The recently held Serbian-Spanish business forum in Belgrade also had its small aviation element. “On the margins” during the event, a Spanish company representing the most famous American company for production of multi-purpose and fire-fighting planes met with several representatives of the aeronautical entities from Serbia that it sees either as operators of Air Tractor AT-802 or as an support for possible purchases by Serbia.

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We interviewed Mr. Francisco Broseta, a representative of Air Tractor Europe. In all likelihood, the company plans to activate its sales capacities and persuade Serbia that it’s time, just like its neighbors, to acquire something more serious than a helicopter when it comes to fighting fires. After a recent success in Montenegro, the Spaniards believe that Serbia is finally ready to buy something more concrete.

The number of recently announced purchases of new and used aircraft has surely inspired them. Do you see Serbia as a user of Air Tractor aircraft? Air Tractor Europe as an exclusive dealer of US-made Air Tractor planes in Europe, Africa and Middle East in the past decade, when it comes to aerial fire-fighting assets, sold over 80 Air Tractor AT-802 fire-fighting aircraft to the Governments of Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Cyprus, Israel, Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, and continuously provides them wuth logistical support. With this in mind, the success of AT-802 in fire-fighting role is undoubted and we predict more sales in Greece, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Turkey as well as to some quite surprising nations that shown to be prone to forest fires like Sweden for example.

The EU and its Civil Protection Mechanism are also looking into AT-802 as part of their wider strategy to secure reliable aerial fire-fighting force for the EU member and associated nations. The fact that Serbia established Ministry of Environment is a clear sign that your nation is committed to the protection of the nature and forests and harmonization to the European standards in this fiel How would Serbia use this aircraft taking the specifics of our territory into account? The AT-802 have shown to be an extremely successfully fire-fighting aircraft that is ideally tailored for first attack aerial fire-fighting missions. It is very cheap for procurement, very cheap for maintenance and extremely efficient to attack and extinguish any wildfire before it grows and turns into a disaster.

Even then, few planes can really hard hit the fire, and so its 3,104 liters water capacity is really significant, especially when multiplied with three or four planes doing continues “bombardments”. The concept of first attack fire-bomber bases on cheap summer patrolling over routes that are statistically proven as wildfire-prone. While doing so, an immediate attack on the forest fire with 3,104 liters of water, foam or retardant while the fire is still small, benign and easily controllable is the only right thing to do. This was perfectly mastered in Spain and Croatia and these nations are indeed an example of how AT-802 should be properly used. Appropriately, this concept is now accepted and implemented by aerial fire-fighting units around the globe. 

Of course, because of all this, we see Serbia as a future user of our planes. What are the experiences of our neighbors in using this type of aircraft? The Balkans is for sure a wildfire-prone area and things will not get any better in the future. There will be more and more fires every next year and experience and statistics shows that cyclically there will be really disastrous years every five to seven years. So, nations in the region need to prepare and some have already heavily investing in fire-fighting planes. We, in Spain, have hot summers with huge and terrible wildfires that, unfortunately also claim lives.

Portugal wildfire tragedies of 2017 are just an example of Iberian troubles with forest fires. In that sense, I would take a freedom and say that we in Spain are most likely one of those who know how wildfires should be extinguished. It is simple: apart from prevention, we have undividable trio: fire-fighting planes and helicopters in the air, and fire-fighters on the ground. Each of these has its role and altogether creates an excellent and efficient fire-fighting combo. In this sense helicopters are excellent support toll for pin-point extinguishing of fires and transporting personnel to critical area and evacuating people in life-treating situations. But without fast and high-capacity planes the success is never granted.

In the region this trio-concept works almost perfectly in Greece and in Croatia that has 6 AT-802s. Macedonia and Montenegro (each operating 3 AT-802s) are also good in most of the cases and really rarely need foreign assistance. Macedonia, for example, uses its AT-802s as a primary fire-fighting tool and military Mi-17s are coming in support rarely and when really needed. However, 2017 was disastrous for Macedonia and Montenegro and both requested foreign assistance and were reinforced by Israeli AT-802s. Serbia is buying new aircraft, however, now they are primarily helicopters. Are you ready to convince our leadership that such aircraft are a reasonable cost?

We are glad to see that Serbia will invest in new helicopters as this is really good and a step closer to building an efficient system for protecting forests from wildfires. However, the system would not be complete without the capacity provided by fire-fighting planes. We believe that land-based AT-802 is an excellent, affordable, cost-effective and really efficient solution for Serbia. Our company estimates that AT-802 planes will be ideal for protecting central and southern Serbia and to also help neighboring nations when they would need assistance.

Serbia is a big nation and should be able to protect itself and also to assist neighbors. Building an AT-802 fleet is not something that is expensive. How small is the investment in our planes shows the simple fact that for one new Mi-17 helicopter that has fire-fighting capacity of 2,000 to 2,500 liters of water a total of 5-6 brand-new land-based AT-802 planes can be procured that would come with a combined capacity of impressive 15,500-18,600 liters.

And, yes, AT-802 can operate from existing airports like Belgrade, Niลก, Kraljevo but also from sport club airports we see all over Serbia. What are your estimates of the future market for such aircraft in the region but also in Serbia? To whom can you still sell additional aircraft, when saturation will occur? We are a company with over 30 years of experience with fire-fighting planes and we are present in the Balkans more than 15 years! We really know a lot on Serbia.

What impresses us as a company is that Serbia has done a really great job to keep its precious, over century-long aeronautical tradition and after many turbulences in the region over previous decades still maintains highly-capable aeronautical education institutions, pro-active scientific base, qualified personnel and off course capable maintenance, repair and overhaul capacities.

This Serbian-Spanish conference, indeed, was good for us and reaffirmed that the state of Serbia as well as its commercial entities are looking into Air Tractor AT-802 as a highly-potential aircraft that could not only protect Serbian forests but can also be a source of good business in this part of the region. Our business predictions are that the region holds a potential for sale of at least 20 more AT-802s in the incoming 5 years and that is an excellent opportunity for our company to cooperate with local maintenance, logistics and pilot-producing companies.

We are interested to do business with Serbia and it’s really on Serbia institutions and companies to recognize the potential coming with our company and the AT-802 plane.

And, yes, AT-802 can operate from existing airports like Belgrade, Niลก, Kraljevo but also from sport club airports we see all over Serbia. What are your estimates of the future market for such aircraft in the region but also in Serbia? To whom can you still sell additional aircraft, when saturation will occur? We are a company with over 30 years of experience with fire-fighting planes and we are present in the Balkans more than 15 years! We really know a lot on Serbia.

What impresses us as a company is that Serbia has done a really great job to keep its precious, over century-long aeronautical tradition and after many turbulences in the region over previous decades still maintains highly-capable aeronautical education institutions, pro-active scientific base, qualified personnel and off course capable maintenance, repair and overhaul capacities.

This Serbian-Spanish conference, indeed, was good for us and reaffirmed that the state of Serbia as well as its commercial entities are looking into Air Tractor AT-802 as a highly-potential aircraft that could not only protect Serbian forests but can also be a source of good business in this part of the region. Our business predictions are that the region holds a potential for sale of at least 20 more AT-802s in the incoming 5 years and that is an excellent opportunity for our company to cooperate with local maintenance, logistics and pilot-producing companies.

We are interested to do business with Serbia and it’s really on Serbia institutions and companies to recognize the potential coming with our company and the AT-802 plane.

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