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Patience is a Virtue in Aviation

I live in Denver, Colorado and have family with homes that have barely survived the Spring Creek and Lake Christine fires in the past few days.  These homes have been spared due to the extraordinary efforts of firefighters and local volunteers, and, above all else in this post, I want to express my sincere appreciation for their efforts.  Family treasures have been preserved and for that our Family is extremely grateful.

Recently I have read a number of angry comments on social media, and some of the ire has been pointed directly at the "supertanker", that is right here in Colorado, but is not being used to fight any of these fires.  I am no expert in aerial firefighting or government contracting, but I do have years of experience owning and managing on-demand air carrier businesses, and have been a pilot for 20 years.  This experience tells me that, even though the delay or prevention of deployment of the supertanker seems to be red tape, the underlying reasons for that red tape is very often focused on safety.

I can say with certainty that fighting fires with jets - flying at low altitude in extremely variable atmospheric conditions and often in a busy and demanding local airspace - is absolutely no joke and should not be taken lightly.  The supertanker is a Boeing 747 variant that weighs nearly half a million pounds when empty, can hold almost 60,000 gallons of jet fuel, and flies anywhere from about 150 miles per hour to a max dash speed of nearly 600 miles per hour.  Even when it's going slow, it's going fast, and carrying tremendous energy.  Couple this with a crew that is maneuvering at low altitude in a firefighting environment, and it does not take much of an imagination to understand this type of operation comes with significant risk.  No distractions can be tolerated in that cockpit, not from software, not from hardware, not from the crew's personal lives...and the process the Forest Service goes through is essentially focused on making sure everything in the operation is tight to mitigate these risks.  It is worth respecting that process.  It would be a huge step in the wrong direction if a million pounds of aluminum and jet fuel slammed into a hillside in a wildfire-prone area.

Global Supertanker Website