End of an era as the 145th Airlift Wing Relinquishes MAFFS Mission
By 1st Lt. Monica Ebert, 145th Public Affairs
/ Published September 29, 2016
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After 33 years of providing aerial firefighting support with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), maintainers from the North Carolina Air National Guard's, 145th Airlift Wing, loaded the last portable fire retardant delivery system in to the back of a C-130 belonging to the 152nd Airlift Wing to be transported to its new home with the Nevada Air National Guard, on Sept. 7, 2016.
"It was a challenging, and at times demanding mission of which was highly satisfying", said Col. Marshall Collins, commander, 145th Airlift Wing.
In 2015 alone, the 145th flew 30 MAFFS sorties and over 34.9 flight hours resulting in 38 drops for a total of over 754,000 pounds of retardant. The total for all four units to date is 11,039 missions with 11,626 flight hours and nearly 30 million gallons of retardant dropped since 1973.
A MAFFS mission requires aircraft to fly at low speeds and altitudes while targeting a wildfire area. The C-130 can carry 3,000 gallons of fire retardant putting the aircraft at near maximum weight capacity. The retardant can be completely discharged in under five seconds or it can be spread across multiple drops.
There are only four MAFFS units nationwide. The 145th was the only unit in the eastern portion of the United States. The three other units are located in the west and includes two Air National Guard units; the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard, based in Cheyenne and the 146th Airlift Wing with the California Air National Guard, based in Chanel Islands. The one Air Force Reserve unit is the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, based in Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
"I would be remiss to not mention MAFFS 7, aircraft 458, that we lost about five years ago. Obviously, it's a dangerous mission. However, the men and women of the NCANG, reserves and other professionals that fly the mission are trained and prepared to execute it safely," said Collins.
With over 43 years of the military providing MAFFS support, there has only been one significant accident. On July 1, 2012, four Airmen lost their lives and two others were seriously injured when MAFFS 7 crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire near Edgemont, South Dakota.
"I can't say enough in way of gratitude and appreciation for those folks and their contribution, as well as those who came before us that have since retired. Everything we do has a legacy about it" said Collins.
The Air Force has selected the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte to receive eight C-17 Globemaster aircraft beginning in federal fiscal year 2018 to replace its C-130 fleet.