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Carded for Type III, first season


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Get used to sleeping in a tent or a hotel a long ways away from the incident since the "hero's" get all the hotels around.


And don't go around bragging about "timing out" the first time you do.


Oh, and stay out of the Type I's way ;)

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You already may know some of this stuff but no one else provided any of this information so….


Dress appropriately (like a pro). Don’t be surprised if you get scoffed at if you show up on a helibase in skinny jeans, skate shoes, t-shirt and flat billed ball cap.


As far as the sleeping in a tent or motel room goes, pack your clothing in ziplock bags to protect them from bedbugs/fleas. Also, get an insect repellant sleeping bag liner to use when sleeping in the bush or, in some hotels/motels….. Avoid placing your suitcase anywhere the bugs live ala, off the carpet/bed/ground. Places like on top of the table or dresser, bathroom countertop or hang it off the ground.


Be picky when eating helibase food.


When flying, carry a backpack with a survival kit, flashlight/headlamp, bug repellant, sunscreen and such. Some folks will carry a folding chair. Also, carry some food (energy bars) and water with you as sometimes you may not get a chance to eat while on a fire. And of course, a fire shelter.


On the fires, communicate, communicate, communicate. Call off the dip/drop and visual contact with other aircraft.


Go slow. In the daisy chain, if you feel pressure from behind, simply advise you’ll do a 360 left or right turn to provide some spacing. Do not let anyone put pressure on you to hurry up.


Keep your head on a swivel. Do not get fixated on the fire. Even if you’re told there are no other aircraft on the fire, keep scanning.


When you first arrive on scene, recon the dip site and area of the fire for hazards – wires. Once you establish a route in and out, maintain that route. If you need to change your route, high-recon it before you dive in. Remember this saying; “fools rush in”. Recon all landings I say again, RECON ALL LANDINGS. Advise all hazards you see to other arriving aircraft. If you don’t hear anyone (ATGS/Helco) brief arriving aircraft of known hazards, speak up.


If you’re not comfortable doing something, don’t do it.


If you get fatigued, stop flying and rest.


I use a Bluetooth device to communicate via cell phone with my tender driver. It makes fuel stops quicker and more productive.


The ATGS and Helco are there to coordinate aircraft and maintain separation, just like ATC. They are not there to force you to do things you don’t want to do. You are the PIC with emphasis in the “C”.


If held, never lift without permission.


If you have a crew, you should support them first. Do not go rogue and do your own thing. If the ATGS/Helco want you to go elsewhere, advise your crew and let the ATGS/Helco know exactly where your crew is.


Cinch the bucket if you are operating in your margins.


Like others said on the dark side, don’t be a hero. Simply drop the wet stuff on the hot stuff and repeat. If you miss, don’t worry about it, just go get more water and try again.


Type ones can produce some heavy vortexes. Use caution when operating around them.


If fighting fire in CA, understand the FTA and the script.


Lastly, have fun!

Edited by Spike
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On 3/26/2019 at 1:30 AM, Eric Hunt said:

When the fires are burning, the rotors are turning and the money's earning...


Couldn't be more wrong here hahahaha! The circus is not in the business of putting out fires, they are in the business of managing them....


Also, if you're making anything less than $500 a day (however it comes to be with daily, hourly etc) in the astar, you're screwing yourself and everyone else. Stand up for what you are worth and deserve. Dont just do it for the experience or cause its cool.


Also, fires are actually kind of fun when you get in a Restricted category. You wont have your babysitter right there messing with your radios, or telling you how to land, or whatever other dumb stuff they try and say. Restricted is the way to go no doubt. Just you and your bucket, often times getting to freelance which is actually really enjoyable.

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Your description sounds more like flying for game and fish. Those guys drive me nuts... They don't understand or respect the capabilities of the machine and they give me conflicting instructions on what to do with the animals.


Fire on the other hand has been a pretty good experience. I do initial attack so rarely have to deal with other aircraft or air attack. I've also put out a lot of fires under 50 acres by myself doing IA. It does get a little messier on the big fires and when the type 1's show up you get put on the back burner. Only ever had to work with one really bad air attack. My crew is really good about letting me make decisions but they can be a little overly cautious, but hey its no skin off my nose.


A word of caution though, do everything by the book. Someone is always watching and no matter how friendly they are towards you they won't hesitate to throw you under the bus.

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Government operations are full of bureaucrats, to be sure, and there are those in the air and on the ground who will knowingly and unknowingly try to get you to do things you ought not.


The air attack is two components; one is the pilot, who won't normally talk to you, and the other is the ATGS, who is an experienced firefighter, but who is not an aviator. His interest is the fire. He's high above the fire and doesn't see the same perspectives that you will at low altitude, or that firefighters will on the ground. He won't know your requirements, limitations, or be in a position to experience what you're experiencing down low.


Type 1 helicopters are important. They are not a throw-away asset. You don't need to be bucketing at 300' over the fire, and often buckets work very well for spot fires.


Even with the little bit that you'll have left after repositioning from a dip site, be careful around ground troops; on steep terrain and poor footing, it doesn't take a lot of water to take someone off their feet or cause them to slip on a hillside. or to cause roll-out; material that can roll down and hurt personnel.


The single biggest thing you have going for you on a fire is the ability to say "no." Use it.


