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Cal Fire is relaunching night flying operations

When fighting a large fire, one of Cal Fire’s greatest tools is the ability to fight fires from the air. However, until recently, aerial attacks on wildfires were limited to daylight hours due to safety concerns. Now, thanks to advanced aviation technology, along with careful development and training, California’s wildfire management agency is preparing to go full night. flights throughout the state. Earlier this month, the Northern California region got a taste of just how beneficial night flights can be. Benjamin Berman, chief helicopter pilot and helicopter program manager for Cal Fire, said the proof of concept came from a wildfire that burned earlier in July, prompting evacuations in Amador and Calaveras counties. KCRA 3 was covering the Electra Fire on July 7 when we caught on camera a “Fire Hawk” helicopter reloading water from Lake Tabeaud in the middle of the night.”There were a few fires that fell over the main containment and we were able to pick them up with goggles night vision,” Berman said. Without Fire Hawk and his crew, these fires may have continued to burn throughout the night. Berman said the addition of this tool is a game-changer for Cal Fire. Berman. But getting a crew ready for night flight doesn’t happen overnight. Each of Cal Fire’s 12 new Fire Hawks took more than a year to build. That includes construction in Poland, painting in Texas and special equipment facility in Colorado. These helicopters will be stationed at bases throughout the state. After a year of daytime flight training, crews can begin rigorous night training. This includes time in a flight simulator, two weeks in a class and log flying hours at night with a training pilot. A big part of this training is learning to communicate as a team. Cal The Fire Hawk has a much more complex instrument cluster than its predecessor, the Huey. Crew groups are also larger. Berman likens each crew to a football team,” Berman said. A third crew member sits behind the captain in the front seat and often leans out of the helicopter, looking at everything happening on the ground below. The training helps crews to learn new flight procedures, but more than anything, they have to relearn old habits developed as a result of years of daytime airstrikes. Many of these habits have become muscle memory, not unlike how we are used to driving cars us.” Now we’re taking all that away from them and putting them into something completely different and they have to relearn a lot of things. And sometimes relearning things is harder than learning them in the first place,” Berman said. Like all Cal Fire tools, the Fire Hawk will be used strategically when incident commanders determine that night flight may give crews an advantage or that fire conditions are particularly life-threatening. thrust, night flight technology is not infallible. If the smoke or fog is too thick, night vision goggles will not work. This is because the glasses amplify visible light coming from terrain features or the fire itself. If smoke covers these features, they cannot be seen, making flying conditions hazardous day or night. Excessive winds will also ground the Fire Hawk and possibly other aircraft because air attacks would likely be less effective. Berman said Cal Fire is about halfway through bringing its 12 Fire Hawks online. He expects full readiness sometime next year with the timing largely dependent on the demands of this fire season. “The Fire Hawk’s night flight capability will have an impact, but it’s all one piece of the whole puzzle when it comes to fighting a fire,” Berman said. “It’s always the firefighters on the ground who are actually hitting these fires.”

When fighting a large fire, one of Cal Fire’s greatest tools is the ability to fight fires from the air. However, until recently, aerial attacks on wildfires were limited to daylight hours due to safety concerns.

Now, thanks to advanced aviation technology, along with careful development and training, California’s fire management agency is preparing to fully begin night flights across the state.

Earlier this month, the Northern California region got a taste of just how beneficial night flights can be.

Benjamin Berman, chief helicopter pilot and helicopter program manager for Cal Fire, said the proof of concept came from a wildfire that burned earlier in July, prompting evacuations in Amador and Calaveras counties.

KCRA 3 was covering the Electra Fire on July 7th when we caught on camera a “Fire Hawk” helicopter reloading water from Lake Tabeaud in the middle of the night.

“There were some fires that fell over the main containment and we were able to pick them up with night vision goggles,” Berman said.

Without Fire Hawk and his crew, these fires might have continued to burn through the night.

Berman said the addition of this tool is a game changer for Cal Fire.

“As we’ve seen over the last few years, the fires have gotten bigger and bigger to the point where we’re getting these big fires, so we have to stay ahead of that,” Berman said.

But preparing a crew for a night flight doesn’t happen overnight. Each of Cal Fire’s 12 new Fire Hawks took over a year to build. This includes manufacturing in Poland, painting in Texas and special equipment facilities in Colorado.

These helicopters will be stationed at bases throughout the state. After a year of daytime flight training, crews can begin rigorous night training. This includes time in a flight simulator, two weeks in a classroom and logging hours of night flying with a training pilot.

A big part of this training is learning to communicate as a team. The Cal Fire Hawk has a much more complex instrument cluster than its predecessor, the Huey. The crew groups themselves are also larger.

Berman likens each crew to a football team.

“The front seat captain — they call the game. He’s the quarterback. The pilot, he’s like the running back: They run the ball,” Berman said.

A third crew member sits behind the captain in the front seat and often leans out of the helicopter, looking at everything happening on the ground below.

Training helps aircrews learn new flight procedures, but more than anything, they have to relearn old habits developed as a result of many air attack flights during the day. Many of these habits have become muscle memory, not unlike how we get used to driving our cars.

“Now we’re taking all of that away and putting them into something completely different, and they have to relearn a lot of things. And sometimes relearning things is harder than learning them in the first place,” Berman said.

Like all Cal Fire tools, the Fire Hawk will be used strategically when incident commanders determine that night flight may give crews an advantage or that fire conditions are particularly threatening to life and property.

But while it will give firefighters a big boost, night flight technology isn’t foolproof.

If the smoke or fog is too thick, night vision goggles will not work. This is because the glasses amplify visible light coming from terrain features or the fire itself. If smoke covers these features, they are not visible, making flying conditions hazardous day or night.

Excessive winds would also ground the Fire Hawk, and possibly other aircraft, because air attacks would likely be less effective.

Berman said Cal Fire is about halfway through bringing its 12 Fire Hawks online. He expects full readiness sometime next year with the timing largely dependent on the demands of this fire season.

“The Fire Hawk’s night flight capability will have an impact, but it’s all one piece of the whole puzzle when it comes to fighting a fire,” Berman said. “It’s always the firefighters on the ground who are actually hitting these fires.”

Cal Fire is relaunching night flying operations Source link Cal Fire is relaunching night flying operations

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