12 Questions for Jerome Laval

Jerome Laval

This is the second in a new series of articles on FireAviation.com, featuring aerial firefighters answering 12 questions about their profession. We hope to get participation from senior pilots, as well as Air Operations Branch Directors, Air Tactical Group Supervisors, and others that have worked closely with fire aviation. Our objective is to not only provide our readers with interesting articles, but these very experienced aerial firefighters may also reveal a few gems of information that could prove to be valuable to those considering or just beginning a career in fire aviation. If you have a suggestion of someone who would be a good candidate for these questions, drop us a line through our Contact Us page. And their contact information would be appreciated.

Today we hear from Jerome Laval who is an Air Tanker Captain flying S-2Ts for CALFIRE.


Jerome Laval
Jerome Laval

Who is one of the more memorable aerial firefighters you have known?

  • All Airtanker Instructor pilots because they’re willing to share their experience, knowledge, tips & tricks with passion and dedication. By their fantastic attitude and trust in the candidate’s skills, they accept the risks to show the way to survive, be efficient and safe. It’s a real honor to fly and learn from them. Thanks to them, new Airtanker pilots will carry on the legacy of this unique flying mission.
  • Aerial fire fighters; Where else do you find a such a bunch of characters?….

One piece of advice you would give to someone before their first assignment working on a fire?

  • Focus, be aware and don’t get excited.
  • Remember your training and don’t be too creative.
  • Don’t push your own limits or your airplane’s limitations.
  • Breathe deeply, think and stay ahead of the game.
  • ….and most importantly; the main objective is for you to come back. Every time.

Besides the obvious (funding), what is the number one thing government Fire and Aviation should focus on?
Listen and take advice from experienced people who actually do the job. Use basic common sense as your guide for making any decision.

One suggestion you have for ground-based firefighters about fire suppression tactics, or working with aircraft?
Tactics and Radio communication: keep it simple. Visit the Bases, talk to pilots, share Fire stories. Try to understand other point of views.

One thing that you know now that you wish you had known early in your career?
The “Secret of Boredom”: waiting hours, days, weeks for action… After 17 years, I’m still looking for to learn this secret.

Which two aircraft manufactured within the last 20 years would make the best air tankers?

  • Lockheed C-130 H, J “Hercules” with RADS (Constant Flow-Gravity/4000 Gallons tank system )
  • Lockheed/AleniaC-27 J“Spartan”with RADS (Constant Flow-Gravity/2000 Gallons tank system )
  • ….and a purpose designed and built Airtanker (3000 to 4000 Gallons). Finally!

List the aircraft you have flown, or flown in, on fires. Which is your favorite, and why?

  • LockheedC-130A “Hercules”/RADS1. 3000 Gallons : Fast, maneuverable, efficient. Fantastic Large AirTanker!
  • Douglas DC-4 (C-54) / 2000 Gallons; Best learning fire fighting platform. Magnificent Airplane!
  • Lockheed P-3 “Orion”/RADS2. 3000 Gallons: Fast, maneuverable, efficient. Great Large AirTanker !
  • Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco”/Air Attack: Incredible airplane! Favorite cockpit! Perfect for the mission
  • Grumman S-2T “Turbo Tracker”/1200 Gallons Constant Flow. Ideal Initial Attack AirTanker!

Favorite: hard to say. Great times and memories in each one.

The funniest thing you have seen in aerial firefighting?
Not seen but heard; Some short, really funny replies or comments over the VHF Radio. (the kind you just wish YOU thought of it and said it)

How many hours have you spent in firefighting aircraft?

Your favorite book about fire, firefighting, or aerial firefighting?
Books written by Linc Alexander. In 1967 he wrote Pilots Notes for Fire Bombing; a guide for pilots. In 1972 he wrote Air Attack on Forest Fires which became the world’s definitive manual on aerial fire-fighting techniques by aircraft. His new book Fire Bomber Into Hell: A Story of Survival in a Deadly Occupation, is a must read for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in this great adventure.

The first job you had in aerial firefighting?
1996. Copilot on a C-130A Air Tanker operated by T&G, Chandler AZ and contracted by the French Government during fire season

What gadgets, electronic or other type, can’t you live without?
Smartphone, Laptop, Camera, Books…

One thought on “12 Questions for Jerome Laval”

  1. Add on:
    Memorable aerial fire fighters…
    I should have included the incredible dedication and knowledge of the mechanics. We owe them so much…
    Also, I should have mentioned the Air Attack Officers, LeadPlane pilots and Helicopter pilots… we share the same pieces of sky, the same passion for this mission.
    I have tremendous respect for each one.
    We lost many friends doing this mission; let’s never forget their smiles and good souls.

    Aircraft manufactured in the last 20 years…
    I should have mentionned the Dash8Q400 (2500 Gallons, Rads). 2 are in service in France (Milan 73 and 74) and they seem to do a pretty good job.

    GPS and TCADS of course! Let’s keep moving forward, try out and use these new “gadgets” to improve safety and efficiency of our operations.
    HUD, EVS, FLIR, etc…


Comments are closed.