Changes at Fire Aviation

Today we made some changes at Fire Aviation. We call them “enhancements”, and hope you agree.

Subscriptions

Quite a few of our readers have requested the option to subscribe to the website. So here’s what we added, and keep in mind that everything is optional.

  • Subscribe to FireAviation.com. You can choose to be notified by email when new posts are added. The message will include the title or an excerpt from the post, with a link. You will only be notified when the post is initially published, but not if it is modified or updated.
  • Subscribe to additional comments on an individual post. You will be notified by email when a new comment appears.

The notifications will be sent when the post or comment occurs; it is not possible to modify or request how often, such as daily or weekly, the notifications are sent.

These subscription options are in the comment form at the bottom of each post if you have clicked on that individual post so that the comments are visible. You can also sign up for subscriptions at the bottom of THIS post, or use the form at the bottom of the sidebar. As always at Fire Aviation, your email address will remain private.

Using this system will not put you on a list to be receiving numerous messages unrelated to the specific subscriptions that you opt-in for. Our system does not have the capability to generate and send other types of email messages to subscribers.

Share Buttons

The buttons that you can click to share the article via email or social media sites look different, and now will show how many times the post has been shared at the individual sites.

New favicon

If you have an internet browser with tabs, you will see that the very tiny graphic in the tab, called a “favicon”, is different. We’re not certain we’ll keep it, and may look for something else. If you can do computer graphics and have an idea, send it to us in a 600×600 pixel .jpg and we’ll take a look at it.

Related articles

The website software is going to automatically decide which previous articles may be related to the new one as it is posted, and list them at the bottom of the post just above the comment form. I’m skeptical about this, but we’ll give it a try.

Let us know

Let us know what you think of these changes. We may be able to tweak some things if needed.

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Automatic steerable parachute used for the first time on a wildfire

For the first time, an automatic steerable parachute has been used to deliver cargo on a wildfire. Below is a description from the Bear Lake Fire in Montana:

The Bear Lake Fire was honored to be the first wildfire incident to use the microflight technology from the USDA Forest Service’s Missoula Technology and Development Center. The auto guided microflight technology is part of the Joint Precision Aerial Delivery System (JPADS) and was developed by the military 5 years ago. This new technology allows for cargo drops from altitudes of 5,000 ft above the drop zone (the altitude for a standard cargo drop is approx. 250 ft above the drop zone). The parachute is guided by a GPS unit that adjusts for winds, turning the cargo as needed and dropping it within 50-100 meters of the drop site.

Wikipedia provides more details about the system:

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“History
US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) was the primary developer for JPADS, which meets several requirements: increased ground accuracy, standoff delivery, increased air carrier survivability, and improved effectiveness/assessment feedback regarding airdrop mission operations. The United States Army and Air Force began jointly developing this system in 1993. The Air Force made its first operational/combat use of the system in Afghanistan in 2006.

Operation
The steerable parachute or parafoil is called a “decelerator,” and gives the JPADS system directional control throughout its descent by means of decelerator steering lines attached to the Airborne Guidance Unit (AGU). They create drag on either side of the decelerator, which turns the parachute, thus achieving directional control.

The Airborne Guidance Unit (AGU) contains a GPS, a battery pack, and the guidance, navigation and control (GN&C) software package. It also houses the hardware required to operate the steering lines. The AGU obtains its position prior to exiting the aircraft, and continues to calculate its position via the GPS throughout descent.

The Mission Planner software gives the aircrew the ability to plan the mission, in flight if necessary, as well as steer the aircraft to its Computed Air Release Point (CARP), where the load is released.”

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The Bear Lake Fire has burned about 6,400 acres 12 miles southeast of Wisdom, Montana. The Incident Commander is calling it 75 percent contained.

Aviation-Related Wildland Firefighter Fatalities — United States, 2000–2013

Aviation Fatality Map wildland fireThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published the results of a study that collected information about aviation-related fatalities of wildland firefighters between 2000 and 2013. You can see the entire paper HERE (see page 793), but most of it is below.

