We’d like to thank all the presenters and participants who attended the annual AAF Reno meeting. Unlike Las Vegas we like to share what happens in Reno. Our objective is to provide a venue for an exchange of ideas and information relevant to fire aviation and have a good time.
We moved the event to mid-week this year to facilitate the various agency people who work in the winter allowing them to incorporate the gathering into a work schedule.
Jim Barnes and Dave Wardall opened the meeting and managed the program.
Neal D. Langle from the Oregon Department of Forestry gave us an overview of their growing state program and outlined their RFP for additional Large Airtankers to supplement their existing fleet of SEATS and helicopters.
John Nelson, USFS, outlined Airworthiness Program Updates and touched briefly on the Forest Service C-130 exchange program.
Marty Buno, Cal Fire Deputy Chief and Director of Maintenance, provided an update of the state’s new helicopter procurement program and provided insights into the fixed wing program.
Representing Cal Fire/DynCorp, Jeff Caverra presented, Gabby Newhart, or accountant/godmother, the proceeds from the sale of Challenge Coins to benefit our memorial fund. Since its inception the fund it has distributed $190,000 to dependents of fallen aerial firefighters.
From Phoscheck, Ron Raley, a long time generous supporter of the organization, gave us an update on the status of long-term retardant amid the challenge to its use by some non-government environmental organizations.
Rick Hatton, President and CEO of 10 Tanker, shared his vision for the company and the viability of the VLAT platform domestically and internationally.
Garry Nielsen, from Neptune Inc., gave us a rundown on their growing business. Aside from their fleet of legacy P-2s and next-gen BAE-146s they have converted the Forest Service’s fleet of C-23Bs to civilian SD3-60s and have the contract to maintain the aircraft.
From Airspray USA, Ravi Saip alluded to the challenges they’ve faced converting their BAE-146. They plan to have FAA certification completed this winter and hope to be operational this summer. Ravi talked about the hurdles of operating in the wilds of Alaska and the past year in the states with their fleet of 6 Fire Bosses and 2 802s SEATS.
Dennis Hulbert, representing Coulson Aviation, spoke about their year-around, two-hemisphere, operation. I believe he said they will have three C-130s next season. They are also looking forward to starting the conversion of the Forest Servicer C-130s to their RADS-XXL gravity powered tank.
THE MEAT OF THE PROGRAM
Once again this year we had excellent presenters.
Hart Drobish, owner and CEO of Courtney Aviation, brought his contingent of Fire Aviation professionals. Using off-the-shelf technology Courtney Aviation has offered up “Fire View”. The system offers a real-time aerial view to multiple users through data-links. In a matter hours, mobile repeaters provide a wireless network for an incident. On-board cameras and sensors can be viewed and controlled remotely from an incident command center. With similar capability used by the military costs ranges to the millions of dollars. The system was operational during the meeting and attendees had the opportunity to exercise the system on an airborne platform flying around Columbia Airport, CA., Courtney Aviation’s home base.
Clint Crookshanks, NTSB, provided us with insights into the process of investigating four disparate accidents and incidents. Clint’s career spans decades and has made our jobs safer through his efforts. His purview spans bogus parts, criminal intent by management, to human factors. We were once again honored to host Mr. Crookshanks.
Lt. Colonel Tom McCleary, USAF, retired, regaled us with tales of his experiences flying the SR-71. After a distinguished career piloting the craft he flew the last flight of an SR-71. We thank Mr. McCleary for his service and attendance.
Not all the highlights happened at the meeting. The spirit of Walt Darran was alive and well for two nights at the hospitality room. We are firm believers in providing a social atmosphere where food and drink facilitate a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. There were no casualties. Because of our mid-week date we missed the Santa Crawl this year but it also allowed for an uncrowded venue to enjoy Reno. This year the winter weather was mercifully benign.
Hope to see everyone next year in Reno.