As noted, communicate. The USFS and CalFire in particular, are fanatical about talking. You may not put out a matchstick, but they'll care about talking. In California, they'll talk you to death.


If you do work in California, know that it's more like a foreign country, and fire isn't fought that way anywhere else.


You can become fatigued well before timing out. Again, "no" works.


I've found very few places in aerial fire in which the safety card isn't respected. Say it isn't safe, and there shoudn't be much more discussion. Know when to say when.


Extra fuel is better than stretching fuel, and by that I mean put in for a fuel cycle sooner than later. There is zero glory in pushing fuel. It may be tempting to do so if your truck is nearby. Be conservative. Be prepared to take breaks. You'll have to call it; nobody else will ask you if you need one. They'll assume you're ready to go until you say otherwise.


You'd think that the government would have learned with storms, especially in recent years with the downing of a USAF C-130 being led by a government airplane, and the blow-up at Yarnell (I was there)...but they don't seem to grasp the concept. If you don't think conditions are right, or you sense danger, don't wait for someone to tell you to pull the plug. You do it.


Take this for what it's worth. Many years ago I was at the biennial airtanker pilot convention in Reno. That year, CDF had lost an S-2, flown by Gary Nagel. During a large group meeting in which events and mishaps were discussed, a microphone was passed around for anyone to talk. To a. man, everyone who was on that fire said the same thing: they knew it was bad, they were hoping someone would stand up and call it, and everybody waited for the next guy to say something, until Gary got killed. Don't wait for the next guy if you know it's bad. You may feel pressure being new, but you have as much right as anyone.


I have been asked to do things that were unsafe or outright dangerous, on more than a few occasions. Understand that there is a pervasive attitude that it's okay to ask, as you're the pilot in command and you're supposed to make the right call. Don't take a request for a drop or a flight as some kind of endorsement that it's legal or safe or right. It all comes back on your shoulders.


When you're in the field with others, don't be afraid to pick their brains and get input. It's all on the job learning, so take advantage of soft learning without having to learn the hard way. Some of the best information I've received over the years has been from listening, and trying to learn that way without having to suffer the same mistakes.


Carry extra snacks in a helmet bag, and drink more water than you think you should.


When the tempo picks up, take the opportunity to do pre and postflight walk arounds every time you shut down and before you start up. As things start to run hot and heavy, you'll begin to feel "in the groove." When everything starts to click and you have a routine down, that's a good time to back off a little and give yourself some margin, because that's when complacency will set in, you'll start to miss things, drag things, etc.


The government has a long history of not doing much with fire when it's laying down (morning, night), and then behaving as though the sky is falling when the "burn period" begins and things start to come uncorked.


Nearly all fire fatalities have occurred under nearly identical conditions; same burn conditions, same time of day, etc. It's been true of the fatalities on every fire I've been on, too. This should be a constant reminder, yet it keep happening. It applies as much to you as it does to the guys on the ground.


When the air attack or helittack or IC sets up a "virtual fence" to divide rotor and fixed wing traffic, respect it like it's electric. I've had a number of very near misses from people violating the fence.


The government is neither swift, nor efficient. Don't try to fix it.

Edited by avbug
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Twisted Cyclic is more like twisted attitude.


My fire experiences were always good, and we were getting results, even in a 206. But a different country from yours, perhaps our people will end up like yours (we usually copy the worst of your country's creations - but not Trump yet)


I can repeat what I said - when the fires were burning, the rotors were turning and the money was earning.

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Wow, what an interesting thread! So much good information here from everyone...I'm impressed. It's always great to hear from guys who've actually done the job. Kudos to Adam, Spike, Twisted, Fred and Avbug!


Me, I've never done the job, so I'm hesitant to post here. I've never flown fires. But I know guys who do, and I've hung around enough helibases, and listened enough on air-attack freqs to figure out that there is truth in what everyone above says.


I've seen some really, really talented pilots on fires. I mean, flying skills that even impressed me, and I'm pretty non-impressable. Then again, I've seen some sh*tbirds too - the bucket-draggers...guys with barely-adequate skills. (Maybe they were good sticks once, but it's like they don't care anymore.) Twisted's line about how fires is "where Utility pilots go to die" is hilarious - because it seems to be true. Guys who like that kind of work end up finding their niche and staying in that segment. No pax to worry about, it's just you and the helo. I can dig it. It's not for me, but I can dig it.


If I were younger I might try fires. It seems like it might be a fun way to earn money flying a helicopter. But like the GOM, once you get comfortable with the schedule, living conditions, time away from home, etc., it might be hard to quit it.


Great thread, gentlemen! Very informative.

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Just noticed that I wrote "Type 1 helicopters are important..."


Relevant to the thread, I meant Type III.


The saying in fire is "tools in the toolbox," and there's place for everything (and everyone) that gets used. There are more type III than anything else, and consequently as a class, see more use on fires than anything except the air attack ships. The argument may be made that they're some of the most valuable aircraft on the fire, and when someone's hurt or needs out in a hurry, there's a good chance that it's a Type II or III coming to get them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Good thing you will not be shining balls... that seems like it would be counterproductive on a fire.


Watch, learn from others, have fun, and be safe. Helicopters don't put out fires. Helicopters help the guys and gals on the ground put out, or at least contain, fires.

Edited by mudkow60
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