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Question for Avbug????

Grumman guy

Type and Altitude unknown
Joined
Jun 22, 2004
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115
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3 g's
Care to share youre thaughts and preminitions on the future of aerial firefighting in the U.S. for an aspiring tanker pilot?

Specifically-

Lead plane program?

future of the P2'S?

S.E.A.T. Program?

thanks,

Grumman Guy
 

avbug

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2001
Posts
7,602
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n/a
I have absolutely no insight into what's going on, to tell you the truth. I have heard veiled rumors that there are going to be substantial budgeting cutbacks next year that will affect the programs across the board, but I can't substantiate that.

So many changes have happened over the past few years that guessing what might happen next is better than science. Who knows?

My personal guesswork is that at some point, if the programs don't falter altogether, the Federal government is going to get into the airplane business, and do the same as California (CDF), hiring pilots and mechanics through a contractor. Or they might provide their own people and let contractors provide the aircraft and the maintenance, ala the BLM ASM platform program. Just a guess.

On the horizon, rumor says that Minden will have their BAE 146 up and running and ready for carding by the end of the year, and ready to fly next season. That may change some things. Aeroflite, losing ground with the DC-4, went with the CL-215. As far as I know, they've been successful...that may be an avenue that more operators ought to consider.

For my two cents, the future is helicopters. The government has always preferred them, and they get contracts and go to work on exclusive use and call when needed, like nobody's business. Plus helicopters can do other work off season, whereas a P2 just sits. SEATs can do seeding off season but most operators merely work on them over the winter...few change out the fire gate and work the airplanes in any other capacity. In fact, just the opposite. With the faltering ag industry (certain exceptions exist), a lot of folks have taken a keen interest in trying to get into the SEAT program, hoping that will be the saving grace for their business.

The season just about killed us this year...only about sixty five hours flown, or so. We were down for several days following a hydraulic failure. We didn't get much after contract work...extended only two weeks, and no early call out. Not a lot of fire (and as luck would have it, the day I lost the hydraulics and shut down turned out to be one of the biggest fire days of the year for us...and we had to sit).

I've heard rumors that additional SEAT contracts are going to be let, but I suspect that budgetary cutbacks next year will limit what's available to various programs. Fire programs are big for various agencies because that's their funding net...they hold up the fire program (like a net) and it catches the funding for each district (like little money butterflies). Whatever doesn't get spent on fires gets saved to the district for local uses. If districts can pick up fires and charge off their needs to the fires, they have extra at the end of the year...if they cut the funding for fire operations, there's nothing to catch in the net, and no incentive to use the tankers...the tankers can become a liability to district and agency funding rather than an asset if they consume funds rather than draw them.

One thing is certain; there will be very few jobs opening up, and what does open up will be taken by a pool of experienced personnel who are in limbo right now. Not a lot of room for movement or growth, and in the heavy tanker world where upgrades used to run up to ten years or more, it may be much longer now before someone could think of getting their own airplane.

We'll certainly see piston powered aircraft phased out before too long, which is unfortunate, because much of what's in the inventory right now is good solid equipment that's just as suited to the job today as ever...that includes the super 4's that aren't working right now.

We've had a good season safety wise here, but I believe there have been five fatal crashes of air tanker aircraft in Europe this season. Nothing media-sensational that is likely to cause a panic like three years ago...no fleet groundings, but each one very unfortunate of it's own accord.

I suspect that if the military wasn't as committed as it is, we'd see a much larger role for the MAFFS installations out there. MAFFS does a good job where they're assigned, but their primary mission isn't fire, and they aren't firefighters. They're operators assigned a temporary duty. There's a difference. In future times, especially if foriegn operations begin to wind down, there's going to be a large incentive for the military to try to pick up a larger share of the public burden in wildland fire, for the same reason that the various land management agencies do now...budgeting.

What will happen next year? I don't know. I thought after the fatal crash at the SEAT "flat-rock university" in Safford, they wouldn't do live training this year, but they did. Who can predict what will occur? Our contract ended this year, and is up for bid next...where I'll be and who I'll fly for, I don't know. I may even quit my day job and find a full time fire seat again. Then again, there may be no fire seats to find.

Time will tell.
 

FN FAL

Freight Dawgs Rule
Joined
Dec 17, 2003
Posts
8,573
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7,000+
BAC 146? Ha...maybe that airframe found it's niche! I can see it happening.

BAE got stuck with the RJX and it may yet to be seen, but XJ may be getting their RJ-85's pulled...which would mean a glut of 146 airframes on the market.

Honestly, no knock to XJ or other 146 operators, but I can see the airframe being used in this capacity.
 

TXGold

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 30, 2005
Posts
153
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5.5mil
Avbug,
Any chance you could give us a little light on your background, or a history lesson on your entrance to this profession. After reading this and many other post, it became obvious to me that you are a wise man, with many stories. I would like to know more about the elusive man behind the computer.

Rocker
 
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