Pandemic makes it difficult to obtain raw materials to produce fire retardant

In an unusual move, Forest Service purchases 3.8 million gallons before the busy part of the wildfire season

Retardant mix
Dry retardant mix that the Royal Australian Air Force transported from the U.S. to Australia in January, 2020.

For decades the U.S. Forest Service has had long term contracts with the company now known as Perimeter Solutions to supply, mix, store, and load long-term fire retardant in air tankers at dozens of air tanker bases around the United States.

Disruptions in international logistics and shipping due to COVID-19 have complicated the acquisition of raw materials required to produce wildland firefighting retardant products, such as Phos-Chek. Typically Perimeter Solutions has ordered the materials on an as needed basis depending on the demand at the time and the rate at which it is used. This is sometimes called Just In Time Inventory.

The contract the FS has with Perimeter specifies payment by the gallon as it is used. But in an unusual move, the agency recently purchased 3.8 million gallons of retardant worth $15.6 million — an average cost of $4.12 per gallon, which includes mixing, storing, and loading onto aircraft. Between 2013 and 2017 the FS used an average of 12.2 million gallons of fire retardant each year.

Here is how the current situation was described in an April 29, 2020 internal email by Caleb Berry, a FS Washington Office Aviation Management Specialist:

Perimeter Solutions requires raw materials from international sources to produce wildland firefighting retardant products. Typically, Perimeter Solutions orders raw materials over a period of time as fire demand increases and warehoused retardant is used / purchased. COVID-19 disrupted international logistics by threatening supply chain continuity and overseas shipping.  In order to create a reliable stock pile of retardant for the 2020 fire season, raw materials had to be purchased immediately and moved to the United States. The immediate, large raw materials purchase required  a significant funds out lay  prior to seasonal fire retardant purchase and commensurate risk assumed by Perimeter Solutions. As a primary consumer of fire retardant, it is in Forest Service best interest to insure availability of retardant products and vendor stability. This dual purpose was achieved by an advance purchase of first tier retardant at all Forest Service full service retardant contract line items.

Airtanker bases will continue to order retardant services and products on an “as required” basis. The contractor will warehouse product and materials until delivery is requested.

We asked Edward Goldberg, CEO of Perimeter Solutions, about this new purchasing arrangement. He responded in an email:

Perimeter Solutions has been making preparations for the upcoming season for several months.  That includes purchasing raw materials, producing finished retardant, and stocking distribution and using locations. Perimeter Solutions is fully capable and willing to do what is needed to ensure a reliable supply of retardant for the full year.  The USFS decided that purchasing additional safety stock was prudent as part of their overall COVID response.

Mr. Goldberg said the quantity that the FS purchased, “represents a small fraction of what is typically used.”

Perimeter Solutions may not be familiar to firefighters as a supplier of Phos-Chek. That is because the product has been marketed under the names of five companies since the 1960s, some of which are difficult to remember:

1963-1997: Monsanto
1997-2000: Solutia
2000-2005: Astaris
2005-2018: ICL
2018-present: Perimeter Solutions

While the ownership of the company has changed hands many times, Mr. Goldberg said,  “[T]he people in Perimeter have been part of the Phos-Chek business for many years. Decades in many cases. Same great people, same great products, same great service.”

Redding retardant August 7, 2014
Bags of dry retardant mix at the Redding Air Tanker Base, August 7, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert

Updated Forest Service air tanker schedule

All 13 under contract are expected to be working by May 19

Air Tanker Schedule April 29 2020
USFS

The U.S. Forest Service has updated their schedule for large air tankers — the last one we had was dated March 14, 2020.  This latest April 29 version still does not identify all tankers that will be working. Missing are two Neptune BAe-146s and one Aero Flite RJ85.

Oddly, they still have not corrected what appears to be two errors showing an RJ85 and a BAe-146 scheduled to begin their estimated Mandatory Availability Period (MAP) in May of last year.

According to this schedule, by Monday 10 of the 13 air tankers should have started their MAP — assuming the May 2, 2019 date for an Aero Flite tanker is supposed to be May 2, 2020, and the May 13, 2019 date for a Neptune tanker is actually May 13, 2020. All 13 are expected to be within their MAP by May 19.

