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.

Nominations being accepted for International Aerial Firefighting Award

The closing date for nominations is February 19, 2016

The Walt Darran International Aerial Firefighting Award is presented annually to recognize a significant contribution to aerial firefighting by an individual or organization. It was first awarded in 2014 at the Aerial Firefighting Conference in Sacramento, California, USA.

Walt Darran
Walt Darran

The award is named after the late Walt Darran who was a highly experienced airtanker pilot from California and a constant and passionate advocate for safety and improvement in aerial firefighting industry.

The award is administered by the Walt Darran Award Committee which is currently made up of a consortium of existing groups involved in aerial firefighting from International Fire Aviation Working Group (IFAWG), UN-ISDR Wildland Fire Advisory Group (WFAG) members, and Associated Aerial Firefighters.

Nominations are now being accepted for 2016.

Articles about the recipients of the awards in 2014 and 2015, George Petterson and Philippe Bodino, can be seen here.

The Award Charter states:

  • Any person who has made a significant contribution to furthering the safety and/or effectiveness and/or efficiency of aerial firefighting is eligible to be nominated. The Award may recognise contributions either over recent year(s) or over a sustained period.
  • An organization that has made an outstanding contribution to furthering the safety and/or effectiveness and/or efficiency of aerial firefighting is also eligible to be nominated.

The closing date for nominations is February 19, 2016.

To nominate someone for the award please download and complete this form.

The award will be presented at the Aerial Firefighting International 2016 conference in Sacramento, California, USA, March 22-23, 2016.

Walt Darran Award 2015
Philippe Bodino, center, received the award in 2015. Left to right: Jerome Laval, Cal Fire pilot and a Walt Darran very close friend; Richard Alder, General Manager, National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) in Australia; Philippe Bodino; Rear Admiral Terry Loughran (CB FRAes) Royal Navy, Tangent Link Chairman and conference speaker; and Jeff Cavarra, Program Manager at DynCorp International.

Philippe Bodino receives the 2015 Walt Darran International Aerial Firefighting Award

Walt Darran Award 2015
Left to right: Jerome Laval, CAL FIRE pilot; Richard Alder, General Manager, National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) in Australia; Philippe Bodino; Rear Admiral Terry Loughran (CB FRAes) Royal Navy, Tangent Link Chairman, and conference speaker; and Jeff Cavarra, Program Manager at DynCorp International. Photo by Frédéric Marsaly.

The 2015 Aerial Fire Fighting Europe conference took place this year in Zadar, Croatia on April 29 and 30. During the dinner event on the 29th the second Walt Darran International Aerial Firefighting Award was presented to Philippe Bodino. The Award is given annually to recognize a significant contribution by an individual or organization to aerial firefighting.

Colonel Philippe Bodino is a French firefighter who was heavily involved in ground firefighting but was also an “officier aero” (ie, Air Tactical Group Supervisor, or ATGS). He was director of the French Fire Academy (Ecole Nationale Superieur des Officiers de Sapeur-Pompiers) and led a group who wrote the manual for Sécurité Civile Fire Fighters on how to manage aerial fire fighting assets over incidents so that the aircraft could efficiently support ground troops.

The award for Mr. Bodino was presented by Richard Alder, General Manager of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) in Australia. Mounted on the award is a model of Tanker 93, an S-2 flown by Mr. Darran when he was based at Chico, California.

The Walt Darran International Aerial Firefighting Award is named after the late Walt Darran who was a highly experienced airtanker pilot from California, USA, a constant and passionate advocate for safety and improvement in the aerial firefighting industry. In 2014, the first award was presented to George Petterson.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Frédéric Marsaly for supplying the information and the photo.

George Petterson receives Walt Darran award

George Petterson
George Petterson receives the Walt Darran award. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Wednesday night at the Aerial Firefighting conference during a dinner at the California Aerospace Museum in Sacramento, George Petterson received an award named after Walt Darran, a legend in aerial firefighting, who passed away November 15, 2013.

Mr. Petterson was instrumental in determining the cause of two fatal crashes of air tankers. Below is an excerpt from an article in Aviation Week and Space Technology, February 21, 2005, (which is more accurate than the information which we received and posted earlier).

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“George Petterson of the Los Angeles office of the National Transportation Safety Board investigated the 2002 inflight wing failure of a U.S. Forest Service Lockheed C-130, which led to the grounding of the firefighting fleet. Finding that metal fatigue hidden by a doubler was the cause, Petterson expedited the dissemination of this information to operators so there would be the least interruption to firefighting services. The investigation stirred his curiosity about a 1994 crash of a C-130 in which the wing also came apart during firefighting. The NTSB had attributed that accident to a fuel explosion. At considerable personal effort, Pettterson retrieved evidence from that crash in mountainous terrain, showing how a fatigue crack had grown unseen beneath a doubler in a manner similar to that experienced by the 2002 crash aircraft. Due to Petterson’s initiative, the NTSB changed the probable cause of the 1994 accident to fatigue cracking (AW&ST May 10, 2004 p. 69).”