The Arkansas Forestry Commission has just received four planes that will fight fires from up above. They’re called 802 Air Tractors or Single Engle Air Tankers. They’ve been contracted out from the Arizona-based company Western Pilot Service.
“It’s the only airplane built specifically for fighting fires,” said Western Pilot Service lead pilot Bob Albrecq.
“They support the ground crew by dropping water on the fire,” added Bill Chaney, Arkansas Forestry Commission Staff Forester.
Called S.E.A.T.S for short, they have a 1,400 horse power engine, and they can handle up to 800 gallons of water.
“This is the start of the spring fire season, we go from Feb 1 to April 30,” Chaney said.
Each of the planes has its own pilot and will be stationed in Arkansas for the duration of fire season. According to Albrecq, the communication between dispatch, the ground crews and the pilots is seamless.
“Every time we do a drop, we have to go back to the airport and fuel back up,” Albrecq said.
Local fire departments are trained to reload the planes at various airports throughout the state. The pilots have been flying for a long time and say they enjoy returning to Arkansas each year.
“Well at the end of April, we’re going to take all four of these airplanes and we’ll take them out to start the fire season in the West,” said pilot Dave Hunt.
Until then, the S.E.A.T.S. will be housed at the Hot Springs Airport.