This schedule includes Next Generation 1.0 and 2.0 contracts, but leaves out 3.0 since it is on hold after being protested by Neptune and 10 Tanker, companies that were ignored in this last round in which only five tankers received awards. Three companies received tentative contracts — Erickson Aero Tanker for two MD-87s, Aero Flite for two RJ85s, and Coulson for one 737. No very large air tankers received contracts in this last round, but we’ll have to see if that changes when the General Accountability Office rules on the protests. Their decision is due by July 15, 2020.

That means — only 13 Forest Service large air tankers are on contract for the entire United States until the GAO decision, after which the fleet could increase to 18. Each aircraft has one day off each week, so on most days two or three will be unavailable, dropping the numbers to about 11 and 16. If they stick to these numbers fast, aggressive, initial attack with overwhelming force is not going to be a reality as often as needed during this COVID-19 pandemic when there may be a reduction in firefighting capacity from ground forces, leading to more smoke in our atmosphere. New research suggests that the smoke firefighters breathe on the front lines of wildfires is putting them at greater risk from the COVID-19 virus, with potentially lethal effects.

These numbers of air tankers could be increased if:

  1. Congress adequately funds the aerial firefighting program.
  2. More than 5 air tankers receive Next Gen 3.0 contracts; (15 instead of 5).
  3. The Forest Service aggressively activates Call When Needed air tankers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Robert. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

US Forest Service may contract for up to 30 more helicopters

helicopter HAI HELI-EXPO arrival landing anaheim california
A Eurocopter Super Puma AS 332L arrives at HAI HELI-EXPO in Anaheim, California January 24, 2020. It is registered to Horizon Helicopters in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The U.S. Forest Service has published a solicitation asking for bids that could add up to 30 helicopters to the firefighting fleet this summer.

Published April 22, the solicitation has a very quick turnaround date, with offers due April 27, 2020. In order to be eligible for this opportunity, parties applying must already have one of the 68 current Call When Needed agreements in place.

The Forest Service is asking for pricing proposals for Type 1 and 2 helicopters which would be available for a 90-day Mandatory Availability Period commencing on either June 1st or June 15th.

As we wrote April 22, the four-year exclusive use contracts for Type 1 firefighting helicopters issued in 2016 expire April 30. Since new contracts based on the solicitation issued November 15, 2019 have not yet been awarded the Forest Service has given 30-day contracts to a handful of vendors. The agency has refused to provide to us any details about the 30-day contracts.

Since many of their procurement actions for firefighting aircraft are protested, delaying activation for several months, these 90-day contracts for up to 30 helicopters may be a safety net in case of a protest. If a company receives one of the Type 1 EU contracts, the Forest Service “will then remove your awarded helicopter from consideration for this one-time [90-day] opportunity.”

On April 6, 2018 the Forest Service awarded EU contracts for 34 Type 2 firefighting helicopters. The duration was for one base year through April 30, 2019, with the possibility of 3 one-year renewal option periods. The U.S. Forest Service has shown by how they manage the air tanker and Type 1 helicopter contracts that the option periods are definitely not a sure thing after cutting those aircraft during recent optional years.

This possible increase in the number of helicopters is presumably a response to what could a diminished firefighting capability during the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 23 Fire Aviation called for a large increase in the numbers of aviation resources:

Congress needs to appropriate enough funding to have 40 large air tankers on exclusive use contracts. Until that takes place and the aircraft are sitting on ramps at air tanker bases, all 17 of the large air tankers on call when needed contracts need to be activated this summer. Right now, only one large air tanker is working.

Several years ago the number of the largest helicopters on EU contracts, Type 1, were cut from 34 to 28. This number needs to be increased to 50. Until that happens 22 CWN Type 1 helicopters should be activated this summer.

If this temporary increase in the Type 1 and Type 2 helicopter fleets actually occurs, unimpeded by contract protests, it is the right thing to do.

