Last updated 26 February 2023


A historical survey of US fire attack air tanker companies to the year 2000, compiled by Geoff Goodall

Idaho Air Tankers Inc, Boise Idaho
Idaho Air Tankers Inc, 818 W State Street, Boise Idaho
Founded by Walter E. White and Thomas A.White
A 1963 USFS fire tanker availability list shows Grumman TBM N7030C #D13 operated by Tom White at Salmon Idaho.

Grumman TBM-3
by 1963-1965
registered by 63 Idaho Air Tankers
sold c65 to Reeder Flying Service, Twin Falls ID
Douglas A-26

purchased 27.9.61 exVon Carsted, Long Beach CA
sold 19.10.63 to Moseley Aviation AZ
Douglas A-26
by 1963-2.66

sold 19.2.66 to Reeder Flying Svce, Twin Falls ID

Idaho Aircraft Company, Boise Idaho
Idaho Aircraft Co Inc, P.O.Box 4512 Boise ID
This business was established by Milt Smilanich and Dennis G. Smilanich and incorporated on 12 February 1959.
By 1961 it was a fire bombing contractor to US Forest Service and Burea of Land Management, when tanker pilots included Milt Smilanich, Judd Stevens, Jim Saad, Milt Sparks.
Withdrew from air tanker operations in 1971 but the company continued as an general aviation business at Boise Airport into the 1990s.
Other aircraft:
Beech 35 N738D
Cessna 140 N81066
Cessna 150 N8324G

Grumman TBM-3
by 1963-6.70
purchased ex Parsons Air Park CA as a tanker
destroyed 19.6.70 pilot baled out due engine fire
near Boise ID
Grumman TBM-1
by 1963-8.68
purchased ex Parsons Air Park CA as a tanker
crashed 9.8.68 Graham, Idaho
Grumman TBF-1N7922A
by 1963-1964

purchased ex Parsons Air Park CA as a tanker
sold .64 to Johnson Flying Service Missoula
Grumman TBM-3N9590C
by 1963-1971
sold c71 to Aero Union, Chico CA
Grumman TBM-3N9584Z
purchased 15.6.5 ex Loening Air, Boise ID for parts,
no civil conversion, retained turret, bomb bay doors,
sold 12.75 to Ralph Ponte CA for rebuild as a warbird
Grumman TBM-3

purchased 16.8.68 ex John Lippott, Salmon ID as a tanker
sold c71 to Aero Union, Chico CA
North American
TB-25N Mitchell

purchased 3.61 ex Blue Mountain Air Service,
La Grande, Oregon as a tanker,
sold 9.68 to Filmways for movie Tora Tora Tora
TB-25N Mitchell N2887G

purchased 3.61 ex Blue Mountain Air Service,
La Grande, Oregon as a tanker,
sold 6.65 to Loening Air, Boise ID
TB-25J Mitchell

purchased 3.61 ex Blue Mountain Air Service,
La Grande, Oregon; stripped for parts
stripped hulk at Boise 68-83
acquired .86 by Aero Nostalgia, Stockton CA for restoration for USAF Museum, Robins AFB GA
TB-25N Mitchell
by 1963

registered to Idaho Aircraft Co by 1963,
sold .63 to Arthur Siegell, Miami FL

1961 magazine picture showing Idaho Aircraft Co B-25 and TBM at work dropping fire retardant in Idaho.
With thanks to

Grumman TBM-3 N9590C tanker #D1 at Boise in June 1967.       Photo: J.A.Morrow via

International Air Applicators, Riverside, California
International Air Applicators Inc, Riverside CA
In 1958 this operator was the first to tank a US Navy disposals Consolidated P4Y-2 Privateer for chemical spraying and fire retardant dropping. It was the largest aircraft converted for aarial application at the time and attracted a lot of interest.
Unfortunately the first Privateer tanker was destroyed while spraying near Flagstaff AZ in June 1959, but a replacement (with the same registration) was quickly put into service.

Consolidated P4Y-2 Privateer
N6884C (1
Registered 1.12.58
crashed 20.6.59 Prescott AZ while spraying
Consolidated P4Y-2 Privateer N6884C (2
Purchased 7.59 ex Alllied Metal Industries,
retardant tanks installed 8.59 as tanker #84
sold 10.65 to Rosenbalm Aviation, Medford OR

The first Privateer N6884C at Riverside CA during 1959 with spray gear along the wing trailing edge

Wreck of the first N6884C at Prescott AZ in June 1959, spray bar visible.         Bob Livingstone collection

International Air Response, Chandler AZ
International Air Response Inc, Chandler Memorial Airfield, 22000 South Price Road, Chandler AZ,
later Coolidge Municiple Airport AZ, later Mesa-Gateway AZ

William "Woody" Grantham, a long-time partner with Sergio Tomasoni in the large tanker operation T&G Aviation Inc at Chandler AZ, established IAR as an associate company during the 1980s. IAR offered the same range of spraying, fire attack, oil-slick dispersant and Government contract transport tasks as T&G Aviation, with company headquarters in the same office block at Goodyear Memorial Airfield, Chandler AZ.
The airfield was closed to operations in 2005.

