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Ntsb To Discuss Weaverville Crash


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It is a damning report by the NTSB.

Can someone better explain the 'Public' helicopters and the orphan analogy?

The US fire service operations are highly scrutinized in comparison to the Canadian industry.

Regards.

 

The way I understand "public use" is government agencies using the aircraft. Meaning that you can use restricted category (like SH-3 Sea Kings, UH-1 Huey's etc) as well as normal category. Basically no pax other than those working for the agency, and the aircraft can not be used outside of the contract.

 

might be wrong tho...

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The use of the word 'public' in these discussion does indeed need to be understood and there is more involved than simply the use of 'restricted' category aircraft. There are specific differences between the Canadian and American aviation operational circumstances and this needs to be understood.

 

The most important differences emanate from

• the differences in the regulatory oversight of aviation, and

• the two political systems differing approaches to the division of powers, in particular between federal, state and municipal responsibilities.

 

There are legal assumptions that can safely be made in Canada that our counterparts in the United States cannot in regards to specialty circumstances, in particular fires. And by the way the US Incident Command System as overseen by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) has attempted to create a system of national standards and checks to address this.

 

A critical area of difference between the Canadian and American circumstance is in the world of aviation regulations and standards.

 

In the early days of aviation in the United States, government agencies quickly realized the value of aircraft and began to use them immediately after World War One. Operations standards and rules were created separately over time by each federal, state and even municipal agency. These standards and rules pre-date the regulation of civil aviation in the US and continue to be in force to the present day.

 

The history of aviation regulations in the United States is complex but there is a fundamental distinction between public use aviation operations (government at all levels) and civil use aviation operations (commercial and business).

 

In the 1920’s and 30’s there were a series of federal acts and agencies created that dealt with air navigation & control, aircraft & personnel licensing, and airports all with intent of enhancing the growth of the commercial aviation industry. These initiatives did not regulate the government’s internal use of aircraft, known as “Public Aircraft” because these aircraft operations were outside the mandate of the stimulation of commercial aviation. The Federal Aviation Act (and regulations) and the Federal Aviation Administration were not even created until 1958 and even then the focus was only on comercial aviation. This created the current situation where the FAA Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's) simply do not generally apply to public use aircraft. Private and corporate owned aircraft must comply with all FAR’s.

 

Public (government-owned or operated) aircraft are generally exempt from the FAR’s, however public aircraft used for point-to-point transport generally voluntarily observe the FAR’s. Aircraft that are contracted for public use for periods exceeding 90 days are treated as publicly owned as far as the FAR’s are concerned. Public special use aircraft take full advantage of this situation.

 

What does this mean?

 

Each level of government can define their own operational standards. The federal agencies, in particular the USDI and USDA have standards that basically mirror FAA/FAR expectations, however this can not be said for state and municipality levels

 

When this is combined with the very open definition for “Restricted Category” aircraft the potential for a dog’s breakfast of aviation operational standards exists and happens.

 

Restricted category aircraft have been extensively used in US fire operations. Some of these aircraft are state or municipally owned/operated with little or no oversight by the FAA. The operation of restricted category aircraft is limited to special purposes identified in the applicable type design. These special purpose operations include the following:

•Agricultural (spraying, dusting, seeding, and livestock and predatory animal control).

•Forest and wildlife conservation.

•Aerial surveying (photography, mapping, and oil and mineral exploration).

•Patrolling (pipe lines, power lines, and canals).

•Weather control (cloud seeding).

•Aerial advertising (skywriting, banner towing, airborne signs, and public address systems).

•And, any other operation specified by the FAA Administrator.

 

Restricted category aircraft are allowed to operate to different airworthiness standards, operating limitations, certification standards, etc. This allows for great latitude in their operation. For example some states operate military aircraft for their own use as restricted category aircraft. And because they are also 'public' aircraft can carry their employees on board. However Federal USDI and USDA employees are forbidden to fly in those aircraft. And, in simple terms restricted category aircraft cannot be operated as regular commercial aircraft.

 

When this background situation is confronted during multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional incidents (such as forest fires) that are run by government agencies using a mixture of “Public” and “Civil” aircraft, you get a diverse set of standards with no guaranty of any consistency. For them, nothing can be taken for granted!

 

This has resulted in the NWCG ICS system having aviation components created to address this problem, such as national aircraft registries and “carding” of pilots to recognize what qualifications they actually possess.

 

In Canada we avoid these issues totally since there are almost no non-commercial “Restricted Category” aircraft in use. Every type of aircraft used in provincial fire programs observes national standards. The “Public” aircraft concept does not exist – even Transport Canada’s own fleet of aircraft are operated to a commercial operating certificate standard.

 

Even with this long an explanation it is an oversimplification of the

situation. There is interesting reading in the 2002 report: "Federal Aerial Firefighting: Assessing Safety and Effectiveness". You can find it here: http://www.wildlandfire.com/docs/2003_n_before/BRP_Final12052002-1.pdf This is focussed on air tankers but is relevant in the larger context.

 

In particular 'Finding 6' is good reading: "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has abrogated any responsibility to ensure the continued airworthiness of "public-use" aircraft, including exmilitary aircraft converted to firefighting air tankers. Although these aircraft are awarded FAA type certificates, the associated certification processes do not require testing and inspection to ensure that the aircraft are airworthy to perform their intended missions."

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Personally, I will go with the Carson version of this event for two reasons:

 

(1) I have over 3000 hrs in the accident aircraft when she was painted orange and called OKP.

 

(2) I was on the second 61 Okie put into Edson. As memory serves it was a new, full IFR N model complete with sponsons. ROH was the ident, I believe, and she was a a bit portly. Coal Valley was about 5300 feet ASL and could get pretty warm in the summer - but we managed to do just fine. Wouldn't want to lose a donk on take-off, though!

 

Finally, if I were asked, I would be happy to testify on Carson's behalf regarding performance issues.

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Personally, I will go with the Carson version of this event for two reasons:

 

(1) I have over 3000 hrs in the accident aircraft when she was painted orange and called OKP.

 

(2) I was on the second 61 Okie put into Edson. As memory serves it was a new, full IFR N model complete with sponsons. ROH was the ident, I believe, and she was a a bit portly. Coal Valley was about 5300 feet ASL and could get pretty warm in the summer - but we managed to do just fine. Wouldn't want to lose a donk on take-off, though!

 

Finally, if I were asked, I would be happy to testify on Carson's behalf regarding performance issues.

 

 

What year did the project end? I think it was for Luscar? Some of the pilots came over to Dome from there; FN was one.

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