.

I continued to learn. I did enjoy the process of learning about wildland firefighting. I felt a new purpose for my writing after over four years of struggling with what and how I wanted to write about. At the time, I knew that I was only scraping the surface of the world of wildland firefighting. I kept going.

Ten years later, I’d like to think that I know a little more about wildland firefighting. At least as I can without being a wildland firefighter.  I do admit that sometimes I still feel like I am only scraping the surface of what there is to know about wildland firefighting. I keep going with this blog with some minor changes in the last ten years. Most important I continue to care, I care deeply. I feel a strong commitment to wildland firefighting; aerial, troops on the ground, various support staff, and other agencies providing support.