The medical evacuation missions and medical assistance do not present specific operational difficulties. They are consistent with the use of a conventional airliner. Firefighting missions require specific training for pilots and the multi-role officer, who is responsible for managing the resources for dropping and coordinating with ground teams.
However, it is not comparable to the training received by Canadair pilots, who must train year-round for scooping missions and very low altitude drops. Undoubtedly, the Canadair fills its reserves, grazing the surface of the sea or lakes, while the Airbus A310 Kepplair Evolution lands on a traditional runway and fills its water tanks in less than 15 minutes. The technicality of Canadair pilots is remarkable, but requires a considerable amount of continuous training.
Finally, while the Canadair attacks the fire with a direct drop of 6,000 liters of water, the Kepplair Evolution Airbus A310 carries up to 30,000 liters of water or retardant, equating to the combined delivery of five Canadairs.
|A310 Kepplair Evolution A310 Water drop height higher than 100 mCanadair Water drop height less than 40 m|
These two operational approaches in firefighting have similarities and distinct advantages. They are perfectly compatible in the chain of French and European command. As part of firefighting, the Airbus A310 can extensively attack fires and prevent their formation. It can drop water or special retardant liquid at timed intervals under pressure. In this way, the impact of the liquid to the ground is comparable to a heavy rain.
The water can be dropped alone or with additives. We can perform a water drop with additional retardant on the vegetation that is near the fire in order to prevent the spread of the fire (a “long term” retardant). This contains ammonium polyphosphate with iron oxide to give it a red color. It inhibits the oxidation reactions of combustion, giving off less energy, which in turn allows it to spread more slowly.
Additionally, we frequently use a surfactant or ‘wetting agent’. By reducing the surface tension of water, it can pass the fat layer that covers the vegetation (the surfactant is like a soap), as the water also forms a thinner film, but more extensive over the vegetation.