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FUTURE AND CHALLENGES


During the discussion with Steve Bandy regarding the future of firefighting, the conversation turned quickly to the use of night vision systems (mainly night vision goggles ̶ NVG) and firefighting. Steve explained


that Columbia Helicopters


is NVG certified and can meet that challenge, but is venturing carefully into that market. According to Bandy, “Currently, the advantage of not flying at night is that we effectively use that time for maintenance and crew rest.”


Columbia Helicopters is monitoring


the future as contracts are starting to request NVG capability. The consensus of Columbia Helicopters’ management is that making a commitment to round-the- clock operations will require a cautious change management approach, as the ramifications will impact everything from training to personnel, from maintenance to safety. Mr. Bandy states, “The NVG / firefighting movement has started, but for us, safety still has to be number one. When dropping 2800 gallons of water to the ground, especially in the dark, people are at risk and we have to be safe.” In other words, just because you can fly at night and drop water from a helicopter, doesn’t mean that you should, without going through a strict and methodical change management process that’s hyper-focused on personnel safety.


58 Mar/Apr 2017


The latest “hot button” issue in the firefighting sector revolves around the potential threat to civil operators from the federal government itself. According to the American Helicopter Services and Aerial Firefighting Association (ASHAFA), of which Columbia Helicopters is a member, there is concern about recent moves by the federal government to operate former US Coast Guard C-130 fixed-wing firefighting aircraft, which compete with civil operators. According to George Hill of AHSAFA, “Private operators have made large investments in order to respond to the government’s need for firefighting assets. Now, the creation of competition between the government and civil operators will likely damage government-industry relations.” He goes on to say, “No data suggesting that lower costs will result from this new competitive landscape.” Editor’s note: (See AHSAFA story in this issue of Rotorcraft Pro for more info.)


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