11 Apr Combating wildfires
In what turned out to be a very busy 2016 wildfire season in North America, the 14 in-service BAE Systems Regional Aircraft-built BAe 146-200s and Avro RJ85s of Neptune Aviation and Conair/Aero-Flite flew a combined total of well over 5,800 tanker missions, dropping in excess of 12.5 million gallons of retardant to help control some of the 67,595 recorded wildfires in the USA and well over 5,000 in Canada.
The costs of wildfires are enormous. Across all agencies in the USA 2016 fire suppression costs were nearly $2 billion.
Firefighting now accounts for a record 52% of the entire US Forest Service (USFS) budget compared to just 16% in 1995. While the 2016 fire season was not as heavy as the record-breaking 2015 season, the US National Interagency Fire Centre reported that a total of over 5.5 million acres of land burned.
BAE Systems Regional Aircraft plays an active role in supporting both Neptune Aviation and Conair as well as Air Spray whose first BAe 146 airtanker is scheduled to fly this year. Support to these operators/conversions include specialist engineering expertise such as aerodynamic/computational fluid dynamics analysis; dynamic loads assessment; structural analysis; as well as technical data packs; flight test planning and analysis; flight test engineers and pilots.
Once in service it is fundamental that aircraft are available and operational during the fire season (especially the Mandatory Availability Period as contracted with the USFS). BAE Systems works closely with the operators through its Repair Design Office and with comprehensive spares support to minimise downtime.
More recently BAE Systems has signed brake maintenance support contracts with both Neptune and Conair/Aeroflite, giving a competitive fixed price overhaul for aircraft brakes within a guaranteed turn-around time. Neptune has also signed up for the Tech 21 priority technical support service which nominates a dedicated engineer to ensure timely responses to technical issues.