How to achieve safer aerial firefighting

The culture, tactics and technology needed for every mission

Safety must be the most important and overriding priority for everyone involved in aerial response to wildfires. There’s too much at stake for anything less. To achieve safer skies, aerial firefighting companies must implement culture, tactics and technologies that empower teamwork and fuel communication. 

Creating a culture of safety helps minimize the risks associated with aerial firefighting.

Safety culture impacts every element within a company, from crew cohesion to market reputation to financial health. This is why safety has to be a top priority and a core organizational value. It serves as the foundation upon which trust is built not only among a company’s own crew, but among the other aerial forces and ground crews depending on it. 

To achieve a culture of safety, organizations must continuously:

  • acknowledge and respect the high-risk nature of aerial firefighting and instill a commitment in every person, from the CEO and down, to achieve consistently safe operations
  • enact a non-punitive environment where everyone can voluntarily report hazards without fear of reprimand or punishment
  • encourage collaboration across ranks and responsibilities to continuously test and design solutions for best practice 
  • provide the systems and processes needed for everyone to detect, report and correct hazards before they result in incidents or accidents

Using group tactics to ensure safer skies.

Many of today’s aerial firefighting aircraft and tactics were first developed for use by the military. One such strategy that has proven particularly effective at improving safety is group tactics. The use of group tactics strengthens teamwork and communication, two essentials to aviation safety. 

While engaged in group tactics, flight teams take on the following characteristics:

  • communication-wise pilots operate as one aircraft/team, drastically reducing the amount of radio chatter and enhancing overall situational awareness
  • pilots take on a “wingman” role, where each pilot looks out for one another in the group, ensuring that safety checks are done and pilots are working from the same page

Implementing technology to support safety culture and aircraft precision.

From office to aircraft, technology can be applied to enhance the overall safety and reliability of every wildfire mission a company undertakes. Organizations bolster safety culture and improve aircraft effectiveness when technologies like the following are implemented:

  • an operational risk assessment tool designed to predict and remove potential threats to crew safety on a mission by mission basis 
  • aircraft equipped with the technology to reduce pilot fatigue and enhance mission productivity, including EFIS (an electronic flight instrument system) / standardized cockpits, thermal imaging units to accurately target hotspots, onboard gel blending systems to improve drop effectiveness, smokers to enhance visibility, and lighter fire gates that allow more water to be carried to each fire and enable pilots to match drop patterns to fire types

At Dauntless Air, we know how to prepare, train and work together to ensure the safety of everyone on our team and those working alongside us. We hold ourselves to the highest practices and commit to bringing the culture, tactics and technology needed to achieve safety and success with every deployment. See what industry leaders say about our Dauntless commitment to safety

Justin Gilman