New storage, museum hangar

by: TOM BROWN - One of Erickson Aero Tanker's MD-87s practices a slurry drop on Friday at the Madras Municipal Airport. The 'next generation' firefighting aircraft is one of seven owned by Aero Tanker that is being readied for active firefighting duty. Erickson Aero Air, of Hillsboro, purchased Butler Aircraft's DC-7 firefighting operation at the Madras airport last year, acquired the MD-87s, and renamed it Aero Tanker.Aero Air is moving forward with construction of a new aircraft storage hangar just north of its current hangar at Madras Municipal Airport.

The city of Madras approved the application from the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum for the 64,000-square-foot facility on Aug. 8, and

Aero Air began ground work on Aug. 12. The official groundbreaking will be held Friday, Aug. 23, at 11 a.m., north of the Erickson Aero Tanker building, at 2322 N.W. Berg Way.

Steele Associates Architects was expected to submit the final drawing for the facility Monday, so that CS Construction can get to work on the actual building.

"We're hoping to be done in April," said Kenny Rice, site superintendent for CS Construction, which also built the Madras City Hall and Police Station.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - A CS Construction crew digs subgrade for Aero Tanker's new, 64,000-square-foot facility for aircraft storage, and eventually to house the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum's aircraft."They gave us the OK to proceed with grading and clearing," said Rice. "We want to get the concrete down before it gets cold."

The large hangar will be used to store aircraft from Aero Tanker, as well as owner Jack Erickson's collection of World War II aircraft, currently housed in a blimp hangar in Tillamook.

"The building's supposed to start arriving the first of November," said Rice.

In the meantime, Aero Tanker is busy gearing up to take tests to obtain certification to fly its MD-87s as airtankers, which could happen in the next couple of months. Two of the company's fleet of seven former commercial airliners have already been converted to airtankers with 4,000 gallon tanks.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - An Aero Tanker employee caps containers as part of a trial 'grid test' on Friday, after an MD-87 aircraft dropped a slurry mixture similar to fire retardant. The airtanker must pass a U.S. Forest Service grid test, using actual retardant, to demonstrate that the plane can properly disperse the material.“We’re still working on completion of the grid test,” said Glen Newton, of Madras, airtanker operations manager. The MD-87 must pass a U.S. Forest Service grid test, measuring how well it can disperse a load of fire retardant, and a static test, dropping a load on a tarmac, to receive a supplemental certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration to enable Aero Tanker to fly its airtankers for fire suppression.

Jack Erickson and Kevin McCullough, owners of Aero Air and Aero Tanker, were at the airport on Friday to watch a practice grid test. Erickson estimated that the actual test will end up costing the company as much as $500,000.

The company is currently employing 10 pilots, six maintenance personnel and Newton at the Madras facility.

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