USA — And some of the planes helping in the Possum Kingdom aerial attack are made right in Olney, at Air Tractor. The state is contracting as many as eight Air Tractor 802’s from operators throughout the country. Katie Crosbie went out to Air Tractor today and joins us now with more. Gwyn, the Air Tractor 802 has been around since the early 90’s … And the folks at Air Tractor say their product has great potential to change and improve the way we fight fire.
As its name suggests, it’s a tractor in the sky … which can be used both for agriculture, and firefighting.
Jim Hirsch Air Tractor President “The AT-802 is smaller than the big heavy multi-engine tankers. It’s more maneuverable, has a quicker turn time, can operate out of smaller airports.”
Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch says the heavy tankers fighting the blaze at Possum Kingdom are landing & taking off from Abilene, 80 miles away. But the Air Tractor 802’s are operating from Mineral Wells — just 20 miles from the fire.
“It has been accepted worldwide as the leading single-engine air tanker for firefighting.”
It’s Olney one day, Valencia another. My photographer and I just took demonstration flights on this Air Tractor 802. Its next destination: Spain, where it will help fight wildfires.
Mike Rhodes Air Tractor Test Pilot “Here in the United States, it seems like we wait until a fire gets very big, then we send a lot of equipment to that fire. In Spain, they don’t wait long. They are more of an initial attack firefighting program.”
And that’s Air Tractor’s specialty: Extinguishing fires before they get out of control. A company in Minnesota builds amphibious floats that attach to the Air Tractor. That modification is known as a Fire Boss.
“It’s able to scoop water from the lake & deliver it to the fire. We think that would be an excellent tool in a situation like what we have at the P.K. fire.”
And Air Tractor wants the state of Texas to contract a fleet of 802’s to fight local wildfires.
“We would love to see a red, white, & blue Air Tractor, with a big Texas flag on the tail.”
Right now there are about 60 802’s on contract with the federal government that are fighting fires all over the country … 16 have been brought in to fight fires in Texas. By contrast, 90 are being used in Europe.