T&G Aviation Inc built up a fleet of Douglas DC-7s used for fire attack with 3,000 gallon belly tanks. During the 1980s a number of their DC-7s had been refitted for insecticide spraying with 5,800 gallon tanks inside the fuselage. These were deployed to Africa on large scale locust plague spraying contracts. T&G acquired a number of military surplus Lockheed C-130As via the US Forestry Service from 1989, and equipped them with the removable RADS retardant delivery system. Two were operated in France on fire attack contracts.

IAR had taken over T&G Aviation's last operational DC-7 tanker N4887C by 1989, when it continued the T&G contract with the State of Alaska for the next three years, crewed by Woody Grantham, Bob Russell and Craig Hutchings based at Palmer. After a 1990 repaint in stunning Delta Airlines scheme, it continued working until retired in 1994 at IAR's new base at Coolidge AZ.
The T&G Aviation C-130A Hercules were marketed by IAR as each was brought into civil service, offering them for aerial fire fighting, spraying oil slick dispersant or chemical insecticides, heavy transport and parachuting supplies from the open rear ramp.

During 1991 T&G Aviation C-130As gained commercial transport contracts from the US military in Kuwait for Operation Desert Storm including carrying heavy oil field fire fighting equipment after the war. These Gulf War transport contracts drew heavy criticism from other US air tanker operators who claimed the C-130As had been acquired through a US Forest Service exchange scheme to reequip tanker companies with turbine aircraft for fire attack use only. Eventually this led to an US Congressional Enquiry and legal action, the findings generating years of US media attention referred to as the Forest Service Air Tanker Scandal.  Refer:

International Air Response Inc emerged as the sole operating name when T&G Aviation President William Grantham filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 1993 and ceased all T&G Aviation operations. Meanwhile IAR acquired more C-130A Hercules and secured world-wide work, mostly for Government agencies.
IAR moved from Chandler to Coolidge AZ in 2004, and moved again to Mesa-Falcon Field in 2014.
Refer in this series: Douglas County Aviation and T&G Aviation

Douglas DC-7B
c/n 45351
Registered to T&G Aviation but operated by IAR from 1989. US Civil Register ownership tfd to IAR 5.6.02
retired Coolidge AZ 2004, sold to Delta Airlines Heritage Museum c2014, 5 year restoration at Coolidge,
ferried 11.19 to Atlanta for display
Lockheed C-130A Hercules
Registered 2.10.89 T&G Aviation, tfd 13.10.89 to IAR
op for Securite Civile, Marseille, France 93-00
crashed 6.9.00 Ardreche, Aubenas, French Alps
Lockheed C-130A
Registered 2.10.89 T&G Aviation, tfd 13.10.89 to IAR,
ferried to Kuwait 3.91 for transport contracts, returned to US later that year;
fitted RADS fire attack system 7.93 by Aero Union at Chico CA as tanker #81;
op for Securite Civile, Marseille, France 93-95
noted in service based Coolidge 4.07
Lockheed C-130AN118TG

Registered 22.1.90 T&G Aviation, tfd same day to IAR
Stored in USAF markings Chandler 90/05
noted in service based Coolidge 4.07
Operated for Marine Spill Response Corp
Lockheed C-130AN131HP
8.06 (parts)

Purchased 8.06 Hawkins & Powers closing auction
registered 3.07 IAR, noted Coolidge 4.07 parts removed,
rereg N126TG 2.10
not operated, stripped for parts at Coolidge AZ,
reg cancelled 22.5.14
Lockheed C-130AN133HP
8.06 (parts)

Purchased 8.06 Hawkins & Powers closing auction
registered 11.06 IAR, not operated,
stripped for parts, stripped hulk at Coolidge by 2014
Lockheed C-130A
3.07 parts)

Purchased 26.3.07 ex Aero Fire Fighting Service,
retired Chandler AZ 96-07 in faded Securite Civile paint scheme #83,
rereg N125TG 10.1.08 IAR, stripped for parts
stripped hulk N131FF at Coolidge AZ by 2014
Lockheed C-130A

Purchased 26.3.07 ex Aero Fire Fighting Service,
operated in USAF camouflage #83.
retired Chandler AZ 04-07, ferried to Coolidge where repainted white 4.07;
rereg N121TG 26.3.07 IAR, current
based Cardiff Wales 14-17 oil slick dispersal
Lockheed C-130AN134FF
3.07 (parts)

Purchased 26.3.07 ex Aero Fire Fighting Service, no civil conversion, stored Hemet CA 93-05 in original USAF camouflage,
not operated, stripped for parts, reg cancelled 7.13
Lockheed C-130A

Purchased 26.3.07 ex Aero Fire Fighting Service,
retired Chandler AZ 96-07,
rereg N119TG 26.3.07 IAR, current
Lockheed C-130A

Purchased 15.2.13 ex Digital C-130A LLC,
Andalusia, Alabama

Douglas DC-7B N4887C in action.                                                                                   Photo: IAR

C-130A Hercules N116TG in fire attack role as tanker #30.                                            Photo: IAR

IAR C-130A N118TG stored on a retardant-stained ramp at Chandler AZ in November 1991 still in USAF paintwork
with serial 70152 on the tail. An Allison and some parts had been removed.                  Photo by Geoff Goodall

N119TG at IAR's latest base Mesa AZ in March 2014.                             Photo by Brian Lockett

DC-7B N4887C #33 at the Coolidge AZ IAR base in April 2004 showing its Delta Airlines paint scheme.
Photo by Ralph M. Petersen

 International Air Response 1995 brochure

Intermountain Aviation, Marana, Arizona

Intermountain Aviation Inc, Marana AZ
A charter air transport operator which carred out clandstine operations and crew training for the US Central Intelligence Agency from a remote former military airfield Marana AZ. From 1963 Curtiss C-46 Commandos became the standard transport used for freight, personnel, parachuting platform etc.
Among Intermountain Aviation's aircraft fleet was Boeing B-17G N809Z which had been used for CIA tasks including retrieval of agents from the low flying B-17with the Fulton Skyhook system (as used by James Bond and female friend in the movie Thunderball in 1965). It ranged as far as the North Pole in 1962 when the B-17 dropped two US agents to investigate a Soviet ice station and retrieve them three days later.
During 1969 Intermountain Aviation decided to gain more utilisation from their sole B-17 by entering the rapidly growing fire bombing field. N809Z was fitted with an internal retardant tank and delivery system, completed in July 1969 in time to go to work during that year's summer fire season. A DHC-4 Caribou N6080 (c/n 2) was acquired in June 1971 for a USFS smoke-jumpers contract before being transferred to a CIA company Tynol Associates for operation in SE Asia by Air America.

The Intermountain Aviation business was taken over effective March 1974 by Del Smith's Evergreen Helicopters of McMinnville, Oregon. Evergreen had also been engaged in special operations for US Government agencies so the acquisition of Intermountain including the Marana private airfield with all its facilities would allow Evergreen to expand its tactical contract work. In November 1975 Evergreen Helicopters Inc bought out Johnson Flying Service at Missoula MT to acquire its Supplemental Air Carrier certification and fleet of Lockheed Electras.
Del Smith, President of Evergreen then established two new subsidiaries:
Evergreen International Airlines Inc, based at Evergreen Air Centre, Marana AZ: transport charters
Evergreen Air of Montana Inc, based at Missoula MT: to operate the former Johnson utility aircraft for Government agencies.

Intermountain Aviation other aircraft:
Douglas A-26 Invader: N5001X/N800V, N5002X/N900V
Curtiss C-46 Commando: N67936, N74811, N8417C, N1698M, N5076N, N9700Z, N9761Z, N9900Z
Douglas C-47:     N404D, N404U
Douglas DC-6A: N61267
DHC-4 Caribou: N6080
Lockheed PV-2 N7258C: crashed into houses 3.2.66 due engine fire on takeoff Phoenix-Sky Harbor AZ

Refer in this series: Evergreen Airlines

Boeing B-17G
tfd 4.10.62 ex Atlantic General Enterprises (CIA) ex Taiwan operations,
tanked at Marana 7.69 for fire attack
tfd 1.3.75 to Evergreen Helicopters as tanker

N809Z at Marana AZ September 1968 with the Fulton Skyhook apparatus on the nose.    Photo by Neil Aird

Intermountain Aviation N809Z at East Wenatchee WA fire attack base in August 1971 as tanker #71.
The cabin windows are a reminder of its earlier clandestine CIA transport days.         Photo by Ron Olsen

N809Z at Marana February 1973 after a repaint, Evergreen Aviation name on fuselage, tanker number C71.
Photo by Dave Welch

Jadon Enterprises Inc, Riverside, California

PBY-6A Catalina
by 1962-1963
sold .63 to Air Tankers Inc, Seattle WA as #E87

Charlie T. "Red" Jensen, Sacramento, California and Tonopah, Nevada

Charles T. Jenson, Sacramento CA trading as Farm Air Inc, Sacramento CA.
Based at Sacramento Municiple Airport, later Capitol Sky Park, West Sacramento
Jenson also operated under these company names:
- Nevadair Inc, Reno NV, Box 311 Reno NV
- Nevada Cropdusters Inc, Box 311 Reno NV
- C.T.Jensen of Nevada Inc, Box 311 Reno NV
- Tonopah Air Service Inc, Tonopah Municiple Airport NV

Charlie "Red" Jensen was a widely-known aerial agricultural operator during the 1930s to 1960s covering California and Nevada.
His large fleet of sprayers and dusters were registered among the various operating company names and included heavy sprayers such as Grumman TBM Avengers and a Grumman Wildcat
In 1954 he teamed up with Paul Mantz in Los Angeles to conduct he pioneering early trials of a dedicated fire bomber for the US Forestry Service using a Grumman TBM Avenger fitted with a 600 US gallon water tank constructed from plywood.
As the USFS began introducing fire tankers later in the 1950s, Jensen was contracted to modify some of his cropdusting Navy N3N biplanes as fire bombers.
He purchased a USAF surplus B-25 Mitchell N5262V in 1957, almost certainly with the intention of tanking it for fire attack work, but after ferrying it to his Tonopah Nevada base it was parked in the hangar for the next 27 years.
By 1978 Charlie Jensen was retired at Klamath Falls Oregon and he died in 1980.
An auction of his remaining 20 aircraft, spare parts and workshop equipment was held at Sacramento on 25 April 1981. It drew over 500 aviation enthusiasts and included two unairworthy Grumman Avengers - one sold to John Crocker & Mike Bogue, Oakland CA and the other to Dick Foy, Portland Oregon.

