Jim Cook receives Walt Darren Award

Jim Cook was honored for helping to develop the Fire Traffic Area.

Above: Jim Cook (right) receives the Walt Darren International Aerial Firefighting Award from David Wardall. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Jim Cook received the Walt Darran International Aerial Firefighting Award March 22 at the Aerial Firefighting Conference in Sacramento, California. The honor is given annually to recognize a significant contribution to aerial firefighting by an individual or organization.

Mr. Cook was recognized for his part in developing the concept of the Fire Traffic Area, a system of air traffic control for firefighting aircraft over an incident. The need for organizing aircraft into a pattern became painfully evident when two S2 air tankers collided over the Bus Fire August 27, 2001 in Mendocino County in northern California. The two pilots, Larry Groff of Santa Rosa and Lars Stratte of Chico, were killed.

The Fire Traffic Area procedure requires that aircraft approaching a fire make initial radio contact 12 nautical miles out, and should not approach any closer than 7 miles if radio contact is not successful.

Fire Traffic Area
Fire Traffic Area. Graphic from Associated Aerial Firefighters.
Fire Traffic Area
Fire Traffic Area, from the Interagency Aerial Supervision Guide.

The Walt Darren award was first presented in 2014 at the Aerial Firefighting Conference in Sacramento, California, USA. Mr. Darran was a highly experienced airtanker pilot from California and a constant and passionate advocate for safety and improvement in aerial firefighting industry.

George Petterson received the award the first time it was presented in 2014. The next year it was given to Philippe Bodino.