The next action that needs to be taken is a similar increase in the fixed wing fleet this summer.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Sean. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Colorado seeks to add to their aerial firefighting resources for COVID-19 preparedness

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) is requesting three additional air tankers and one helicopter, all on exclusive use contracts

Durango Helitack crew
Colorado’s Durango Helitack crew demonstrates crew loading at the Safety Fly-In May 31, 2019 at the Durango Air Tanker Base in Colorado. Photo by Rick Freimuth.

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) wishes to obtain additional aircraft for their firefighting fleet during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to Governor Jared Polis and members of the General Assembly, the Director of the Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Mike Morgan, will be requesting $7.7 million to add three air tankers, a helicopter, and a fixed wing aircraft in order to provide aggressive initial attack and to supplement the limited number of ground resources available during the pandemic.

Currently the state owns two Multi-Mission Aircraft used for mapping reconnaissance. On contract they have two Exclusive Use (EU) Helicopters each with 12-person DFPC Helitack Crews, two EU Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATS), and three Call-When-Needed (CWN) SEAT contracts.

If approved by the Governor and the Assembly the additional aircraft, all on EU contracts, would include one large air tanker on a 120-day contract, two single engine air tankers (SEATs) on 150-day contracts, a Type 2 helicopter on a 120-day contract, and an Air Attack fixed-wing aircraft on a 180-day contract for aerial supervision and airspace coordination.

The 747 SuperTanker is on a CWN contract with Colorado but it needs to take and pass another grid test before it can be used on a fire in the United States. It has been certified by the Interagency Airtanker Board on an interim basis, but that has expired. After having made modifications to the retardant delivery system, the operator, Global SuperTanker, believes the aircraft will pass the test, but scheduling it during the pandemic has proved to be difficult.

Colorado also has a CWN contract for a P-3 large air tanker operated by Airstrike.

The state’s Wildfire Emergency Response Fund (WERF), part of an effort to keep fires small, provides funding or reimbursement for the first air tanker flight or the first hour of a firefighting helicopter, and/or two days of a wildfire hand crew at the request any county sheriff, municipal fire department, or fire protection district.

The firefighting goals of the DFPC include:

  • Generating an incident assessment for every fire within 60 minutes of request or detection.
  • Delivering the appropriate aviation suppression resources to every fire within 60 minutes of the request.
  • Providing on-scene technical assistance and support within 90 minutes of request for support from a local agency.

Colorado has beefed up their ground resources this year, adding three additional 10-person modules (hand crews) which raises the total number of modules to four, with one in each quadrant of the state.

Colorado wildfires 2002 - 2019
Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control

The DFPC continues to partner with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to increase the availability of bulldozers, road graders, and other heavy equipment for wildfire suppression. To date, 75 CDOT equipment operators have received basic training.

Like other firefighting organizations, Colorado realizes that the pandemic is likely to reduce the availability and productivity of firefighters. Staffing of Incident Management Teams (IMTs) may be constrained by a reduced number of personnel who are available to leave their home jurisdictions. The DFPC is developing cadre lists of State and local personnel who can form multiple Type 3 IMTs for suppressing wildfires.

Fire Aviation operations during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Eastern Geographic Area has released their Wildland Fire Response Plan (WRP) for the COVID-19 pandemic. The 83-page document was written, compiled, and assembled by the Eastern Area Type 2 Incident Management Team led by Steve Goldman, working under Tim Sexton’s Area Command Team. The three Area Command Teams were responsible for WRPs for the rest of the United States.

All of the teams worked directly with each Geographic Area’s Coordinating Group Chair, dispatch/coordination centers, and local units. They also worked under the direction and supervision of the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC), through a Team Coordinator (Joe Reinarz) and maintained frequent contact and communication through multiple daily briefings to the NMAC.

The plans were developed using a standardized template and a process for national standardization; but development included attention and inclusion of all specific concerns for the Geographic Area covered by each plan.

In this article we are covering the Eastern Area plan, but based on standardization and the use of a template there may be a significant amount of duplication between plans, which will facilitate inter-Geographic Area responses — if that even occurs under the pandemic.

Wildfire Today covered the general provisions of the Eastern Area plan, but below are excerpts specifically about fire aviation. The entire official document can be downloaded here.


