Minnesota-based aerial firefighting company Dauntless Air recently announced that it’s starting the 2023 wildfire season with 17 Fire Bosses — nearly double the size of its fleet five years ago. The AT-802F Fire Boss is a water-scooping airtanker equipped with amphibious floats that is purpose-built for aerial firefighting. The company’s Fire Bosses are outfitted with thermal imaging to target hotspots, onboard gel mixing systems, and a custom fire gate to increase water load and match drop pattern to the fire type.
When near a water source, the Fire Boss can repeat continuous scoops and drops on a fire for 3½ hours.
The company used nine of its water-scooping planes during its 2-week annual training in Cleburne, Texas. Training involved every person in the company, and pilots new to the Fire Boss logged three times the industry standard for pre-season flight hours, flying roughly 25 hours each solo and with an experienced pilot in the company’s two-seat training aircraft. Company pilots completed 844 scoops and dropped over a half million gallons of water.
Pilots trained on radio communications with an Air Attack platform that flew above a training area; they also practiced initial attack on a simulated fire with the Texas Forest Service (TFS). Dozens of TFS incident commanders, along with a pump truck and dozers, participated in training.
U.S. Hotshot Association (USHA) representatives presented a session on the history of the hotshot community and its ties to aerial firefighting. Aviation Medicine Advisory Service (AMAS) President Quay Snyder led a workshop on pilot fatigue, mental health, and fitness for duty, and other training was conducted by the U.S. Office of Aviation Services (OAS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).