Aero-Flite Airtankers Deploy Early for the 2024 Wildfire Season

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON (March 4, 2024) – Aero-Flite Inc. has deployed five airtankers to Texas and Oklahoma, ready to support firefighters challenged by the Smokehouse Creek Fire, now the second-largest in US history.

The airtankers include two Type 1 RJ85 airtankers, one Type 2 Dash 8-400AT airtanker, and two CL415 amphibious airtankers. Two land-based airtankers departed to Abilene Regional Airport airtanker base in Texas on February 29, 2024, one day after receiving the request. The two CL415 skimmers departed to Clinton/Sherman Airport in Oklahoma on March 1, 2024. And one RJ85 departed Spokane March 3, 2024 for Texas.

“This is a significant deployment this early in the season” shared Chris Niemann, General Manager at Aero-Flite. “I believe it is our largest early deployment in the history of our company, which spans over 60 years.”

“Our focus is providing safe, effective and efficient operations for our federal and state partners” continued Niemann. “We have 210 team members, each highly trained and dedicated to our operations. It is their determination, flexibility, and skill that enables our company to have the ability to respond this early in the year.”

The company offers on their fleet four CL415 amphibious airtankers, seven RJ85 airtankers, and two Dash 8-400AT airtankers, with the fleet due to expand, adding one more Dash 8-400AT airtanker later this spring.

Aero-Flite 415 Scoop Fort Supply Lake by Travis Barnard

During the winter months, the entire fleet undergoes heavy maintenance to ensure the fleet is prepared to operate for the length of the fire season. Before deployment, all aircraft undergo enhanced inspections and maintenance to look for and address the wear and tear that inevitably results from aerial firefighting maneuvers, such as low elevation operations in turbulence and steep terrain. A thorough evaluation of each aircraft, with associated repairs, can take several weeks depending on the size and complexity of the aircraft type.

Aero-Flite has operated year-round in the past, available for limited airtanker support to states in need over the winter months, or on call-when-needed contracts in the southern hemisphere.

About Aero-Flite Inc.

Aero-Flite is the largest, and one of the most experienced, aerial firefighting companies in the US, delivering a comprehensive range of purpose-engineered aircraft designed to fight wildfires. Founded in the United States over 60 years ago, Aero-Flite’s operations support missions in North America and beyond, providing an extensive range of Next Generation fire control aircraft. The team of 210 professionals operate over a dozen aircraft including Type 1 RJ85 airtankers; Type 2 Dash 8-400AT airtankers; and one of the largest fleets of newer-model CL415 amphibious aircraft in the world. Aero-Flite can provide aircraft under contract across the US, and around the world, providing specialized services including flight operations and aircraft maintenance related to emergency response missions. Learn more at

Ryan Mason
Ryan Mason
Ryan is an accomplished writer and aerial photographer that has worked in the aviation industry for over a decade before co-founding AerialFire Magazine. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Ryan is a former police officer that focuses his writing and photography efforts on para-public operations and agricultural aviation.

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