All Rotor Wing Operations

Prevention
Best practices to prevent exposure:
• Briefings: utilize video conferencing, texting, messaging, radio or loud speaker.
• Limit who enters the aircraft and airbase to pilots and flight crews only.
• Work with minimum crew staffing levels to limit exposure.
• For crew and passenger safety follow FAA COVID-19 Guidance.
• Consider putting helicopters into limited status, and 2:1 management where when possible.
• Use one hour call backs during periods of low activity.
• Evaluate allowing vendors to stage at their home base with a 24-48 hour call back.
• With approval of the Contracting Officer, reimburse vendors for transporting relief pilots and crews by vehicle and or light aircraft versus commercial airlines.
• Ensure technological capability to participate in a virtual/ remote environment.

Incident Response
Best practices during mobilization/at incident and through demobilization:
• Follow guidance included in All Personnel Safety Guidance Appendix A.
• Use paperless dispatching (106 dispatch, text message, Cad, rip and run, kneeboard).
• Consider assigning a Rotor Wing Coordinator early in the season at the GACC to increase efficiency.
• Maintain situational awareness of others being transported and working with on the fireline.
• Reconnaissance, passenger transport or other non-module member flights will be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
• Photo or video sharing of incident will be utilized for situational awareness to avoid adding personnel to the confined space of the aircraft.
• Pilot and mechanic should decontaminate interior and exterior of the aircraft between missions per GSA/OEM/NBAA guidance.

Exposure Response
Best practices in the event of a presumptive exposure.
• Personnel should report symptoms or potential COVID-19 exposure to supervisor immediately and initiate onsite self-isolation/self-quarantine.
• Supervisor will report through chain of command to IC or local agency administrator.
• Incident staff will interview person affected for symptoms and determine locations and other personnel that might have been exposed, using COVID-19 approved protocols.
• When possible use virtual interview methods.
• Decontaminate any equipment and locations before returning to service.
• Demobilize person virtually, to home unit if possible; follow COVID-19 public health orders.
• Follow existing public health orders for transportation arrangements back to unit.
• Incident staff will work to identify and inform others potentially exposed, check for symptoms and determine if there is a need for decontamination or further action.
• Follow agency protocols and regulations regarding use of affected person’s name(s) and information.
• Place aircraft out of service until properly decontaminated per GSA/OEM or NBAA guidance.
• Return aircraft to contract availability by the appropriate maintenance inspector.
• Notify Controlling aircraft or dispatch of status change.
• Contact Contracting Officer to place aircraft out of service.
• Isolate aircraft away from active operations and personnel.
• Follow CDC and current local/state department of health guidelines.

Fixed Wing Aviation

Prevention
Best practices to prevent exposure:
• Briefings: utilize video conferencing, texting, messaging, radio or loud speaker.
• Limit who enters an airbase, seaplane base and the aircraft, to flight crews and pilots only. Do not conduct tours or allow observers to gather near the facility.
• For crew and passenger safety follow FAA COVID-19 Guidance.
• Limit multi use of headsets, helmets, knee boards, gloves, flight suits, tools, etc.
• After each flight the pilot should follow GSA/OEM/ NBAA guidance to decontaminate the aircraft interior including handles, interior seating, seat harnesses and the cockpit.
• After maintenance, decontaminate the aircraft per GSA/OEM/NBAA guidance.
• Work closely with the GACC to return tactical (SMKJ, LEAD, ATGSs, ATs, etc.) and flight support crews to the same base every night to eliminate travel induced exposure for flight and maintenance crews.
• Ensure technological capability to participate in a virtual/ remote environment.

