The aerial firefighting industry descended on the Pacific Northwest for this year’s installment of the Tangent Link-run Aerial Firefighting North American Conference held this year at the Hilton Airport Hotel and Convention Center in Seattle.
The show kicked off on Sunday evening, April 2nd, 2023, with the AerialFire Magazine sponsored drinks reception that facilitated attendees to reestablish relationships in a social setting before the show’s opening address Monday morning headlined by Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz, who opened the conference with a stirring call to action to the packed room of attendees detailing her own experiences with wildfire and her states battles with fighting fire on a large scale while describing some of the wins and losses for her state and how they have overcome some massive barriers to provide a more robust aerial firefighting strategy for their state.
Also presenting on the first day of the conference was former Governor of Oregon Kate Brown, a panel on scaling for growth and redefining the role of aviation through the use of night aerial firefighting by one of the pioneers of night aerial firefighting, Brian Fennessy, the Chief of Orange County Fire.
Another highlight of the opening days speakers was a speech from Ben Millington, Assistant Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, detailing the lessons his agency learned from the devastating fires of the 2019/2020 fire season that have spawned massive growth in the New South Wales Rural Fire Service aerial firefighting operation.
Finishing out the first day of the show was a discussion from Perimeter Solutions Jeff Emery on their 60 years of providing fire protection through their PHOS-CHEK retardant solution, a panel on the opportunities of wildfire mitigation, and the event dinner, sponsored by Bridger Aerospace, held at the internationally renowned Museum of Flight in Seattle, where attendees dined under the fuselage of the iconic SR-71.
Day two of the show was another packed agenda, with a keynote speech from Sarah Fisher, Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation Management from the USDA Forest Service, followed by ‘Wildfire SOS’ presented by AerialFire writer Dan Reese, a 30-year CAL FIRE veteran, former CEO of Global Super Tanker and founder of International Wildfire Consulting Group.
The largest attendance for day two was for a panel on Accelerating Wildfire Resources featuring Jennifer Draughton from Neptune, Bart Brainerd from Firehawk, Brett L’Esperance for Dauntless Aviation, John Gould from 10 Tanker, and Matt Isely from Erickson Aero Tanker. The panel was moderated by Tim Sheehy from Bridger Aerospace. It garnered significant interest from the attendees during the question and answer session.
Overall, the show was yet another resounding success for Tangent Link, who, in addition to providing another packed agenda, saw record attendee numbers with 373 total attendees, which is well over the projected two hundred and fifty expected for the Seattle event in addition, the show hosted forty-eight exhibitors on the convention floor with fifty-four total speakers at the event attended by guest from fourteen countries.
‘The Airborne Fire Fighting mission is now a North American mission, and working with Washington State Commissioner for Public Lands Hilary Franz and her team to deliver a PNW event was perfectly timed. We had a record number of enterprises and speakers/policymakers in attendance in Seattle. The response has been resoundingly positive, and we are grateful to Hilary Franz for her leadership in this event. In addition, UAFA’s formal launch at AFFPNW is a major step forward,” said John Longhurst, CEO of Tangent Link, about this year’s Seattle show.
This year marks the largest for the aerial firefighting series of events for Tangent Link, hosting three events worldwide for the aerial firefighting segment, with shows in Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia, and Athens, Greece, still to come for the Asia Pacific and European shows.
See our album of images from the show below: