Washington, DC (PRWEB) October 31, 2012
As one of the nation's worst wildland fire seasons draws to a close, the private aerial firefighting industry will be meeting to discuss some of the major issues that need to be resolved, prior to another period of potentially more destructive, widespread fires.
“The key to resolving some of these issues is to continue to improve cooperation between government and the industry, in order to assure the best aviation equipment will be available for future wildland firefighting,” said Tom Eversole, Executive Director of the American Helicopter Services and Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA). The Washington, DC-based trade association represents commercial operators of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft engaged in aerial wildland firefighting.
AHSAFA has scheduled its 14th annual meeting November 29, in Boise, Idaho which, as Eversole reported, is open to both current members and non-member operators/suppliers interested in membership.
Among the areas of special concern to AHSAFA members, likely to dominate the meeting, is the subject of federal oversight of Public Aircraft operations.
“Currently, there is confusion regarding who is responsible for the safety of an aircraft when an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) civil certified aircraft performs public aircraft operations,” Eversole explained. “This is further complicated when a civil aircraft is performing contract operations for a government agency (USFS) in an aerial firefighting environment."
The FAA, Eversole noted, was supposed to have issued an advisory circular clarifying exactly what constitutes public aircraft operations and public aircraft airworthiness. “But to date, this hasn't happened,” he said. “Without exact guidelines, many of our members would have to decide if it's worth it to go into long term contracts with the USFS, only to have to surrender their airworthiness certificates, and reapply for them when the contracts end. Some companies are saying that they can't do this, and it is becoming a very serious issue right now.”
In addition, there is the issue of the next generation large airtanker fleet, which continues to be a point of contention. In June 2012, the USFS posted award notification for long-term contracts to four companies to develop new-generation air tankers, to replace the country's aging, and dwindling fleet. In early October, the agency notified the companies the USFS would not be executing those awards and would issue an amended Request for Proposal (RFP) to ask the companies to provide a revised proposal. “Although the bids are due November 5, this could prove to be a hot-button issue for some time to come, as the initial awards were protested by companies that responded to the original RFP,” said Eversole.