12 Questions for Wally Griffin

This is the eighth in a 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 Wally Griffin, who has served as an air tanker pilot, lead plane pilot, and a Chief Pilot in Alaska.


Who is one of the more memorable aerial firefighters you have known? And why?
Don Ornbaum…..he taught me to fly the DC-7 in the fire environment…..a VERY interesting experience.

Wally GriffinOne piece of advice you would give to someone before their first assignment working on a fire?
Pay attention to the objectives of the Team and IC.

Besides the obvious (funding), what is the number one thing government Fire and Aviation should focus on?
Resource value and social impact of the fire.

One suggestion you have for ground-based firefighters about fire suppression tactics, or working with aircraft?
Use aircraft for those aspects of suppression that you cannot see or anticipate.

One thing that you know now that you wish you had known early in your career?
Our best efforts are not always enough to achieve the goals we intended.

Which two aircraft manufactured within the last 20 years would make the best air tankers?
Without further information I cannot with any degree of accuracy name aircraft that I have not flown…..sorry.

List the aircraft you have flown, or flown in, on fires. Which is your favorite, and why?
C-123, DC-4, DC-6, DC-7, OV-10, Commander, Aero Commander.

The funniest thing you have seen in aerial firefighting?
While flying with Don Ornbaum (his flight), the Lead asked us to tag onto a MAFFS drop…….Don climbed to about 4,000 ft where the MAFFS drop was hanging and dropped 3,000 gallons and then asked lead how the drop looked……it might have hit the ground in a week.

How many hours have you spent in firefighting aircraft?
Maybe 2,000.

Your favorite book about fire, firefighting, or aerial firefighting?
The Bible.

The first job you had in aerial firefighting?
Co-pilot on an Airtanker.

What gadgets, electronic or other type, can’t you live without?

One thought on “12 Questions for Wally Griffin”

  1. Hi Wally nice to see you . I was L.Kraus’ co-pilot for several years we met years ago. Any one who has flown with or around Ornbaum I really respect. I just missed the Ornbaum era…
    “Trouble is most of his stories were true.”-told to me by another Ornbaum fan…

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