Other aircraft:
Travelair 4000:      N54129, N6297, N8132, N8715, N436N, N390M, N645H
Naval N3N:           N45084, N45292, N44973, N45136
Boeing Steaman:   N62911, N63519, N63594, N57441, N68824, N68825, N68826, N68828, N68829, N68830, N68832, N68833,
                              N68834, N68835
Vultee BT-13        N56916
Piper J-3C Cub     N98804
PA-18 Super Cub N7676D
Hiller UH-12        N5334V, N7725C, N7726C
Cessna 140           N2255N

Naval Aircraft Factory  N3N
by 1956-1981
operated as fire tanker 1957-1964,
retired in hangar Sacramento as tanker 1964-1981
sold 4.81at auction to Dale Newton, Chico CA
Naval N3N
by 1956-1963
operated as fire tanker 1957-1964
Naval N3N
by 1964
operated as fire tanker 64
Grumman FM-2 Wildcat
by 1956-1974

operated as insecticide sprayer, yellow paint scheme
retired in hangar Reno NV 1960-1974
sold .74 to Ken Spiva, Tracy CA, flown out
North American
TB-25K Mitchell

no civil conversion, stored in hangar Tonopah NV
1958-1975, sold .75 to Mid Pacific International Inc, Eugene OR, ferried to Oakland CA for overhaul
Grumman TBM-3
by 1963-1981
sold 4.81 at auction
to USS Hornet Memorial, Alameda CA
Grumman TBM-3

no civil conversion, stored in hangar Sacramento in
US Navy blue "53319 RB-319"
sold 4.81 at auction to Aero Union Corp, Chico CA
flown out to Chico, later sold to England G-BTDP
Grumman TBM-3
by 1963-1978

sold .78 to Maynard Lund, Ritzville WA as sprayer
Grumman TBM-3
by 1963-1977

Grumman TBM-3
by 1962-1979
conv. .62 to fire tanker by Jensen
sold .79 to Richard Dieter & Ray Stutsman,
South Bend IN, restored as warbird

 Jensen fire bombing Naval N3N N45084 at Placerville CA in October 1964, re-engined with P&W R-1340:
                               Photo by William T. Larkins 

Ralph Johnson, RALCO, Cheyenne Wyoming
Ralph S. Johnson was an elder statesman of the US aerial application industry.  A highly experienced airline captain who had been flying since 1930, he was a pioneer in heavy aircraft spraying, dusting and baiting, purchasing 22 military surplus PV-2 Harpoons in 1954. He later modified some PV-2s as fire tankers, adding A-26 and DC-4 types for firebombing.
Ralph Johnson traded as Master Equipment Co, Cheyenne WY, conducting aerial operations under the name RALCO, Cheyenne WY.
- Refer RALCO

Johnson Flying Service, Missoula Montana
Johnson Fying Service Inc, Missoula MT
Established in 1929 by Robert R. Johnson and incorported as an aviation business on 6 March 1929. Bob Johnson and his brother Dick Johnson developed an aviation FBO business with flying school, air taxi and maintenance. However they built up a specialist contractor role with the US Forest Service and other Government agencies,  providing transport and forest fire control services to inhospitable Tall Timber regions of the Northern Rocky Mountains. This included aerial seeding and dropping parachuting "smoke jumper" fire fighters and equipment. 
A diverse aircraft fleet was used pre-war, but the mainstay were Ford Trimotors which were maintained for 30 years, suffering numerous accidents on rough airstrips. Bob Johnson had a standard quote each time he was informed of the latest wrecked Trimotor "Fly the biggest piece back". The company workshops at Missoula would then commenced a rebuild from their spares and parts of other wrecked Fords.

After WWII, Forest Service work continued as the mainstay of JFS operations,. A 1948 report quoted the fleet as 2 DC-3s, 3 Ford Trimotors, Cessna T-50s, 3 Travel Air 6Bs, Curtiss Sedan, Beech F17D, Stinson 108 and for the pilot school Cessna 140s and 6 Piper Cubs.
As more military surplus aircraft became available JFS standardised on Douglas C-47s, Curtiss C-46s, Beech 18s and the survivors of the pre-war stalwarts, Ford Trimotors and Travel Air 6000s
To find year-round utilisation for its C-46s and C-47s, JFS gained Irregular Air Carrier certification and bid for US military personnel transport contracts. By 1953 two of each type were in passenger service on military charters. In January 1954 Bob Johnson announced the formation of Johnson Airlines, to initially fly scheduled DC-3 services between Seattle and Spokane via Washington State towns and fares well below current airlines. However the Washington route experiment was not a success and dropped after a month.
On December 22 that year JFS DC-3 N24320 was ditched in an icy river at night in Pennsylvania due fuel exhaustion. It was carrying 4 JFS pilots and a male cabin attendant on a US Army charter flight from Newark NJ to Tacoma WA carrying 23 soldiers on leave. 10 drowned including Captain Harold Poe who had reached shore but dived back into the water to help others.  The investigation found the cause was inadequate flight planning and inadequate crew supervision and training. The Department of Defence banned JFS from its civilian air transport program for several years,  the CAA considered cancelling Johnson's passenger carrying certificates, but determined the failures were  primarily the actions of the pilot in command and not the company. The law suits commenced from the families of the dead passengers and the following years were difficult times for JFS.

