Shutdown or showdown

    I subscribe to the Federal Aviation Agency’s monthly Safety Briefing. This morning I received an email from them that stated (paraphrased) due to the government shutdown in October there would be no Safety Briefing this month.
    I starred in disbelief and wondered if the government actually set aside aviation safety for the sixteen days of shutdown.It is a good thing the shutdown did not occur in the middle of a busy fire season.
    According to the National Interagency Fire Coordination Center’s website only those federal firefighters directly involved in fire suppression activities should have reported for work during the shutdown. All training activities would cease. Contractors would have no managers on site so they would not be used but would be paid once the government started working again.
    The way I read this, initial attack response time would have been extremely slow during this period as furloughed managers and contractors would have been called back only after a fire had started. With budget battle shutdowns become more commonplace, it is only a matter of time before one does occur during the busy summer months. It will be interesting to see how the authorities will handle the crisis.
    The 2013 fire season was a rather slow one when you look at the previous ten-year average. According to the statistics, there were only about sixty percent of the number of fires, as well as acres burned, compared to an average year. I guess it is not a slow year when your home is one of those being evacuated. In 2011, there were more acres burned in Texas than burned in the entire nation this year.
    Most Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) will be operating under new contracts during the 2014 fire season. The contracts have not been released, but one change that will be evident is the majority of the aircraft will now be Type 3 air tankers. Type 3s are capable of carrying more than 800 gallons of suppressant or retardant. This is a result of the new in-line fire gates having more capacity than the old single door gates.
    Our friends Down Under in Australia are having one of their most active fire seasons in decades. Above average temperatures, gusty winds and above average lightning activity have combined to create a real firestorm in the southeastern part of the island nation. Unfortunately, there have been two fire aviation related fatal accidents there in the past few weeks.
    Peter Brerton, 60, was killed when the light airplane he was piloting on a mission to deliver parts to a firefighting helicopter went down in a remote area. David Black, 43, was fatally injured when the Dromader he was flying went down on a firefighting mission.
    Eyewitnesses say that a wing separated from the aircraft. The staff here at Aerial Fire Magazine send our sincere condolences to the family and friends. It is training season here at home and I urge everyone to add something to the sessions. Fly safe and I’ll see you in the mountains.

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