San Diego County

Ramona-Based Firefighters Train on C-130 Named ‘Zeus'

The plan is for Cal Fire to retrofit and add five of the military aircraft to it's fire fighting resources over the next several years.

A C-130 nicknamed Zeus will be in San Diego County throughout the month of August, training Ramona-based pilots who normally fly CalFire's workhorse S-2 tankers.

The pilots are training to fly the much bigger aircraft that will eventually join Cal Fire's fleet.

The first thing you notice about the C-130 is that it's huge. It can carry up to 4,000 gallons of flame retardant. By comparison, the S-2 tanker holds 1,200 gallons.

“The crew can dial in coverage levels, gallon levels, however much they want, and then when it comes time to drop, they just hit right here and the computer does everything for us,” said Paul Huebner, Flight Engineer with Coulson Aviation.

Take an inside look of the Ramona-based C-130 aircraft with NBC 7's Artie Ojeda and flight engineer Paul Huebner with Coulson Aviation.

Depending on the airport's pump system, it can take 8-to 10 minutes to fill that tank.

Depending on the weight of the load. the C-130 can stay in the air for 4 to 5 hours. 

Three crew members fly the C-130 compared to a single pilot for the S-2.

And so, communication is a major part of training.

"This is a more complicated system. This is an aircraft that requires many more hands and many more arms and legs and eyes to safely operate and so they're learning to safely operate as a team and they're doing it under close supervision," Capt. Issac Sanchez with CalFire said.

If all goes as planned, CalFire will eventually have five C-130's in operation up and down the state.

One of them will be permanently based in Ramona by the 2021/22 fire season.

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