This is the fourth 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 Kenneth Perry, Chief, Air Tactical Supervisors Standards and Safety with the Bureau of Land Management Aerial Supervision Module Program
Who is one of the more memorable aerial firefighters you have known? And why?
Can’t remember his name. He was a helicopter pilot that on 7/7/07 was completely taking charge of a burn over, as we arrived on scene. Calming the folks down, and dropping water dangerously close to exploding propane tanks. I put him in for a AirWard… They didn’t give him one.
One piece of advice you would give to someone before their first assignment working on a fire?
Apply their training, yet be conservative. And learn. That goes for their second, 3rd 4th etc., etc.
Besides the obvious (funding), what is the number one thing government Fire and Aviation should focus on?
Standardization in communication. We say we have it in aerial firefighting and aerial supervision, but I don’t think we really do. Accountability from a personal and peer standpoint is also lacking, in my opinion. I also think that the job of aerial supervision should be treated with the complexity and importance that it deserves, when it comes to training, competency and currency.
One suggestion you have for ground-based firefighters about fire suppression tactics, or working with aircraft?
Don’t rely on them. In many areas of the country it is still common for firefighters to decide tactics based on aircraft support.
One thing that you know now that you wish you had known early in your career?
We learn things when we are ready to learn them.
Which two aircraft manufactured within the last 20 years would make the best air tankers?
Designed or manufactured? Designed…. There aren’t any unless you want to tank a 787… Manufactured… I’m not sure if any airtanker that we are currently using, beside the 800 series Air Tractors were manufactured in the last 20 years. Of course there are later versions of the P-3 and C-130, but we won’t see them. Hence a major issue we face now. I’ve worked with the DC-10 quite a bit, and though there are some naysayers , I find it very effective. I’m looking forward to the next-gen, if it happens.
List the aircraft you have flown, or flown in, on fires. Which is your favorite, and why?
Tough question… You name it, I’ve probably done a mission in it. There are, however caveats. I will not fly a mission in a single engine A/C anymore. My favorite for my job (ASM) is the Beechcraft King Air. For ATGS, most certainly the turbine Commander.
The funniest thing you have seen in aerial firefighting?
Me and another guy once hid rubber snakes and spiders all over the airplane of a newly minted P-2V captain. Scared the crap out of him. That was pretty darn funny.
How many hours have you spent in firefighting aircraft?
Wow… Let’s be conservative… say 200 hrs a year X 14 years = 2800 hrs, although I’m sure it’s more.
Your favorite book about fire, firefighting, or aerial firefighting?
Never really been a big fan about reading about what I do. My favorite movie was, of course, Firestorm with Howie Long!!!!!
The first job you had in aerial firefighting?
What gadgets, electronic or other type, can’t you live without?
Got an iPhone. Pretty much need that.