With practice water drops at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, crews prepare for wildfire season

Aircraft training is underway for the upcoming fire season, and at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in the far East Valley on Feb. 15, a "Super Scooper" firefighting aircraft dropped more than 1,000 gallons of water on the tarmac as a practice run in a matter of seconds.

The practice run was unique because there are no other aircraft out there like the Super Scooper.

"This is the only purpose-built aerial firefighting aircraft that is in existence right now. Every other aircraft has been modified to do what they do," said Bridger Aerospace CEO Darren Wilkins.

"That is what makes you feel comfortable, to know it's doing what it is designed to do," said Bridger Aerospace Lead Scooper Captain Al Hymers.

Crews have been practicing at the airport for a couple of months, going back and forth from Roosevelt Lake, saying the training is crucial.

"Practice is important for these types of aircraft because we are going to have to work in concert with them the entire firefighting season in the summer," said Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority Executive Director J. Brian O'Neill.

During a fire season, crews may do 70 to 80 water drops a day, while figuring out new topography, finding the nearby airport and dealing with the intense weather. So, when they get to practice on the tarmac, it helps them perfect their craft, which in turn will help them save lives.

Bridger Aerospace's Super Scooper


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