Incident Response
Best practices during mobilization/at incident and through demobilization:
• Follow guidance included in All Personnel Safety Guidance Appendix A.
• Use electronic dispatch orders of resources (106 dispatch card, Kneeboard, etc.).
• Use minimum crew staffing levels to limit exposure.
• Consider pooling ATGSs within the GACCs and assign as needed. Utilize multiple bases during high activity, even though other bases may be farther from the incident if support staffing will allow.
• Maintain situational awareness of passengers’ social distancing and potential symptoms; report any observed symptoms through chain of command.
• Work closely with the Dispatch Offices and the GACC to return pilots and flight crews to the same base every night, preferably home, to eliminate travel induced exposure for flight and maintenance crews.
• Consider assigning Fixed Wing and Airspace Coordinators prior to actual fire season

Exposure Response
Best practices in the event of a presumptive exposure.
• Personnel should report symptoms or potential COVID-19 exposure to supervisor immediately and initiate onsite self-isolation/self-quarantine.
Supervisor will report through chain of command to IC or local agency administrator.
• Incident staff will interview person affected for symptoms and determine locations and other personnel that might have been exposed, using COVID-19 approved protocols.
• When possible use virtual interview methods.
• Decontaminate any equipment and locations before returning to service.
• Demobilize person virtually, to home unit if possible; follow COVID-19 public health orders.
• Follow existing public health orders for transportation arrangements back to unit.
• Incident staff will work to identify and inform others potentially exposed, check for symptoms and determine if there is a need for decontamination or further action.
• Follow agency protocols and regulations regarding use of affected person’s name(s) and information.
• Place aircraft out of service until properly decontaminated per GSA/OEM or NBAA guidance.
• Return aircraft to contract availability by the appropriate maintenance inspector.
• Notify Controlling aircraft or dispatch of status change.
• Contact Contracting Officer to place aircraft out of service.
• Isolate aircraft away from active operations and personnel.
• Follow CDC and current local/state department of health guidelines.

Airbase/Helibase Operations

Prevention
Best practices to prevent exposure:
• Briefings: utilize video conferencing, texting, messaging, radio or loudspeaker.
• Limit who enters the aircraft and airbase to pilots and flight crews only.
• Work with minimum crew staffing levels to limit exposure.
• Follow FAA COVID-19 Guidance.
• Follow GSA/OEM/NBAA disinfection guidance after each flight or after maintenance / fueling.
• If possible, contract for a block of rooms or apartments for the season for agency and contractor flight crews to use. Sanitize the rooms prior to and after each use.
• Work closely with the Dispatch Office and the GACC to return ATGSs, ATs, LEADs and flight crews to the same base every night to eliminate travel induced exposure.
• Use the contract one-hour call back to reduce the number of personnel at the airbase.
• Faster ordering of additional aircraft to lessen firefighters needed on the ground through more aggressive initial attack.
• Consider options such as double crewing all aircraft during periods of high use and call up additional CWN services to obtain a more aggressive initial attack.
• Ensure technological capability to participate in a virtual/ remote environment.

Incident Response
• Best practices during mobilization/at incident and through demobilization: Follow guidance included in All Personnel Safety Guidance Appendix A.
Use multiple bases during the response, even though other bases may be farther from the incident in order to limit the amount of personnel at the airbase.
• Install and use additional retardant loaders to limit hose and nozzle contacts.
• Communicate with other bases and dispatch to ensure positive coordination (airspace, radio frequencies, supervision assigned, etc.) as multiple aircraft from different bases and agencies may be present during initial attack.

Exposure Response
Best practices in the event of a presumptive exposure.
• Personnel should report symptoms or potential COVID-19 exposure to supervisor immediately and initiate onsite self-isolation/self-quarantine.
• Supervisor will report through chain of command to IC or local agency administrator.
• Incident staff will interview person affected for symptoms and determine locations and other personnel that might have been exposed, using COVID-19 approved protocols.
• When possible use virtual interview methods.
• Decontaminate any equipment and locations before returning to service.
• Demobilize person virtually, to home unit if possible; follow COVID-19 public health orders.
• Follow existing public health orders for transportation arrangements back to unit.
• Incident staff will work to identify and inform others potentially exposed, check for symptoms and determine if there is a need for decontamination or further action.
• Follow agency protocols and regulations regarding use of affected person’s name(s) and information.
• Place aircraft out of service until properly decontaminated per GSA/OEM or NBAA guidance.
• Return aircraft to contract availability by the appropriate maintenance inspector.
• Notify Controlling aircraft or dispatch of status change.
• Contact Contracting Officer to place aircraft out of service.
• Isolate aircraft away from active operations and personnel.
• Follow CDC and current local/state department of health guidelines.

