News: MAFFS II Making an Impact
Story by 1st Lt. Michael Wilber
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. – MAFFS II has replaced the MAFFS Legacy system and is making a big impact with the effectiveness and integration of the military units in aerial firefighting.
Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System or MAFFS has been around since the 1970’s. Simply put, it is a series of tanks that can be loaded with fire retardant and pressurized, which has a delivery system to push the retardant outside the aircraft. These tanks are designed to mount in a C-130, an aircraft strong and large enough to carry 3000 gallons of retardant, but small and slow enough to put the retardant in a tight pattern where it is needed.
The MAFFS II systems allow the MAFFS aircraft to be loaded at the same bases as the larger civilian air tankers due to the built in compressors used to pressurize their load of fire retardant to be forced out of the aircraft. Previously, the MAFFS aircraft were limited to sites with ground air compressors. Civilian air tankers drop their load form the bottom using gravity, thus they did not require the compressors.
“Mixing MAFFS and civilian at co-located base has been very beneficial,” said Thom Porter, assistant MAFFS liaison officer. “The pilots are briefed together allowing them to integrate even more.”
The abilities of the military flight crews coupled with the new MAFFS II systems have also allowed the MAFFS aircraft to integrate more easily into the flying rotation.
“We were just hearing yesterday they [MAFFS] has been working into a pattern with the SEATS [Single Engine Air Tankers], basically a crop-duster type aircraft. You can see how those different aircraft could be difficult to work together, but the SEAT pilots were talking about how well the MAFFS were working into the flight rotation when dropping into the fires,” said Porter.
The new system is also helping firefighting crews on the ground. “With the MAFFS II units, we see a higher quality product,” said Porter. “The new system allows MAFFS to act more versatile with better, more even coverage.”
The new systems also allow more control over the jettison of their load. “We are able to drop a third a half or all of our load [of fire retardant] which give flexibility of the guys on the ground to use us more effectively,” said Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, aircraft commander of MAFFS 7 of the N.C. Air National Guard.
Ground firefighting crews have been praising the new MAFFS II systems. “Firefighters on the ground are noticing a better retardant delivery from the new MAFFS system,” said Porter.
Aircrews have also experienced advantages in the new MAFFS II system. The older MAFFS system had tubes that positioned outside the aircraft by opening the cargo ramp and door. The new system has a nozzle permanently affixed through a door plug in place of the left paratroop door. “Pressurizing the airplane and being able to maintain pressurization causes less fatigue for aircrew on higher altitude drops,” said Mikeal.