Air Tractor, Inc. has joined the United Aerial Firefighting Association (UAFA), an organization dedicated to advocating for aerial firefighting safety and standardization on the local, state, and federal levels. New Jersey had some help from an Air Tractor last week on its fires, and Slovenia is purchasing four new Air Tractor SEATs for firefighting after an awful season in 2022.
Air Tractor joined the UAFA as an Affiliate Member, according to an Aerial Fire Magazine story. The organization categorizes companies that support the aerial firefighting industry, including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), insurance companies, and other associated for-profit entities.The UAFA was established in 2022 to foster and promote safety and standardization in the aerial firefighting community through education, advocacy, and collaboration.
New Jersey fires:
Last week, according to ABC7 in New York, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service employed both helicopters and an Air Tractor fighting fires in the Pine Barrens. They have a little video news clip at that link with some Air Tractor shots and an interview with one of the pilots on the fire. The Air Tractor helped knock down the fires burning in West Milford and the Lakehurst area.
Pilot Dan Phillips of Coastal Air Strike said they sometimes fly the aircraft just 60 feet above burning treetops to drop water on fires. “The biggest challenge is putting this water around where the firefighters want it,” Phillips said.
Joining the UAFA:
Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch said wildfire seasons have become more complex, with increasing demands for aerial firefighting assets, and the UAFA offers manufacturers and contractors a unified voice. Hirsch said, “It has become clear that the aerial firefighting industry must unite its voices to achieve better outcomes for the people and property threatened by these fires. As the leading builder of firefighting SEAT aircraft, it only made sense that Air Tractor added its voice to this organization.”
Slovenia Acquires Four Fire-Bombing Air Tractors:
The new SEATs will be flown by the Slovenian Civil Protection Service to support aerial firefighting operations. The first two aircraft are scheduled for delivery in June of this year, with the remaining two anticipated in 2024, according to a story by AirMed&Rescue.
With full tanks, the Air Tractor can weigh up to 16,000 pounds. The single-engine turboprop planes are powered by Pratt & Whitney PT-6A engines, and can carry over 3,000L (almost 800 gallons) of water at a time.
“Geographically, from the Midwest to Alaska, to the Western states and Southern states, you’ve got a lot of different terrain and fire types,” said Jesse Weaver, Dauntless Chief Pilot, in a feature by AirMed&Rescue. “Some areas are more mountainous, so they definitely see the value of small, highly maneuverable planes. Others like Florida have a lot of retardant exclusion zones because of all the wetlands, so scoopers work well in those places.”
The Slovenia purchases were prompted by extreme wildfires in the country’s Kras region last summer, one of which burned over 8000 acres of farmland.