The original Hale Field at Missoula in 1949 showing JFS Fords, DC-3s and Twin Beech types.
In 1954 Hale Field closed and JFS moved to the new Missoula Airport (MSO)

Bob Johnson in a Ford Trimotor cockpit

Johnson Flying Services DC-3s under smoky skies at the new (current) Missoula Airport in the late 1950s.
The airport was named Johnson-Bell Field after Bob Johnson and civic leader Harry Bell

           In the mid 1950s USFS requested Johnson Flying Services to investigate aerial fire bombing of forest fires. The first three Grumman TBMs were acquired from Navy surplus and ferried from the Litchfield Park storage field to Missoula, where they were fitted with retardant tanks constructed by the company. It is reported that JFS first experimented with "slurry bombing" forest fires with its Ford Trimotors flown by Edgar Thorsrud in the mid 1950s but details are sketchy. The TBMs went into service from 1957 as dedicated fire tankers dropping the original highly toxic "Borate" retardant. They were adaptable for insecticide spraying and JFS was contracted to send TBMs to Canada for the spruce forest budworm spraying seasons from the mid 1960s. More TBMs were acquired and the tanker division became an important part of the JFS business, later upgrading to Lockheed Neptunes.
           Meanwhile the supplemental air carrier work was expanded with the purchase of a DC-4 and Lockheed Electras operating under names Johnson Air and later Johnson International Airlines.  These large transports were used to carry USFS personnel during the summer months, and general charter for the rest of the year.  They brought new complexities and heavy costs for the company. In April 1975 Johnson lost their main USFS contracts to Christler Flying Service,Thermopolis WY which had underbid their price. It was a bitter blow for Bob Johns, retired and aged in his 80s, but still closely involved with his company and he wanted to sell.
          On 6 October 1975 the Civil Aeronautics Board approved the sale of Johnson International Airlines to Evergreen Helicopters of McMinnville Oregon. The sale included Johnson's Supplemental Air Carrier certification and the remaining Electras. Del Smith, President of Evergreen established two new subsidiaries:
Evergreen International Airlines Inc, based at Evergreen Air Centre, Marana AZ: freight and passenger charters
Evergreen Air of Montana Inc, based at Missoula MT: to operate the former Johnson Flying Service utility aircraft for Government agencies.

          Johnson Flying Services and subsidiary companies were dissolved and disincorporated effective January 1977. Bob Johnson continued as a consultant to Evergreen Air of Montana Inc until 1978 when Evergreen sold its Missoula interests to Minuteman Aviation.
          Robert Roney Johnson died on 15 December 1980 in his sleep at Missoula, aged 87.

Other aircraft (since 1945):
Ford Trimotors:      N69905, N7861, N8400, N8407, N8419, N9612, N9642
Travel Air 6000:     N464W, N447W, N655H, N8112, N9038, N9084
Beech E17:           N15412
Beech AT-11:        N6949C, N6950C, N75189, N8069H, N8070H
Beech 18 various models:  N9327Z, N9328Z, N90290, N90291, N686Q, N119T, N36F, N452CC
Vultee BT-13         N53375
Douglas DC-2:       N4867V
Douglas DC-3:       N24320, N49446, N91378, N91379
Douglas DC-4:       N88890
Curtiss C-46:         N611Z, N74173, N9900Z,  N67984, N92854, N9077R
Lockheed Electra:  N7140C, N7136C, N7137C, N1006T
DHC-6 Twin Otter: N300JF
Bell 47s:               N178B, N73931, N73224, N73947, N75189, N73946, N8416E, N73221, N2816A, N8414E, N8418E,
                            N8409E, N73269, N1325X, N78065
Bell 206                N4044G, N43HH
Grumman F6F Hellcat  US Navy blue "NAVY 711" stored at JFS hangars Missoula early 50s
Numerous single-engined types: Aeronca, Navion, Piper Cub, PA-12, PA-18, PA-24, Cessnas 140 to 206

Ford 4-AT-6
c/n 55
by 1950-1969
Used as fire tanker 1956-60 at least
Ford 4-AT-E
c/n 69
by 1950-1964

Used as fire tanker 1956-57 at least
Grumman TBM-3

Registered 27.3.57 to JFS
ditched in lake while spraying in Maine, salvaged
sold 2.75 to Evergreen AS Quebec as C-GLEP
Grumman TBM-3
Registered 27.3.57 to JFS
sold 12.74 to Forest Protection Ltd as C-GLEQ
Grumman TBM-3N7016C

Registered 27.3.57 to JFS
crashed 20.7.64 during fire attack Beaverhead MT
Grumman TBM-3N3249G
Registered 21.9.59 to JFS
sold 12.74 to Forest Protection Ltd as C-GLEN
Grumman TBM-3N3250G

Registered 10.9.59 to JFS
crashed 16.9.61 fire attack McCall D, pilot baled out
Grumman TBM-3N3251G
Registered 16.9.59 to JFS
crashed 5.70 forest spraying Dunphy NB Canada
Grumman TBM-3N6129C

