France is creating a national cluster for Civil Protection in Nimes, France which was recently endorsed by Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. At the same time the nation is pivoted in the management of its aerial firefighting fleet which needs to be partly renewed in the coming years. While the French Ministry of Interior is deciding on the best mix of aircraft for its future aerial firefighting fleet it has also almost completed the construction of its new air base Base Avions de la Sécurité Civile (BASC) and Aerial Firefighting Training Centre which will be operational by April 2017.
Within this new cluster initiative, new technological challenges will be explored which require careful operational research and testing particularly how to create live images for observation of forest wildfires, interoperability, aerial firefighting applications for drones and geo-location. The greatest operational opportunity to be addressed will be how to pool and share aerial firefighting resources with other European and International nations. Apart from the fixed wing fleet of Canadair CL-415 aircraft, the GHSC the national civil defence helicopter group – are also headquartered at Nîmes-Garons Airport. THE GHSC facility includes the national centre for maintenance of their entire Airbus H145 helicopter fleet.
All these constructs indicate an ideal location to establish the European edition of the Aerial Firefighting Conferences from 2017.
The AFF Conference Europe 2017 was organised by Tangent Link and held at Nîmes-Alès-Camargue-Cevennes Airport in the new Sécurité Civile complex, close to the main aircraft hangars where the exhibition was held. A total of 500 attendees from 33 countries made this a truly international event.
The conference was chaired by Air Marshal Philip Sturley (RAF UK, retd.). The keynote address was provided by Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. He described the threat from wildfires as a pan-European problem, which requires a collaborative solution, and paid tribute to the first responders. Johann G. Goldammer, Director of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), Germany, then described the effect of wildfires on the whole planet through greenhouse gases and pollution causing many premature deaths. He described the work of airborne and satellite projects to monitor the transcontinental effects of fires, including the STARE mission which confirmed the pollution caused by vegetation fires; the CARIBIC initiative whereby sensors are carried worldwide by a Lufthansa airliner; and the development of the BIRD satellite which was the first dedicated satellite to acquire imageries of wildfire locations and intensities.
Richard Alder, General Manager of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, Australia, and Chair of the International Fire Aviation Working Group, then stressed the need to develop interoperability between nations’ AFF forces. Frederick Schwebel, French Ministry of Interior, described the planned interoperability exercise involving CL415s of France, Spain, Italy and Croatia which was planned to develop AFF Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). He described the advantages of such exercises in improving Flight Safety, by sharing flying and technical experience through working together in a simulator and on a live flying exercise. He suggested that such cooperation should be planned well in advance, should involve working groups at every level, and should also lead to the exchange of pilots between nations. As examples of how cooperative working could enhance the effectiveness of AFF forces, Monique Pariat, Director General of the EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Affairs, described the work of the Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC).
For more details, see the final agenda and the Chairman’s report:
The conference itself was followed by an Interoperability Workshop on 18 Oct 17.
The Interoperability Workshop
The workshop was held on 18 October 2017 under the auspices of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), which functions as the Secretariat for the International Fire Aviation Working Group (IFAWG) and the Wildfire Preparedness Mechanism (IWPM). Richard Alder, IFAWG Chairman, welcomed the delegates, describing the increasing need for cross boundary operations, the fact that no one nation can deal with the requirement, and concluding that AFF aircraft sharing needs to be routine. This requires interoperability and agreed SOPs. This message was reinforced by Johann Goldammer, Director of the GFMC. He briefed on Regional Fire Management Resource Centres, agreements that have been made bilaterally and multilaterally, as well as work with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to assess the global implications of smoke pollution. This latter area has grown in importance due to the radioactive terrain in Ukraine, and the clear effects of vegetation fire smoke pollution on remote areas such as the Arctic. He also commended the work of the FIRE-IN – Fire and Rescue Innovation Network – project. Thierry Sonderer, Deputy Head of Air Assets Office, Securité Civile, then developed the topic of European SOPs for AFF. He described the development of the SOPs for the CL415, and the need for information sharing for rapid deployment and effective working together. All this work needs to be sustainable and certifiable.
For more details, see the agenda, the chairman’s report and the workshop statement:
During the conference the Walt Darran Award was awarded by Johann Goldammer and Richard Alder to Jacqes Bonneval for his lifetime contribution to aerial firefighting operations. The planned live flying demonstrations of AFF capabilities took place outside the exhibition hall on 17 Oct in front of a large group of visitors and delegates.
Canadair CL-415 aerial firefighting teams from Croatia, France, Italy and Spain met in Nimes for exercising by simulation (Nimes Aerial Firefighting Simulator, Securite Civile, Nimes) and in practice. Photos: Richard Alder, IFAWG Chair.
From top to bottom: Opening of the Conference by EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Mr. Christos Stylianides, with the Conference Chair, Air Marshal Philip Sturley, and GFMC Director Johann G. Goldammer, display of the French Civil Protection Safety Cluster, and live demonstration of aerial assets of nations attending the conference. Photos: Tangent Link.
International Fire Aviation Group (IFAWG) Board Meeting
The IFAWG Board met during the conference (17 October 2017)
IFAWG Board meeting in Nimes, with remote online participation by members from the U.S.A. and Italy.
The Interoperability Workshop Group. Photos: Tangent Link.
Reports of previous AFF conferences:
Please see the web pages of the previous International Aerial Firefighting Conferences, including the conference reports: