As the Aerial Firefighting North America 2022 Conference begins this week in San Diego, California, attendees from international firefighting agencies will be examining new approaches and best practices to meet the demands of extended fire seasons and more complex challenges in aerial fire fighting. Air Tractor representatives will be at the event, booth 402, providing information about the AT-802F single engine air tanker and its IAB-approved, all-electric Gen III Fire Response Dispersal System.
Looking back at another record-breaking fire season, it is clear the intensity and frequency of wildfires is increasing. In 2021, the world saw 1.5 million acres burn in northeastern Argentina, enormous wildfires in Siberia, and devastating burns in Turkey, Cyprus, and Italy. Fires in the western United States, including California’s Dixie fire, grew into massive proportions. These wildfires not only posed danger to forest lands and property but to public health, emitting record highs in annual fire-related emissions of carbon dioxide.
Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch said he doesn’t expect that the future will provide a respite. “A recent UNEP and GRID-Arendal report projects a global increase of extreme fires of up to 14 percent by 2030,” Hirsch said. “It is vital that the personnel fighting these fires benefit from the latest strategies and best firefighting tools. The AT-802F is one of those tools, working around the world protecting lives and property from these destructive fires.”
Over the last year, Air Tractor’s aerial firefighting aircraft, the AT-802F single engine air tanker and the 802F Fire Boss amphibious scooper water bomber, worked in countries around the world combating these fires.
“Since it was introduced 30 years ago, the AT-802F has proven to be a versatile and cost-effective asset for initial and direct attack aerial firefighting,” Hirsch said. “Quick response while fires are still small prevents them from growing into much larger fires requiring far more costly firefighting assets.”
Air Tractor aerial firefighting aircraft are equipped with the Gen III FRDS fire gate. The fully IAB approved, all-electric fire gate system eliminates heavy and expensive hydraulic components, reducing the airplane’s overall weight for more useful payload. Constant flow technology produces a superior ground pattern and provides the highest flow rate. Precise coverage levels, from 0.5 to 8, can be achieved for better results on the ground.
The Gen III FRDS fire gate is integrated with the DataVault telemetry and data acquisition system. Designed specifically for the aerial firefighting community, the system meets or exceeds all NAFC and US Forest Service “proof of delivery” requirements. The DataVault sends near real-time location and operational data telemetry from the FRDS fire gate to emergency operations managers via the Iridium satellite constellation.
The Air Tractor AT-802F and 802F Fire Boss water scooper perform initial attack and extended attack with pinpoint accuracy to support ground crews and provide structure protection in the wildland/urban interface. Agile maneuvering and fast climb rates make these airtankers ideal for mountainous terrain, narrow flight corridors, and areas where other firefighting aircraft can’t go.
AT-802F aircraft are optionally equipped with the Pratt & Whitney 1,600 SHP PT6A-67F turboprop engine. It powers the airplane at speeds approaching 200 m.p.h. (174 kts.) while ferrying between the fire and its airtanker base or mobile retardant base. The PT6A engine series is legendary for its reliability and power-to-weight performance, making these air tankers well suited for firefighting operations in mountainous terrain and takeoffs from short airstrips.
AT-802 air tankers often work together as flight groups. This tactic multiplies the amount of retardant delivered to the incident and reduces the time between deliveries. Once over the fire, these aircraft make their drops with computer-controlled precision to knock down grass and brush fires or suppress fires in heavier canopies. Low operating cost, fuel efficiency, and extended operating range make the AT-802F an ideal asset for aerial patrol and initial response on days when wildfire risk is high.
Beyond the fire season, AT-802 aircraft can be used for habitat restoration. Their 800-gallon capacity hopper, speed, and maneuverability make quick work of hydromulch application or reseeding for erosion control.
“The AFF Conference is an important venue to share firefighting strategies, developments in firefighting equipment and to discuss trends that are shaping this industry,” Hirsch said. “Air Tractor will continue improving and advancing our products to meet the needs of firefighting agencies around the world.”