Bridger Aerospace and Ascent Vision Technologies join forces to deliver COVID-19 PPE

Delivery face masks Bridger Aerospace
Members of Bridger Aerospace and Frenchtown District Rural Fire Department. Minuteman Aviation photo by Mel Holtz in Missoula.

What started as a modest campaign to provide a couple of hundred face shields to Bozeman Health, has opened doors to assist other first responders in staying safe. In an effort to fight against COVID-19, Ascent Vision Technologies (AVT), a military defense contractor, adapted its production know-how to rapid prototyping and production of the shields. After an outpouring of gratitude and requests for more units, the AVT team is now working to produce up to an additional 5,000 units.

Its sister company, Bridger Aerospace (BA), an Aerial Firefighting company based in Belgrade, Montana, with its fleet of 14 airplanes (mix of Aero Commanders, Kodiak 100’s, and a CL-415EAF), can bypass commercial shipping channels to deliver equipment and personnel on-demand. An opportunity to fulfill a request made by the Frenchtown FD presented such an occasion. The Bridger team used their newly acquired Daher Kodiak 100 to hand-deliver 30 units to a Fire Department crew based in Frenchtown, Montana.

Tim Sheehy, CEO, has pledged to assist any other first responders in need. So far, BA and AVT have delivered over 300 shields to Bozeman Health and first responders and will be delivering masks to other fire departments and healthcare professionals across Montana.

Bridger Aerospace was in the news last month when it was announced they would be acquiring six CL-415EAF scooping air tankers. Longview Aviation in collaboration with Cascade Aerospace, is upgrading Canadair CL-215 air tankers to become CL-415EAFs.

Q400 air tanker hauls COVID-19 medical supplies

Q400 air tanker multi-role France
Caption from Instagram: “Yesterday carrying #medicalteam with lot of material between Bordeaux, Nancy and Strasbourg- Participating in the national effort against #Covid-19 – For the crew: Two #pilots and two #cabincrew it mean follow precise procedures and be very vigilant…in other words: Stay #professionnal – We want also to mention Our deepest respect and gratitude to the #caregivers #medecins #infirmiers #aidesoignants 🙏🙏🙏 #securitecivile #waterbomber”

The Instagram account for France’s Sécurité Civile recently posted these photos. Above, a Q400 multi-role air tanker is being loaded with personnel and medical supplies for a COVID-19 mission.

Below, a Q400 is seen with two scooping air tankers, CL-415s.

Q400 air tanker multi-role France
Caption from Instagram: “Milan76 ready for…training today!”

NWCG: Best practices for fire aviation during COVID-19 pandemic

“Airbases or aircraft may be unstaffed or closed due to COVID-19”

MAFFS C-130 Wyoming National Guard
A MAFFS C-130 from the Wyoming National Guard refills its tank during training at Boise April 21, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The Interagency Aviation Preparedness Task Team (IAPTT) has developed recommendations for managing fire aviation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The team is requesting that the National Interagency Aviation Committee (NIAC), which is chartered by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, approve a list of best management practices (BMP).

The IAPTT calls the BMPs “a living document to allow changes as they are needed without confusing the aviation community,” and recommended that it be posted on the NWCG website.”

Here are some excerpts:

