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Old 05-09-2013, 09:30 PM   #11  
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H&P was bleeding financially before the loss of T-123 and T-130.
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Old 05-09-2013, 09:34 PM   #12  
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Not surprising at all. I've witnessed a few of their incidents. Great guys and a neat legacy, but it can't go on forever (unless they get new airplanes).
Well, that's the thing. They were first to field BAE-146s. At least two that I know of were on line last year. I'm surprised that they were excluded this year except for the one. I think they were supposed to have 3 or 4 online now. I see that ther legacy contract is still going.....it sounds like all politics to me.

Either way, I've always wanted to do this as my first choice. It doesn't look like I'll ever be able to get into it. A few years from now, I'll either be out of the field entirely or not wanting to give up a separate career track.
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Old 05-09-2013, 10:07 PM   #13  
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H&P was bleeding financially before the loss of T-123 and T-130.
True. On a somewhat related note; years ago, I was fortunate to spend some time with Allen Paulson. Among other things, he schooled me on government contracts. I will just say it was insightful..., Heck of a good guy BTW.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:28 AM   #14  
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Neptune has had a tough series of years with some fairly horriffic losses. None have been Neptune's fault, per se; they have been losses that are inherently part of the firefighting arena. One of them, ironically, was a friend with whom I'd flown fires, and occurred just a couple of miles from my house. It happened on a hill where I'd fought fire myself.

Every loss has been a kidney punch to those in the industry, just as it continues to be. The heavy tanker industry has taken a series of losses, and is down to 9 aircraft presently.

I was offered an opening on the MD87's, and didn't go that direction as I'm happy where I am. I was in "next gen" when it was the latest/greatest and we were seeing wings crack and landing gears fail while sitting at the ramp (C-130's and P3's): the cutting-edge latest and greatest at the time was only 10 years newer than our oldest equipment (which I also flew).

The DC10 is out there, but extremely expensive; the county locally had them drop twice last year on a brush fire, then came unglued when they got a thirty thousand dollar bill for two drops. All tools in the toolbox, as the industry likes to say, and different tools are appropriate on different fires and for different things.

Neptune puts out a good product, and has some very experienced crews. They're respected in the industry, and has weathered some tough political battles in the business. We've all lost friends there. Quite a few, in fact. It's not just Neptune. Firefighting is a tough flying business; it's hard on people and equipment. It's a great business, too, and for many of us, more a way of life. It's hard to get into, sometimes hard to stay in, but there's still little movement in the business, there are a lot of highly qualified individuals out there available for work, and the business does have a high attrition rate for those starting out who find it's not their cup of tea.

There will always be excitement and fervor over the latest to hit the line. Years ago it was the A-10, which never came to fruition. The BLM was thrilled to get OV10's, but they didn't pan out, either. The DC10 was going to be the wave of the future, but managed to hit the trees on the first drop out of the gate, and has proven prohibitively expensive. Same for the 747, though it didn't hit any trees. I'm curious to see how the MD87 works out, but not overly excited about swept wing turbojets over fires in the mountains.

The backbone of the aerial fire fleet, and the lions share of the tankers out there, are single engine Air Tractor AT802's.

I hope that the various companies fielding new tankers do well. I wish them well. I suspect, however, that we'll see the same issues with retired airliners tanking the fire ground that we've seen with dedicated bombers that carried retardant: it's a rough environment on aircraft, and airframe life is reduced substantially. Wings crack, engines get dirty, things break. When I was in the C130, they pushed us hard trying to show maximum utilization on the turbines, as they tried to push recips out. It was a fad, but it nearly worked. Ironically, it was the C-130's that got pushed out, while all that remained eventually was the P2V (and the P3's, until Aero Union went under...but they were flying well over ZFW, and had landing gear(s) collapse while sitting loaded in the pit). The drive is still there to go all-turbine. Many in the USFS and DoI feel that they're safer (I disagree) and better adapted to the fire environment (also not true). Never the less, eventually the recips will go away, and the industry will move on.

If you're seeking work in the fire industry, understand that it's not a large industry, and that you shouldn't limit yourself to one operator. Hit them all up, and follow-up regularly. Don't take yourself too seriously, either; you may be a 25,000 hour airline pilot, but on day one you're a one-hour fire pilot. It can be a blow to the ego for some, and if you're not comfortable hand-washing an airplane the size of a 737 every day, and doing manual labor to keep it running and available, and being gone for extended periods with little predictability, then it may not be your best choice.

If instead you love the smell of smoke in the cockpit, you like to fly in a utility environment, you have a fairly laid-back personality, you're not a union-type, and you can work within the sometimes baffling and comical government strictures, then it might be something you'd like to do.

There are a lot more single engine positions out there than multi-engine positions. Some still prefer that you hold an A&P, though it's not necessary. The single engine positions require some very solid tailwheel skills, and you should usually have a solid ag background, with former AT802 experience. It's not absolutely necessary, but it's very difficult to find someone to put you in one of the single seat 802's without having flown one before. They're also 16,000 lb airplanes, but no type rating is available. A new dual-seat training module is going to be experimental under the government (by contracted companies) this year, but it's too early to say what the future of that program will be. A few of the 802 modules require single engine sea, as they're on floats.

Neptune and Minden hire into the right seat, and you could be there for an extended period as there's very little movement to upgrade, and no pipeline to do it. AeroFlite has CL215's, but isn't hiring presently, and you'll need a multi-sea rating to do it.

If you're going to pursue a job, keep after it. It's best to be able to meet the owners in person, when able. Fire is closer to the ag business than the airline or corporate world, and a value is still placed on having met someone, vs. seeing a resume.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:50 AM   #15  
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The DC10 was going to be the wave of the future, but managed to hit the trees on the first drop out of the gate
Minor point, but the DC-10 didn't hit trees on the "first drop out of the gate." They flew their first fire in 2006 and clipped the trees a year later in 2007.
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:04 AM   #16  
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In 2006 the DC10 was under evaluation, and dropped on six fires in California and one up north.

It was being flown by crews who had ample DC10 experience, but no fire experience, and therein lay the problem. It was supposed to have a much higher drop altitude; whereas the minimum drop height for a large air tanker is 200' (up to 400' depending on circumstances), the DC10 was originally supposed to have an 800' drop height. Not a lot of 800' trees...and drop height is measured not above the ground, but above the trees.
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:26 AM   #17  
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I'm well aware of all of that. Your post just made it sound like it was a bunch of clowns operating that thing, resulting in a mishap on their very first drop, which wasn't the case.
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:32 AM   #18  
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It was operated by unqualified individuals; they were DC10 pilots, but not fire pilots, and they hit a mountain when they shouldn't have been remotely close.

They were lucky that no ground troops were on the hillside where they struck the trees.

The DC10 also came with the disadvantage of shutting down the fire traffic area each time it showed up for a drop. It had to have it's own lead aircraft, and it was very limited in the tanker bases available, meaning often much longer distances to the fire, as well as the expense.

It's a great platform that's proven itself, but it's also a very big hammer that's often not the appropriate tool for the job. It's an expensive hammer, but a hammer none the less.
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:57 AM   #19  
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Thank you for the education on the subject, but I'm already well informed. I just wanted to correct an error, that's all. I'm done.
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Old 05-10-2013, 08:39 AM   #20  
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Thank you for the education on the subject, but I'm already well informed. I just wanted to correct an error, that's all. I'm done.
You will never hear 'Sorry....you're right, I misspoke' so if you are waiting for that it is better if you are done
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