VALENCIA, SPAIN — Avialsa is a Spanish company that has been working in firefighting and spraying contracts since 1965. In the early years, Avialsa operated five Piper PA-25-260 Pawnees.
Now, the fleet has grown to nine Air Tractor AT-802Fs, fifteen PZL M-18A Dromaders, two Ayres S2-R Thrushes and one Piper PA-25-260 Pawnee.
Avialsa’s primary function is its firefighting operation with the AT-802F, which is also probably the most interesting. In 1995, Avialsa developed a new firefighting system named “AVA” (Aircraft for Vigilance and Attack).
The region of Catalonia (northeastern Spain) decided to test the program. In this region the forest combustion capacity is one of the largest in the world. The high propagation capacity is increased by several meteorological factors (high temperatures and dry winds).
The AVA program reduced drastically the development of fires by detecting the wildfire in its initial phase. The AVA program implemented an immediate initial attack. Otherwise, the wildfire would be uncontrollable in a matter of a few minutes or, in the best case, it would be controlled only after demolishing large forest areas and having to use expensive means of control such as large air tankers and ground forces.
Avialsa decided to purchase two AT-802Fs for the AVA program. The company decided on Air Tractors instead of expanding the fleet of Dromaders because this extensive flight program required the newest and the most dependable technology available. The two new Air Tractors were delivered in June of 1995 (S/N 802-0018 & -0019).
These two planes were flown 1,290 hours in the first four months after their arrival with 2,560 drops. It really was an extremely hard test for the aircraft. Due the fantastic results obtained from the AT-802Fs, the AVA program was a big success. The AT-802Fs exceeded all expectations in terms of performance, low maintenance and operating cost. Because of this success, Avialsa took delivery of three new AT-802Fs (S/N 802-0027, -0031 and -0032) in the spring 1996, another two in the spring of 1997 (S/N 802-0046 & -0047) and an additional two in the spring of 1998 (S/N 802-0059 & -0064) for a total of nine AT-802Fs.
At this time, the AT-802Fs have logged 7,984 flight hours, 6,477 drops, 5,097,399 US gallons with a 99.74% dispatch reliability (which translates into an AOG problem every 405 firefighting missions). Avialsa also operated three AT-802Fs in South America (Chile) last year.
These three airplanes were ferried there in November and flew back in May, just in time to begin the firefighting season in Spain. It was not easy working from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean on different contracts. However, the high dependability of the Air Tractors made this program work perfectly.
As a note of interest, including the ferry flights from the Air Tractor factory and the program in Chile, Avialsa AT-802Fs have crossed the Atlantic Ocean fourteen times in three years, operated up to 9,800 MSL (wild-fires in Pirineos, Spain), external temperatures from -39 degrees C. (ferry flight Chile to Spain over the Andes mountains at 17,850 ft. altitude) and up to 48 degrees C (Catalonia, July 1998).