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Flying firefighters need skill

The recent crashes of two air tankers exemplify the extreme dangers the men and women flying these aircraft face.

Reports seem to blame the age of the aircraft, but the public should realize the tremendous stress these machines absorb.



In order for these aircraft be effective, they must be flown close to the fire when dropping the flame retardant.

This area is solid smoke and any object engulfed is hidden so tall trees can be encountered. The fire is often in a canyon and steep cliffs arise at the edge of the smoke.




The really bad occurrence is the tremendous “updraft” the aircraft encounters from the heat of the fire. This updraft puts a HUGE pressure on the wings of the aircraft, trying to force the machine higher while the crew is attempting to maintain level flight.

This pressure is concentrated at the joint between the fuselage and the wing and could cause a separation and the loss of the wing.

The public should recognize the skill these men and women flying these missions exhibit.

Charles Heinkel

Nevada City


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