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Belly Tank Vs Bucket

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Was on the Simplex web site (here http://www.simplexmfg.net/english/videogallery.asp) and watching the video of the crane filling its tank. Can't say it gave me any warm and fuzzy feelings, that's for sure. All I saw was a machine hovering over the MIDDLE of a lake for what seems like too long, very low, with water being blown all over the windows obstructing the pilots view. As the machine got heavier it ended up closer to the water with more blowing water. All I could think was not being able to see, getting progressively heavier and settling unknowingly untill you get the magical t/r dip and all goes to shite in a hurry.


I REALLY wouldn't want to be there. Must admit I prefer to be at the end of at least 100 ft, where I can dip the bucket on the edge of the lake and within gliding distance to shore and not to mention the good visibility. And yes, I do use the term gliding distance loosely. But really, I'd much rather put a machine into the trees or in the very shallow shore if the stove quits than in the middle of a lake. Not to mention the risk of dipping your tail. Yes, I know that's a risk with a bucket on a short line as well, but that's exactly why I've never been there either.


Just Two Cents



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price out a belly tank for a...lets see...a 407....you can buy almost 10 bambi's ...tanks have their place...if water in the area that you work is very shallow a tank is a wonderful thing but not out in the middle of a big lake...have seen video of skycrane taking on water and they usually do not hover....a bucket in 12 inches of water is pretty much useless...like I said each has it own place but the difference in price is unreal

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And that, is what situational awarness is all about.....and your right, a "warm and fuzzy felling" is exactly what you should "not" have when filling a tank.

As I spend time on both sides of the equation, you must "always" respect the position you are in with a tank.......you do try not to fill from the middle of a lake, but sometimes it may be necessary.


It is a two pilot cockpit (boxoffice?), one pilot is flying for reference, and the other is monitoring instruments and has their hand on an emergency dump valve......both are very well trained in emergency procedures to perform their responsibilities should one arise...........single engine performance on a crane is quite remakable........I have lost a stove, and still safely (within OEI limits) set down a 13,000lb turn and flown back to service.

Would I feel the same about being in the middle of a lake with a single engine aircraft.....probably not, but with a smaller aircraft you can fit a lot more places than we can.


And yeah........I will always love a bucket and longline ;)

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Be careful not to apply the Canadian experience of mostly fighting fires in remote areas. In lots of areas in the world many fires are in populated areas and tanks are required for safety reasons. I've put lots of water on buildings and vehicles, having to dodge major highways and housing developments with lots of spectators. I like to use both it’s just a matter of using the right tool for the right job

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The USFS requires that some contracts use belly tanks because of the density of houses and freeways in Southern California.


Also, with so much grass and brush in So Cal, the belly tank is often preferred.

Tanks give a different spray pattern than a bucket. That pattern is far more useful than a bucket drop in that vegetation.


Some of the ponds in So Cal are so shallow that a bucket colud not be filled properly.


Bucket manufacturers have developed filler-pumps and spray-nets to make buckets more useful in these conditions, but I still don't think they match a belly tank for performance.


With all this being said, I love using a bucket on a long-line in a forest.

The long-line can dip into a narrow creek/canyon where a tank snorkel could not.

The bucket-drop pattern works better for heavier timber.

The accuracy of a spot-drop from a bucket works well for clean-up of smouldering stumps in a forest setting. Stumps are not present in So Cal grasslands.



Hovering at 150' for a short time, or hovering at 10' over the lake (stay near the shore, please !!) for a longer time.........that's a coin toss.

A serious malfunction at either point could be disastrous.

There's plenty of ways for us to hurt ourselves in a day, and a mechanical malfunction is often less likely than snagginging a bucket, or tagging a tail rotor etc. etc.

Work for a company with excellent maintenance, and fly cautiously.


After spending lots of time with a tank and a bucket, I really think the answer to the question of belly tank versus bucket depends on the location and vegetation-type involved.


Now back to a more difficult question...........what's better, Eurocopter or Bell????? Ha ha.

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