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Air Attack/Tanker, Helo Pilots

rchcfi

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Anyone out there flying fires this season? I just reverted back to Air Attack this past week, as our jet is in the process of being sold. I spent the better part of the last 2 weeks flying on the Southern Nevada Complex. On a side note, it sure was nice to have more heavies to help suppress this fire that was bigger than the state of Rhode Island.
 

DC4boy

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On duty here in beautiful Fresno. Been comfortably busy..

Fly safe
 

psysicx

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-----
You can find problems with every city. It might not be the best area but its not that bad.
 

NookyBooky

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ha!
Did you guys go into firefighting from ag work, the airlines, military, A&P or what? I'm just curious because it seem so different from any other type of flying and I'm wondering what makes you qualified in the eyes of an employer to do it. Also, how long do you think the Neptunes and old DC's will be around?
 

avbug

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Did you guys go into firefighting from ag work, the airlines, military, A&P or what? I'm just curious because it seem so different from any other type of flying and I'm wondering what makes you qualified in the eyes of an employer to do it. Also, how long do you think the Neptunes and old DC's will be around?

How long will the P2's be around? We can only guess. Until some other pinheaded fool tries to stake his career on destroying the industry, ala Tony Kern, et al, this last go-around. Hopefully a long time. The Douglass products are for the most part, history, with the exception of some private state contracts. More is the pity, because they have perhaps the best safety record of all.

As far as getting into fire work, there's no background that will prepare you or give you an edge. If you're going to fly single engine air tankers, an ag background is a good start...pretty much a requisite to meet basic insurance requirements is a thousand hours of ag. For large air tankers, plan on no vacancies for ten to twenty years.

Having a mechanic certificate is a big plus; most everyone flying tankers turns wrenches on them, or is qualified to do so. Not all, but most.

If backgrounds are to be considered, an ag background is probably best, airline and military the worst. One company for whom I flew, although staffed in management by former military, staunchly refused to even entertain anyone with an airline or military background because of the extremely poor track record of those who had come and gone before. No slight...but not one I ever met made it very far in the tanker world. Most didn't want to get their hands dirty, couldn't make the commitment, didn't want to work, and when it came to flying slow and close to terrain under the conditions required in limited performance aircraft, felt it was too dangerous or beneath them. A few exceptions exist, but not many.

Conversely, coming from tankers to an airline environment...many employers look unfavorably on a tanker past. Unjustifiably, the image of the tanker pilot has been one of a cowboy, despite a very professional community getting the job done.

If you are able to get a seat, usually you can plan on five to ten years to upgrade, often flying a hundred hours a year, with an income period of three to ten months...during which time you probably won't see your family, your home, or much away from the tanker base.

USFS bases are getting quite plush now, with flushing toilets and electricity, and some downright nice furnishings in most. BLM bases in many cases still don't have electricity, running water, or flush toilets. It's not the world that a lot of folks envision as their dream environment.

As far as being qualified in the eyes of the employer...either you'll work out or you won't. Folks need to understand that no matter what their background, weather a retired airline pilot, seasoned corporate or freight pilot, veteran military pilot, or whomever, when hired into the tanker, they're a green copilot with a status just slightly lower than that of a fresh student pilot...and they'll remain there for some time while they learn. The penalties and attendant odds are much more stark than almost any other flying job, or nonflying job for that matter, as borne out by the statistics...it's not merely an employer who likes you...you get no slack, no breaks, and no quick trip to the top or upgrade...you learn slowly, and there's little that will give you a leg up or a head start.

My goal from the time I was a student pilot was to fight fire in airplanes. After being a structural and wildland firefighter on the ground, an EMT, flying air attack and fire patrol, and having an ag background plus other experience, I had nearly ten years of pounding doors, mailing resumes, calling, visiting, and hounding tanker companies before I got a foot in. During that time, I did all kinds of other flying, from cargo to charter to skydivers to airline to government to backcountry, to banner towing, flying skydivers, gliders, instructing, cargo and everything in between...whatever I could find, including turning wrenches on airplanes and a lot of extra jobs doing many non-flying things...nearly two decades total, before having a shot. Others luck out and find a place quicker...but then it's still really luck of the draw.

Technical qualifications don't mean much...the ability to get the job done in field conditions in a hundred eighty degree cockpit with your eyes full of sweat on the takeoff, at gross from a small short high altitude field surrounded by obstacles, launching into low visibility in mountainous terrain in strong winds and turbulence, day after day without any clear end in sight, and then come back at the end of the day to scrub and clean and oil and prepare for tomorrow (which comes early)...mean a whole lot more.

What makes you qualified in the eyes of an employer? Beats me.
 

inline

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avbug said:
If backgrounds are to be considered, an ag background is probably best, airline and military the worst. One company for whom I flew, although staffed in management by former military, staunchly refused to even entertain anyone with an airline or military background because of the extremely poor track record of those who had come and gone before. No slight...but not one I ever met made it very far in the tanker world. Most didn't want to get their hands dirty, couldn't make the commitment, didn't want to work, and when it came to flying slow and close to terrain under the conditions required in limited performance aircraft, felt it was too dangerous or beneath them. A few exceptions exist, but not many.

Conversely, coming from tankers to an airline environment...many employers look unfavorably on a tanker past. Unjustifiably, the image of the tanker pilot has been one of a cowboy, despite a very professional community getting the job done.

Airline pilots make good tanker pilots. Several companies have had good success with them. You can find prima donnas in virtually every facet of aviation. Yes, former ag pilots are good tanker pilots.But for some their IFR skills are poor to non-existent and many have VFR only type ratings so when you have to fly that P-2V, P-3,DC-7 ,etc., several hundred miles away in IFR conditions it'll be very helpful to have an airline or military pilot on board. They're a known quantity.

A tanker pilot without any good IFR skills wouldn't make it past the first sim session at any airline. That's why airlines shy away from them.
 

avbug

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Lack of flying ability has nothing to do with it, weather it be VFR or IFR skills.

It's purely a perception issue, with respect to tanker pilots going elsewhere. For those who have elected to move to other areas (such as airline), I don't personally know any that weren't hired if that was their goal. But that isn't really the point, nor the question that was asked.

The poster asked what background might best prepare someone to find employment in the tanker industry...the only one that comes close is ag work, and that's far from any gaurantee. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the worst backgrounds to come from for one who seeks employment in tankers is airline and military. It's not nearly so much a skill issue as a willingness to work issue.
 
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NookyBooky

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ha!
Through the grapevine, I've heard of warbird jocks being offered jobs flying tankers. This was pre-Kern of course, but from a layman's perspective with absolutley no tanker experience it seems like it makes perfect sense. Exceptional warbird pilots that do their own maintenence would seem to be perfect canidates because they already know the old radial beasts in and out-at least the two that I refer to do. But that doesn't help me much considering I'm about 499 grand short of buying a Mitchell. So, I'm going to have to find my way in the old fashioned way........by earning it.
 

DC4boy

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An Airline pilot would'nt make it past the first fire or two. Been proven....


Shall I go on?????

You do not know from wich you speak, so STFU!!!
 

DC4boy

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This is not a work on your own airplane warbird club anymore. Don't be fooled. Airline skills mean jack sh!t, and 80% of our fatalities are Military pilots.

No disrespect. Just a flying unlike anything else. Period
 

avbug

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Probably the biggest issue there isn't the skills, but the willingness to work. We don't see that from certain expeience-backgrounds. Face it, if you were told you have to hand wash your boeing every night before you leave the airport, fly it without air conditioning, and fly it into the conditions that we do, for an indefinite period with little time off, no stability, and that you'll be living out of the back of the airplane for the next five or ten months with five to fifteen minutes notice at any time to go fly, how excited would you be? If it's a radial powered airplane, you'll get dirty, burned, cut, poked with safety wire, and while the days of flying all day and turning wrenches all night are gone, you'll still be carrying tools and getting dirty. Ever spent the evening or morning scrubbing thick burned-on oil and retardant off of a DC-4 or C-130, then hand polishing and/or waxing it yourself?

Try it some time, and then you'll start to get an understanding of why those who live a shirt-and-tie have-everyone-else-do-the-work-for-you background isn't really conducive to flying an air tanker. No slight on anybody, but it's the truth.

Warbird experience isn't much of a shoe-in, and won't help someone upgrade any faster. Especially with the limited movement in the industry.

Yes, former ag pilots are good tanker pilots.But for some their IFR skills are poor to non-existent and many have VFR only type ratings so when you have to fly that P-2V, P-3,DC-7 ,etc., several hundred miles away in IFR conditions it'll be very helpful to have an airline or military pilot on board. They're a known quantity.

I don't know where you came up with that, but one couldn't get carded for fire if that were true. VFR-only? Not hardly. Part of every season began in a simulator for me, and part of training was always instrument work. VFR-only in low vis in smoke and haze? Not hardly. My first tanker type ride was a very solid IFR ride to ATP standards (engine-out circling, etc), as well as on the job working demonstrations with drops, emergencies on the drops, and so forth.

Very solid VFR skills are an absolute must, and tankers seldom operate under IFR...except for very long empty repositioning flights. However, I can't recall ever being on a tanker dispatch where having an airline pilot on board would have been of any benifit in any way, shape, or form. Thanks for the chuckle.
 
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Ill Mitch

I like my oatmeal lumpy
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DC4boy said:
On duty here in beautiful Fresno. Been comfortably busy..

Fly safe

Ah...Fresburg. If I see any Tanker looking dudes at the Subway across the street, I'll buy.
 

avbug

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I was in Fresno for about three months on a fire, once. But fresno is always sort of an "I spent three months there, one day," sort of place. It was a long three months. Just before we got sent somewhere else, I had a day off, and rode the bicycle I kept in the airplane to a shooting range across town. On the way back in the dark I was standing on the pedals going through a light when the chain came off and I came off with it when my foot slipped. I went through the frame, the wheel bent, and I did a face plant in the intersection. A car from the right tried to press the light and ended up stopped with it's bumper over me. Not a soul stopped to do more than stare briefly, and as I couldn't get up, I dragged myself and the bike clear of the intersection to the sidewalk.

I was unable to ride the bike, and had to carry it the remaining three miles back to the tanker base, in a considerable amount of pain. What annoyed me most, however, was the indignance that the drivers there held out in the intersection, acting quite put out that they were being delayed by someone injured in the intersection. Honking, yelling, and pushing forward with a fair amount of disregard, I had the distinct impression they'd have probably run over me if I hadn't dragged myself clear, quick enough.
 

inline

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DC4boy said:
An Airline pilot would'nt make it past the first fire or two. Been proven....


Shall I go on?????

You do not know from wich you speak, so STFU!!!

There are lots of airline pilots flying tankers. And they do a good job.
 
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