Purchased .61 ex Aero Enterprises, Ekhart IN
tanked .61 for fire bombing at Salem OR
sold 9.5.63 to Calvin Butler, Redmond OR
Grumman TBM-3N9597C
Purchased 10.6.63 ex Calvin Butler, Redmond OR
sold 12.74 to Forest Protection Ltd as C-GLEM
Grumman TBF-1CN7922A

Purchased c64 ex Idaho Aircraft Co as a tanker
crashed 5.6.66 forest spraying Chipman NB Canada
Grumman TBM-3N6824C
Purchased 5.8.66 ex Hillcrest Aircraft
sold 2.75 to Evergreen AS Quebec as C-GLEK
Grumman TBM-3N9010C
Purchased 5.8.66 ex Hillcrest Aircraft
sold 2.75 to Evergreen AS Quebec as C-GLEL
Grumman TBM-3N3969A
Purchased c70 ex Edgar Thorsrud, Missoula
sold 5.76 to Forest Protection Ltd as C-GFPT
North American
B-25 Mitchell

Purchased 12.59 ex National Metals, Phienix AZ
tanked for fire bombing
sold 12.66 to Edgar Thorsrud, Missoula MT based in Alaska as tanker #8Z
Douglas A-26
Acquired .61 ex trade school instructional airframe, ferried to Missoula .61 in USAF black scheme,
tanked by JFS
tfd 11.75 to Evergreen Air of Montana as #17
sold .77 to Lynch Air Tankers Billings MT as #56
Grumman F7F-3

Purchased .61 ex Aero Enterprises, Ekhart IN
tanked .61 for fire bombing at Salem OR
sold 9.5.63 to Calvin Butler, Redmond OR
Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune
c/n 8025
RCAF 24125
Purchased 7.72 ex The Flying Fireman, Victoria BC as CF-MQX ntu
tanked .72 at Medford OR by Rosenbalm Aviation,
Registered N65170 JFS 7.72, CofA issued 12.7.72
sold 19.3.75 to Black Hills Aviation NM
P2V-7 Neptune
c/n 8010
RCAF 24110
Purchased 15.3.73 ex The Flying Fireman BC CF-MQV ntu
tanked .72 at Medford OR by Rosenbalm Aviation,
Registered N14447 JFS 15.3.73
sold 19.3.75 to Black Hills Aviation NM
P2V-7 Neptune
c/n 8013
RCAF 24113
Purchased 15.3.73 ex The Flying Fireman BC CF-MQW ntu
tanked .72 at Medford OR by Rosenbalm Aviation
Registered N14448 JFS 15.3.73
sold 19.3.75 to Black Hills Aviation NM

Johnson Flying Service Ford 4-AT-6 Trimotor N9612 at Orofino Idaho in August 1952.     Photo by William T. Larkins

The same Ford retired at Missoula in 1968, with fire tanker #2 on the rudder.             Photo by Neil Aird

 Johnson Flying Service Ford N7861 at Helena, Montana in July 1956 with spray bars under the wings, while spraying
 insecticide on forests to combat timber pest outbreaks.                           Photo by W.E. Steuerwald/USFS

Johnson Flying Service Douglas A-26 N3426G tanker #A17 at Missoula in the early 1960s.     Photo: Douglas A/B-26 site

Johnsin A-26 N3426G tanker #A17 early morning at Troutdale, Oregon in June 1972.          Photo by Ron Olsen

Johnson Grumman TBMs at Missoula in September 1968.                          Photo by Neil Aird

Johnson TBM N7014C tanker #A11 being flown by Ray Green

A candid picture of Johnson Flying Service TBM tanker pilots on a job at Bozeman MT: from left
Jack Hughes who later became company President, Elwood "Swede Nelson, Ken Roth, Bob Culver

Johnson operated this DC-2 N4867V for many years, carrying forestry personnel and dropping smoke jumpers.
Photo by Tom Baillie at Missoula, September 1968

Johnson's DC-2 N4867V had earlier also been used to spray insecticide on forests. This view at Helena MT in July 1956
shows the under-wing spraybars and pilot Kenny Roth wearing his crash helmet.      
Photo by W.E. Steuerwald/USFS

The DC-2's cabin in 1956 fitted with three liquid insecticide tanks
 giving 1,200 gallons capacity.    
Photo by W.E. Steuerwald/USFS

USAF surplus Beech C-45H N9328Z at Missoula in 1968 was one of many Twin Beech models used by Johnson

Johnson Flying Service P2V-7 Neptune N14447 tanker #F11 at Troutdale OR September 1974.     Photo by Ron Olsen

Kem-Air Inc, Worland, Wyoming

Kem-Air Inc, Worland WY, later Airnsworth WY.
Aerial spraying company operated by James L. Shipley.  Douglas A-26 Invaders were used from the early 1960s and at least one was equipped as a fire tanker.