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Aviation-Related Wildland Firefighter Fatalities — United States, 2000–2013
Weekly
July 31, 2015 / 64(29);793-796

Corey R. Butler, MS1, Mary B. O’Connor, MS2, Jennifer M. Lincoln, PhD2 (Author affiliations at end of text)

Airplanes and helicopters are integral to the management and suppression of wildfires, often operating in high-risk, low-altitude environments. To update data on aviation-related wildland firefighting fatalities, identify risk factors, and make recommendations for improved safety, CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analyzed reports from multiple data sources for the period 2000–2013. Among 298 wildland firefighter fatalities identified during 2000–2013, 78 (26.2%) were aviation-related occupational fatalities that occurred during 41 separate events involving 42 aircraft. Aircraft crashes accounted for 38 events. Pilots, copilots, and flight engineers represented 53 (68%) of the aviation-related fatalities. The leading causes of fatal aircraft crashes were engine, structure, or component failure (24%); pilot loss of control (24%); failure to maintain clearance from terrain, water, or objects (20%); and hazardous weather (15%). To reduce fatalities from aviation-related wildland firefighting activities, stringent safety guidelines need to be followed during all phases of firefighting, including training exercises. Crew resource management techniques, which use all available resources, information, equipment, and personnel to achieve safe and efficient flight operations, can be applied to firefighting operations.

Airplanes and helicopters play a major role in the control of wildland (forest, brush, and grass) fires. These aircraft are used to deliver equipment and supplies, deploy and transport firefighters, conduct reconnaissance, scout and direct operations, and deliver fire retardant or water. During the past decade, the United States has experienced an increase in the size, frequency, and severity of wildfires, likely attributable to buildup of flammable vegetation, decline in snowpack, and human development in the wildland urban interface (1,2). If these conditions continue, more fire response workers will be needed, and the demand on aviation to support these efforts will increase.

To identify risk factors for aviation-related wildland firefighter activities, NIOSH reviewed and extracted case reports from the Fire Administration Firefighter Fatality surveillance system, the National Fire Protection Association Fire Incident Data Organization database, the National Wildland Coordinating Group’s Safety Gram, and the National Transportation Safety Board aviation database. A wildland firefighter fatality was defined as any death that occurred in a paid or unpaid wildland firefighter, contractor, aviation crew member or support staff, inmate, or member of the military while performing official wildland fire duties, including operations (fire or nonfire incident), responding to or returning from a wildland fire incident, or other officially assigned duties.* Other emergency response workers who were fatally injured at wildfires were excluded from this analysis. The number of flight hours for the U.S. Forest Service was used as a denominator to indicate the use of aviation resources because flight hours from other agencies or workforce numbers were not available.

During 2000–2013, a total of 298 wildland firefighter fatalities were identified, averaging 21 fatalities per year. Among these, 78 (26.2%) were caused by activities associated with aviation. The number of aviation- related fatalities decreased during 2007–2013, compared with 2000–2006 (Table 1). Of the persons who died in aviation-related activities, 76 (97%) were male, and 53 (68%) were flight crew members (e.g., pilots, copilots, and flight engineers). The average age of flight crew victims was 49 years (range = 20–66 years) and of nonflight crew victims was 33 years (range = 19–54 years). The most common occupation of nonflight crew members was firefighter. Most victims were employed by aerial contractors (42), followed by the federal government (15), state government agencies (10), ground contractors (seven), and the military (four). Twenty-five (32%) of the aviation-related fatalities occurred in California, eight occurred in Nevada, and seven in Idaho (Figure).

Aviation Fatalities wildland fire

Continue reading “Aviation-Related Wildland Firefighter Fatalities — United States, 2000–2013”

A better way to search Fire Aviation

We received an email from one of our readers who said he had trouble searching for a particular topic on Fire Aviation. The bulit-in search function on the site’s home page is pretty good, but not great. What works better is to use Google. Type this into a Google search box:

site:fireaviation.com [enter your search words here, leaving a space after the .com, and leave out the brackets]

This works for any internet site.