  • Ensure implementation of the recommended wildland fire screening protocol by the NWCG’s Emergency Medical Committee (ETA, TBD) for everyone entering the airbase.
  • Contractors and agency personnel need to document daily activities and interactions (location, date, time, and names if possible) daily. This information may be requested if a known exposure has occurred.
  • Contractors and agency personnel shall carry and use disinfecting supplies for protection of aircraft and personnel.
  • Restrict access to the bases and all aircraft to essential personnel only.
  • Keep aircrews separate from other aircrews, contractors and base personnel. Recommend adding temporary facilities and supplies, such as: travel trailers, tents, mobile offices, portable toilets, wash stations, ice chests, etc. to reduce cross contamination.
  • During periods of standby and extended standby, allow flight crews to isolate themselves in quarters and respond from quarters directly to aircraft with minimal person-to-person contact with public and base personnel.
  • For personnel working at the airbase, recommend use of N-95 mask while working in tight spaces to protect against exposure such as the potential for coughing and sneezing.
  • Evaluate MAP start dates to existing conditions to potentially allow vendors to either start the MAP later or to stage/standby at the contractor’s base of operations.
  • Identify home bases for those resources currently without, such as large, very large airtankers, and CWN aircraft.
  • Align aircraft, aircrew, and crew days off.
  • Program managers, contracting officers, and contractors are encouraged to create schedules to minimize or eliminate aircrew rotations, including the need for relief crews.
  • Avoid the use of relief crews. If relief crews are used, CORs, COs and vendors shall develop a travel plan that avoids, as practicable, commercial travel and utilizes driving or chartering aircraft for crew transport to and from the home base or the alternate work location. Work with the contracting officers to identify applicable reimbursement costs and procedures.
  • When proper separation at an airbase cannot be achieved, utilize alternate locations on the airfield or adjacent airports, to stage aircraft that do not require the infrastructure of an airtanker base (e.g. helicopters, light fixed wing etc.).
  • If possible the aircraft and crews should recover nightly at the assigned permanent or temporary home base.
  • Use long term rental or agency vehicles and long term lodging to reduce exposure. Sanitize both lodging and vehicles before, during, and after use.
  • Restrict boosting out of the local area. Evaluate R&R the existing crew in place and/or reducing staffing for the duration of the assignment. [note from Bill: this apparently refers to mobilizing smokejumpers to stage at locations other than their home base]
  • Reduce staffing numbers when approved and applicable such as:
    • Requesting 2 helicopters for each helicopter manager as appropriate (restricted/limited).
    • Expect to utilize and provide pre-approvals for extension of personnel to 21 days.
  • When military aircraft are activated, position them away from existing contractor aircraft, agency personnel and existing agency bases. Consider for MAFFS units to reload only at their activated MAFFS base.
  • Consider that resources ordered out of state may be required to quarantine for 14 days either upon arrival or return from assignment.
  • Staff base with minimal personnel during standby periods allowing the remaining base personnel to work and respond from quarters.
  • Utilize virtual briefings to minimize person to person contact. Utilize conference lines, email, Microsoft Teams or other similar multi-media resources with links to appropriate briefing materials.
  • Aircraft dispatch forms shall be delivered to all resources electronically instead of person-to-person or information can be relayed over the radio.
  • When available utilize additional agency vehicles to transport crews while maintaining social distancing. If agency vehicles are not available acquire long term rental vehicles. Contact local dispatch for assistance on emergency equipment rentals.
  • Minimize transporting passengers as much as possible; clean each aircraft between flights in accordance to FAA direction. https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/air/managing-sick-travelers/ncov-airlines.html
  • Eliminate the use of shared personal protective equipment (e.g. headsets and flight helmets).
  • Clean personal protective equipment (e.g. headsets and flight helmets) before and after utilization.
  • Due to the dynamic situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, airbase operations at times may not meet policy requirements. In these cases, prior to the deviation, it will be reported to supervisors who in conjunction with aviation managers will analyze the risk and determine if the operation should continue.
  • All cargo being transported via aircraft will be handled by essential personnel only.  Handling of cargo should be accomplished with the minimum personnel as possible and all personnel will handle cargo with proper PPE at all times.
  • All personnel that show any symptoms of illness are to immediately isolate as recommended by CDC/FAA and follow agency, CDC, and state guidelines for notifications, testing and quarantines.
  • Airbases and/or aircraft may be unstaffed or closed due to COVID-19. Do not staff or open a contaminated airbase or aircraft without proper decontamination. Notify controlling dispatch and/or coordination center of status changes.
  • COVID-19 risk mitigation shall not increase or transfer risk to flight crews. Flight crews will determine mission “go, no go” decision based on proper risk mitigation.

The excerpts above comprise only a portion of the four-page document which can be found on the NWCG website.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Mathew. Typos or errors, report them HERE.