Charlotte Air National Guard Unit Returns to Aerial Fire Fighting Mission


Two Charlotte-based 145th Airlift Wing C-130 aircraft will support the U.S. Forest Service's wild land firefighting mission from McLellan Airfield near Sacramento, Calif., deploying Monday, August 13.

The aircraft and 16 airmen will support the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) mission, which is expected to last through Sept. 4. One aircraft will carry the MAFFS module, which disperses fire retardant or water on a wild land fire. The second aircraft will carry maintenance specialists and support equipment.

The mission comes a month and a half after four of the unit's airmen died when their Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) equipped C-130 crashed while fighting a fire in southwestern South Dakota.

"Our folks from Charlotte are ready to rejoin our MAFFS brothers and sisters," said Col. Roger Williams, 145th Airlift Wing Operations Group commander. "We all feel it's extremely important for our people to get back to this critical mission, and we will carry the memory of MAFFS 7 in our hearts as the wild land fire fighting continues."

MAFFS 7, operated by the 145th, was battling the White Draw fire near Edgemont, S.D., on the evening of July 1 when it crashed killing four crew members and severely injuring two others. The unit retired the aircraft's U.S. Air Force tail number and the MAFFS 7 designator during a memorial ceremony held July 10 on base.

Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville; Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, 36, of Belmont; Maj. Ryan S. David, 35, of Boone; and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, 50, of Charlotte, died in the crash.

In addition to the 145th Airlift Wing, MAFFS are operated by three other military units: The 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard; 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, U.S. Air Force Reserve Command.

MAFFS is a joint Department of Defense and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the forest service.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the U.S. Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than 5 seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

Since its activation June 25, the MAFFS fleet has released more than 1,309,363 gallons of fire retardant during 547 drops on fires in eight states in the Rocky Mountain area. The 302nd Airlift Wing performed the millionth MAFFS drop this past Sunday. The 500th drop this season was made Wednesday by the same unit. This year's MAFFS operations are on pace to exceed MAFFS operations in 2008. That year, MAFFS units dropped 1,313,900 gallons of retardant.

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Contact: Lt. Col. Rose Dunlap
Phone: (704)391-4239

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