Aircraft mentioned in this article :
INAER, July 23, 2014 - by Beata Cece - Summer is a critical season for firefighters in Spain. As the temperature slowly creeps upward, so does the risk of wildfires.
Over the last decade, more than 200,000 hectares of Spain’s forest has fallen victim to flames.
Operating a fleet of more than 190 aircraft, Inaer Spain provides helicopter services for firefighting missions throughout the country, along with aerial services for emergency medical and search and rescue (SAR) missions.
Forty-five of their helicopters were manufactured by Airbus Helicopters – one of them, an AS350 B3, is based in the town of Guadalupe in Extremadura, a region where summer temperatures easily reach 45 degrees Celsius.
Jordi Ferrer has piloted this AS350 B3 for the last 10 years. Here he explains the special features of this helicopter and what it’s like to be a flying fireman:
What is special about this helicopter?
First of all, its ability to load and unload water to fight fires. The helicopter is equipped with a so-called Bambi bucket, which carries up to 1,200 litres of water. Apart from that, the AS350 B3 is a light helicopter, but at the same time very agile, fast and effective when it comes to dumping water. Of all the helicopters I have ever flown, this one is the one I want to stick with.
Which are the most difficult situations during a mission?
It could happen that you are not able to see a cable because of all the smoke, or you could collide with another helicopter when there is a big fire and you have several aircraft hovering at once. In this case, we have one helicopter flying above all others to coordinate and make sure that something like that doesn’t happen. But still, it is a very stressful situation. However, as a pilot with the right skills and experience, you are able to avoid most risks. For the people on the ground, it is much more dangerous. If the direction of the wind suddenly changes, the fire could cut off their way and they could be trapped in the inferno.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
When the fire starts and we are able to extinguish it quickly. Knowing that the fire could have spread and caused much more damage but didn’t, because we were able to prevent it. That’s a very satisfying feeling.