Australia is facing yet another devastating bush fire season, a season which is getting longer and longer each year.
One of the key tools to fight these fires is aerial waterbombing, from either fixed-wing or rotary aircraft.
And while Australia’s skill set in this arena is world-class, we still need import crews and equipment from other parts of the globe, to help manage the scale of work. The problem we are facing, is that fire seasons in the Northern Hemisphere are getting longer too, and so international crews may not be as available to head ‘down under’ to help.
So what is involved in becoming an aerial firefighter yourself?
A Fire Fighting rating is an extension of an Agricultural rating, whereby your flying will be at low level, over difficult terrain. Many of the high-use aircraft, like the Air Tractor, is traditionally used for agricultural spraying and other regional work.
These skills require considerable experience (high-hundreds of hours) to break into, but obtaining a tail-wheel endorsement (as required by most of the aircraft) and a type-rating for higher-altitude fire-spotting work is a good pathway to the front lines. Here you will build experience of the fire-fighting environment, and an understanding of how the fire moves, and how best to suppress it. Working with experts in the field is continually the best way to increase your understanding of the workplace. Training is very specialist, and agricultural experts are your best place to start.
This is part of general aviation which will only see greater demand in coming years, so if you feel you have the skills and bravery to fight fires from above, those below will always be grateful!