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The missions are an annual training requirement for pilots who conduct aerial firefighting operations. The HC-130H is arguably the most versatile tactical transport aircraft ever built. Better known as the Hercules, the aircraft is a proven workhorse capable of a variety of missions, such as airdropping parachutists or cargo, refueling aircraft, and search and rescue missions. Its capabilities make it adaptable for aerial firefighting, said Staci Dickson, TNF Aviation Officer, adding that the flights are part of the annual training for the agencys contract pilots. The HC-130H airtanker, which is based at McClellan, is currently equipped with a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System. Five pressurized tanks can dispense approximately 3,000 gallons of water or retardant out of the aircraft. The long term plan is to install a 3,000-gallon capacity tank to hold water or retardant. Dickson explained that the airtanker, in coordination with a smaller lead plane, can be observed making low level passes and water drops during this drill. The lead plane uses a puff of smoke to indicate where they would like the airtanker to start their drop, Dickson said.

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