HAI recently completed the annual AeriaL Firefighting Safety Conference, putting a wrap on what has traditionally been the end of the fire season in the Northern Hemisphere.
Over 250 people registered for the two-day event in Boise, Idaho, representing nearly 150 companies, organizations, associations, and agencies involved in aerial firefighting, making it one of the largest such events yet. Representatives of 23 companies associated with the firefighting sector also exhibited at the conference.
“While we didn’t have any vital issues to address this year, it was still a very good conference,” says HAI Vice President of Operations Chris Martino. “Many of these people are competitors in the field, but this event brings them all together for the common goal of safety. They take significant interest in flying safely and professionally, collaborating on best practices, and the opportunity to network away from the fire lines.”
Day 1 of the event began with a meeting of HAI’s Aerial Firefighting and Natural Resources Working Group, led by Chairman Brian Beattie of Croman Corp. This was followed by safety briefings by Keith Raley of the US Department of the Interior (DoI) and Eric Shambora and Michael Reid from the US Forest Service (USFS).
After lunch, Vince Welbaum, representing the state of Colorado, held a presentation on the use of night-vision goggles (NVG) in aerial firefighting. John Shea, HAI’s director of government affairs, then spoke on how legislation can affect safety. Michael O’Shea of the FAA made the final presentation of the afternoon, speaking on unmanned aircraft systems.
On the second day of the conference, the USFS and DoI held their semiannual aerial firefighting interagency meeting and briefing. This twice-yearly event is also held at HAI HELI-EXPO®. Both events provide a forum where helicopter operators and other contractors can meet face-to-face with government officials to discuss safety, contracting questions, and other issues facing the firefighting community.