The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group announced today that the Department of the Interior is funding 33 exclusive use Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) in 2014 as national shared resources. Historically, SEATs have been funded as primarily a local or regional resource with assigned home bases. The 2014 exclusive use SEAT fleet will not have assigned home bases. They will be treated as national shared resources similar to Large Air Tankers (LATs). Geographic area Coordination Centers (GACCs) can preposition SEATs using the same mechanisms and rationale used for other national resources.
There are three start dates — May 26th, June 5th and June 12th. Based on the number of DOI National Exclusive Use SEATs allocated to their GACC, Bureau of Land Management State Aviation Managers and Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Aviation Managers will coordinate with fire staff and the Geographic Area Coordinating Group to determine the initial starting location of DOI Exclusive Use SEAT’s.
As National assets, DOI National Exclusive Use SEATs will be moved to areas of greatest need. Within Geographic Areas, Fire Staff on an interagency basis will provide direction to the Dispatch system on the mob/demob of SEATs to meet existing or forecasted fire loads within their jurisdiction. GACCs can preposition SEATs using the same mechanisms and rationale used with LATs.
Below are some of the provisions of the contracts:
- These are one year Exclusive Use contracts with 4 option years.
- There are no designated bases under these contracts.
- Notice to Proceeds will be issued giving the contractor direction on where to report to at the beginning of the contract.
- The Mandatory Availability Period will be 100 days with three different start dates — May 26th/June 5th/June 12th.
- The aircraft will be AT-802s with an Interagency Airtanker Board approved gate system.
- The Level I Pilots will be on a fixed 6/1 work schedule set at the start of the contract.
- No relief pilot is required.
- Companies can exchange pilots.
- The contracts allow for the government to order an additional service truck at a daily flat rate of $500 when needed to augment the existing truck or to utilize the second one at a remote base.
The AT-802 holds 800 gallons of retardant. This compares to the 2,000 to 3,500 Large Air Tankers can carry, or the 11,600 gallons the DC-10 holds. But, SEATs are a very useful tool in the aerial firefighting tool box — a tool box that should have a variety of types and sizes of aircraft with different capabilities and niches.
As the western fire season gets under way, there are nine LATs available on exclusive use contracts, and one Very Large Air Tanker, a DC-10. It is possible that an additional five “next generation” LATs may eventually meet the requirements of the contracts that were issued to them a year ago and could be added to the fleet.