Mylène Marionvalle, French Female Firefighting Pilot

Mylène Marionvalle was born and raised in Lesquin, a city in northern France, right next to the Belgium border. Seeing helicopters operating from a base near her home started her love for flying. Mylène studied agronomic engineering, and while still a student, she went to Brazil for several months, where she learned Portuguese in addition to the Spanish she also speaks. After graduating, Mylène went to Saint-Cyr, the French West Point, to become an auxiliary officer flying helicopters in the Armée de Terre, the French army.

Mylène logged 55 hours in the Airbus Helicopters EC120 Colibri at their flying school in Dax, but military life wasn’t for her. So she quit the Armée de Terre and pursued her aviation dream independently, turning to fixed-wing airplanes due to the lower cost.

Mylène got her private and commercial pilot licenses and acquired varied flying experience. She flew a Piper Super Cub from mountain strips in France. An adventurous spirit, she flew humanitarian missions in the Central African Republic, taking medicines to distant communities and dropping food to rangers on the ground in an ICP Savannah, an aircraft registered in the LSA (Light Sport Aircraft) category, which allowed her to add flight time to her logbook and gave her low-level flight experience.

But most of Mylène’s flying experience in this period came from towing gliders in a Dyn’Aéro MCR R180. A little-known aircraft and “a rocket,” as Mylène describes it, she says that only five units of this experimental aircraft were produced, and only two are still flying, the other three having been lost in accidents. Its flight characteristics, with a stall that comes with little warning, made Mylène develop a smooth flying technique.

This unusual flying background and her experience operating a turbine engine in the EC120 helicopter earned Mylène her present job when the company she now flies firefighting missions for was recruiting pilots two years ago. She jumped at the opportunity and sent a resume.  She didn’t hesitate to go to Madrid to pass a certification for her Spanish to fulfill all the requirements. Her qualifications got her the job, and the company trained her to fly the Air Tractor AT-802F and now Mylène is an accomplished firefighting pilot. Mylène flew her first fire season in Spain and her second in Chile, and now she is in her third season, again in Spain, this European summer.

Mylène says that according to DGAC, the French FAA, she is the first and so far only female pilot certified in France to fly the AT-802. To her knowledge, she is one of only two female firefighting pilots in Spain, the other being a Spanish woman who also flies an AT-802 for another Spanish firefighting operation.

The present abnormally hot summer in the northern hemisphere has caused a record number of wildfires and a tragic Canadair accident in Greece that took the lives of its two pilots. We wish you safe flights to Mylène Marionvalle and all the other firefighting pilots who are the first line of defense of the world against wildfires.

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