Gift for the pilot who has everything

C-119 rudder desk
Desk make from the rudder of a C-119. Moto Art photo.

Wondering what to get that pilot friend of yours for his birthday? How about a desk made from the rudder of a C-119? There is a very limited number of C-119 rudders left, so they won’t be available forever. The desk is topped with a 1/2″ tempered glass surface that allows up-close viewing of the elements and design that form the rudder of the aircraft that after its military service, was used as an air tanker.

Moto Art took the rudder, removed the cloth cover and mounted it on hardwood V-shaped legs. It measures over 8 feet long, but can be customised to an extended length of 11 feet if used as a conference table.

The company also has desks, conference room tables, and even beds made from wings, spoilers, stabilizers, ailerons, flaps, and engines from planes including the DC-4, C-130, Boeing 727, F-100, B-52, PBY Catalina, Boeing 707, Boeing 747 — and many others.

In Lockheed’s headquarters they hold meetings at a V-shaped 24-seat conference table Moto Art made from two 24-foot outer flaps from a C-130.

We have asked about the pricing. When we hear back, we’ll include it here.

NMAC modifies dispatching policy for air tankers

The National Multi-Agency Coordination Group has modified the protocol for determining which air tankers at an air tanker base will be the next in line to be dispatched to a fire. In a May 26, 2015 memo, the NMAC said:

All LATs, VLATs and SEATs operating from the same base shall be dispatched in rotation based on the type of airtanker requested on a first in/first out basis regardless of contract type (EU, CWN/On-Call or Forest Service owned) or the location of the incident.

A similar sentence was in the 2014 memo on the same subject. The difference this time is that Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) were included, as was “…regardless of contract type (EU, CWN/On-Call or Forest Service owned)…”

It seems like including CWN (Call When Needed) air tankers is a no brainer, and adding the provision for “Forest Service Owned” needed to be addressed, since there will be at least one of those, supposedly, later this fire season.

But it’s interesting adding SEATs to the list. The 2014 memo mentioned them:

This Rotation Policy does not apply to Water Scoopers, Type 3 Airtankers (such as the Cal Fire S-2s and SEATs) and Type 4 Airtankers (SEATs) because they are not governed by the U.S. Forest Service Airtanker contract.

Most if not all of the federally-contracted SEATs are on a Bureau of Land Management contract, both in 2014 and 2015 as far as I know. It seems odd that the policy on them would change this year, to include them in rotation protocol in 2015 but not in 2014. This policy, both years, was established by, or at least approved by, the National Multi-Agency Coordination Group.

The way the 2015 policy is worded, if an air tanker is told to “load and return” after making a drop, that next load could be from an air tanker that is sitting at the “return” base, and not necessarily from the air tanker that just dropped and is returning to that same base.

Fuel truck added at Burns Airport will help mitigate fuel outages

Burns Airport fuel truck
A 6,000 gallon fuel tanker obtained from military surplus arrives at the Burns, Oregon. Photo by Burns Municipal Airport.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Capital Press:

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“During fire season last summer in southeast Oregon, the Burns Municipal Airport ran out of fuel for firefighting airplanes nine times.

With drought expected to bring an even worse wildfire danger this year, airport Manager Jeff Cotton, community members and the Bureau of Land Management, which manages much of range and forestland in the region, began looking for ways to avoid similar shortages and response delays. Having to halt flights until fuel was delivered interrupted the firefighting effort.

Cotton and the others learned a military surplus tanker truck was available at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and federal General Services Administration approved the airport’s request. The tanker was free, and the BLM paid for two drivers and a low-boy hauling rig to go get it.

The tanker, a 1995 Volvo with only 300 miles on it, holds 6,000 gallons of fuel. Cotton said the rolling cache gives the airport about three days worth of fuel for the air tankers. He’d like more, but he’s glad to have it.

Cotton said he hopes to obtain another tanker truck next fall or spring.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.”