The project Kepplair Evolution
Policy and solutions
Most European countries have their own air and ground firefighting units. France happens to be the best- equipped Member State in this area. Nevertheless, the pooling of these control methods at the European level is a necessity recognized by all. In 2009, the creation of the European Union Forest Fires Tactical Reserve aimed to address this issue but the actions taken were limited to short-term rental of equipment for the benefit of the affected countries
The firefighting delivery system
On every plane, and in particular on airliners there are constraints of mass distribution, the objective of which is to maintain the center of gravity in a very specific zone. This constraint imposes us to locate the center of gravity of the retardant close to the center of gravity of the empty plane (in the forward part of the wing). Flight safety as well as certification process impose that the center of gravity stays in the flight envelope in every situation including in case of dropping system partial breakdown.
A European aircraft
Kepplair Evolution aims to provide the European Union a water-bombing aircraft with a very high capacity drop, whose speed can intervene throughout the community in minimal time. With its multi-role configuration, applications are many: firefighting, medical evacuation, logistic support in case of natural disasters, and anti-spill for example. The use of such a device would have been particularly relevant during the recent fires in Reunion Island in 2011, where no large aircraft were able to intervene in less than two weeks. Similarly, large forest areas are burned every year in Spain and no proper equipment is used to control the progression of these fires.
Characteristics and benchmarks
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.
To date, two US Companies use high capacity water bombing aircraft: Global SuperTanker and 10 Tanker. At the request of the state of California in 2010, NASA* has analyzed this issue and published a report demonstrating the efficacy of using such devices in fire-fighting. However, these aircraft (DC10 and Boeing 747), are particularly suited to the geographical nature of the American terrain, as well as the strategic planning and policy of the United States (regarding army structure and local civil securities).