Tangent Link’s bi-annual Aerial Firefighting North America Conference opened its doors today, after a two year break, with a deep-learning experience.
The 2017 wildfire season was unprecedented in its ferocity and put considerable pressure on the US, Canada and many other robust firefighting institutions. The pilots, maintenance teams and management from these organisations were subjected to an extended season which can be a catalyst for human error.
So we were delighted when eight experts from across the USA agreed to deliver four 1-hour workshops for both pilots and management across the global Aerial Firefighting community to provide
further safety knowledge for those involved in firefighting operations.
Exhaustipated…too tired to care
Bruce A. Wright from the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute – part of the Medical Education Division of the US’ Federal Aviation Authority - delivered a revealing presentation on “The
Effects of Fatigue on Pilot Performance”. Actual film footage of car accidents resulting from the effects of sleep deprivation were shown. Of course, in aircraft, the
results are generally unforgiving and sometimes fatal. A scary US statistic provided is that in the last 30 days 4.7% of the population fell asleep at the wheel of their cars.
Examples of mishaps from sleep deprivation can be lapses of attention, slowed reaction times, and poor judgement; Fatigue Research and Fatigue Management addresses how one
should manage oneself in a sleep deprived state - being honest with your limitations, paying attention to your physical conditions. The final element of the presentation addressed Fatigue
Countermeasures – including “Combat” naps , sleep hygiene (avoiding watching TV, working on computers, texting, or having pets on your bed), and finally, shunning caffeine.
Keeping the fleet fighting fires all night
Flying an aerial firefighting mission at night can also be a hazardous activity with some high profile accidents in the past shaping future operations. US Forest Service’s night vision experts Darlene Hall & Captain Michael Norris from the Angeles National Forest were on hand to provide research and operational experience based on their NVG helicopter trials. William J Fox Airport in Lancaster CA is the base setting for the USFS’ Initial Attack night flying operations using Type 2 helicopters where pilots are being trained in Night Filling Operations and how to train them on NVGs to aid fire detection. Footage of air tanker drops through NVG showed realistic conditions where firefighters placed glow sticks strategically close to wildfires to indicate the fire lines that helicopter pilots should aim for. David R. Roelle & Bob McGann from the Colorado Centre of Excellence for Advance Technology described how they are carrying out significant research into Aerial Firefighting Night Vision flying placing particular emphasis on fixed wing NV research using their two PC-12 aircraft based in Rifle, Colorado. The CoE Night Aerial Firefighting Operations Interim Report was published in January 2018.