Other aircraft:
Callair A1  N9959C
Callair A9  N2929G
PA-25 Pawnee: N6956Z, N6969Z
PA-28 Cherokee  N9015J
Cessna 150  N7853E

Douglas A-26

purchased ex Pacific Flight Services, Angwin CA
sold 27.6.73 to Lynch Air Tankers, Billings MT
Douglas A-26

purchased ex John M. Sliker,Wadley GA
sold 27.6.73 to Lynch Air Tankers, Billings MT
Douglas A-26 N7662C

purchased ex Pacific Flight Services, Angwin CA
sold 6.70 to Dontuss Industries, Edmonton ALTA Canada as a tanker, to CF-BVH 
Douglas A-26N3711G

purchased 16.2.68 ex John M. Sliker,Wadley GA
sold 2.72 to Air Spray Ltd, Edmonton ALTA as a tanker, to CF-EZX

Kem-Air A-26 N3427G tanker #A28 at Billings MT in May 1973, just after sale to Lynch Air Tankers.
Photo by Jay L. Sherlocko

King Baker, Fresno California
Refer: Aero Enterprises, Fresno CA

Kinney Air Tankers, Richey Montana

Kinney Air Tankers Inc, PO Box 82, Richey MT. Richey airfield was a small dirt strip and all Kinney operations were based at nearby Glendive Airport, Montana.  Operations re-structured in 1984 under new name Dawson Aviation of Montana Inc, Richey MT.

Kinney Aviation was established in mid 1970s at Glendive Airport as an aerial agricultural business by Bruce R. Kinney, Richey MT.
Specialised in large acerage spraying using Naval N3N biplanes with 450hp P&W R-985 radials and 220 gallon spray tanks, also Cessna 188s and Callair B-1s.

Kinney Air Tankers
commenced fire tanker operations in 1975 with a single Boeing B-17 tanker.
From 1979 Kinney built up a substantial tanker fleet in a commercial association with Bill Dempsay's Central Air Services. Aircraft and services were transferred between the two operations.  PV-2 Harpoons were used for spraying as well as fire bombing. The largest tanker, Douglas DC-7B N823D was destroyed on the ground at Glendive by a suspicious overnight fire, rumoured to have been carried out by a disgruntled dismissed pilot. Despite police invesigations, nobody was ever charged witharson.
Kinney operated in association with ShelIey I.Verschoot, Richey MT trading as Custom Farm Service, Richey MT to whom ownership of Cessna Agwagons and several PV-2 Harpoons were transferred for periods. However the aircraft remained in service with Kinney at Glendive. Kinney's business arrangement with Shelley Verschoot and her busband was later terminated in acrimonious circumstances.

A local report says that Bruce Kinney was in regular conflict with the Glendive Airport commission and Dawson County over unauthorised building extentions to his hangars and chemical spills in the ground where his spray aircraft were loaded each season. Kinney stated in 1981 that he owned only one aircraft and all the rest were leased from other operators. Eventually in 1984 Dawson County brought in the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to dig out the contaminated area on the airfield at Kinney's expense. Kinney was refused a lease renewal on his Glendive Airport hangars and office also his chemical spraying operations were banned at both Glendive or Richey airports.

As a result, in 1984 Bruce Kinney established a new partnership with Dennis Hill of Missoula MT to form Dawson Aviation of Montana Inc, Richey MT with Cessna Agwagons for agricultural spraying and PV-2s for large-acreage spraying including grasshopper swarm eradiction. Under Hill's name Dawson Aviation was able to lease a hangar and recommence operations at Glendive Airport, although Kinney was still very much in charge. Dawson Aviation was dissolved during 1986. The final heavy tanker to depart Glendive was PV-2 N7670C purchased by John Hirth duing 1987, which he flew out that year. John and his wife Connie had been flying and maintaining PV-2s at Glendive for several years but now went out on their own: refer Hirth Air Tankers.

1987 found Bruce Kinney flying his own PA-36 Pawnee Brave with a new Glendive ag spraying operator Don Orwick who took over the Dawson Aviation hangar for his Cessna Agtrucks.   Bruce Kinney moved away from Glendive in 1988 and soon after was killed in a collision between a Grumman AgCat and a Bull Thrush while spraying in Idaho.

A Glendive aviator who watched the Bruce Kinney period wrote recently "Sadly, the only evidence to suggest there was once a mighty fleet of airtankers and large acreage sprayers based here is an old main wheel off a PV-2 and bent tin on Kinney’s former hangar where the pilot of an A-26 ran the right wingtip into the corner."

Kinney Air Tankers reformed as Dawson Aviation from 1984

Boeing B-17G
Purchased 12.75 ex Aero Flite, Cody WY #37
sold 18.5.78 to Aircraft Specialties, Mesa AZ
Lockheed PV-2D
tfd 26.2.79 ex Central Air Service  #101
tfd .81 to Custom Farm Service, Richey MT
tfd 1.7.85 to Dennis Hill, Richey MT
tfd 30.9.85 to Dawson Aviation, Richey MT
(operated on grasshopper spraying contracts)
sold 11.85 to Teske's Aviation, Twin Falls ID
Lockheed PV-2
tfd 10.79 ex Bill Dempsay/D&D Aerial Spraying, Rantoul KS as sprayer
grasshopper spraying North Dakota and Oregon
tfd 4.2.81 to Dempsay/Central Air Service
tfd 6.5.81 ex CAS
tfd 12.5.85 to Dennis Hill, Richey MT
tfd 3.12.85 to Central Air Service, Rantoul KS
(modified .85-86 to fire tanker #176)
tfd 3.6.87 ex Central Air Service
sold 4.6.87 (next day) to Quarry Products CA
Lockheed PV-2D
tfd 26.2.81 ex Central Air Service  #E40
tfd 2.84 to Custom Farm Service, Richey MT
sold .84 Gary Larkins CA for US Navy Museum
Lockheed PV-2
Howard Cargo Harpoon
Purchased 1.6.84 as impounded rug runner Florida,
sold 1.12.84 to Richard Mitchell, Broussard LA for restoration as warbird Fat Cat
Lockheed PV-2
leased .86 ex RALCO as sprayer
Lockheed PV-2

leased ex Arbor Air, Columbus NE: sprayer
purchased .87 by John Hirth, Buffalo WY
Douglas DC-7B
c/n 45332
tfd 23.2.81 ex Central Air Service #101
destroyed by fire 1.5.82 on ground Glendive MT
Douglas A-26 Invader
tfd 6.81 ex Central Air Service #104
sold 20.2.85 to Duane Sly, Platte SD for museum
Douglas A-26
tfd 6.81 ex Central Air Service #107
tfd 1.8.00 to Bill Dempsay, Rantoul KS
Douglas A-26
tfd 6.81 ex Central Air Service #108
left gear collapsed landing Dubois PA 2.6.82
tfd 2.84 to Custom Farm Service, Richey MT
tfd 5.7.85 to Central Air Service, Rantoul KS
Douglas C-54Q
leased from Central Air Service for 1984 season

Kinney Air Tankers' B-17 N9323R tanker #37 at Mesa AZ in 1979 in storage after ferry from Glendive MT.
Photo by Geoff Goodall

PV-2 N6657D fire tanker #101 in May 1982 with Kinney Air Tankers, usually flown by Jim Keel.
Photo by Dick Phillips

 Kinney Air Tankers group with PV-2D Harpoon N6657D tanker #101: from left: pilot Byron Sunwall,
engineer Rusty Shoemaker, pilots John and Connie Hirth, Bruce Kinney.         Photo:Byron Sunwall

Insecticide being loaded in N6657D during grass hopper spraying. Kinney Air Tankers is painted on the nose.
Peter Marson collection

Propliner magazine No.15 Autumn 1982


                               Trade-A-Plane November 1983                                             Trade-A-Plane November 1986

Kreitzberg Aviation, Salem Oregon
Kreitzberg Aviation Inc was formed in the mid 1950s by George F. Kreitzberg, Salem OR
An associate company was Kreitzberg Aviation Sales Co, Salem OR

George Kreitzberg graduated in 1942 from the Spartan School of Aeronautical Engineering and gained his pilot licence. After years of experience flying insecticide spraying in Stearmans, Ford Trimotors and DC-3s, he started his own company Kreitzberg Aviation.
In 1956 he purchased a number of Navy surplus Grumman F6F Hellcats which he equipped for forest spraying.

Kreitzberg pioneered the use of Grumman F7F Tigercats for aerial application in 1957 when he purchased the first of five F7Fs from US Navy disposals at  Litchfield Park storage airfield, Arizona.  He initially put several into service on a contract to spray sagebrush in eastern Oregon, fitted with large 500 gallon insecticide tanks under each wing. One was modified for fire attack, using the same underwing tanks but with a redesigned dump doors.  Convinced that the F7F could be developed into an effective fire bomber, Kreitzberg teamed up with Robert Stevenson of Cal-Nat Airways, Grass Valley CA, to design, test and certify internal and belly retardant tanks of 800 or 900 gallons capacity. The partnership is reported to have purchased a total of 16 Grumman F7F-3s which became the source for most Tigercat tankers.
When the drop system was approved, Kreitzberg Aviation built the tanks for other F7F operators.
Kreitzberg held the FAA type certificate approval for civilianised Grumman F7Fs.
During the 1960s he withdrew from fire bombing, reportedly frustrated by increasing federal restrictions.

Other aircraft:
Vultee BT-13 N75789
PA-18 Super Cub N8561C
Cessna 150 N6498T
Cessna 172 N7343T
Cessna 180 N6567A
NA T-28A Trojan N2891G

Grumman F7F-3 Tigercat
Ferried 10.57 to Salem ex NAS Litchfield Park AZ,
fitted for spraying, testflown Salem 10.8.58,
converted to fire tanker 5.60
sold 2.7.60 to Scotts Valley Flying Service, Etna CA as a fire tanker
Grumman F7F-3

Ferried c58 to Phoenix AZ ex Litchfield Park,
civil conversion
sold 26.5.59 to Wayne B. Fowler, Shaw Island WA as a spayer
Grumman F7F-3

sold .64 to Cal-Nat Airways CA as tanker #E43
Grumman F7F-3

unidentified tanker, crashed near Sacramento CA
Douglas A-26
by 1963-67
sold c67 to Rosenbalm Aviation OR as tanker #F74
Douglas A-26

sold c67 to Aero Flite OR as tanker #C55

George Kreitzberg (left) with unidentified Tigercat tanker #18.                                Photo: Steve Zuger

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