For years, Aviation Specialties Unlimited, (ASU) has pioneered the use of night vision goggles (NVGs) in numerous industries around the world. With a mission to save lives, ASU helped the first non-military operators launch night time operations in the emergency medical services sector, law enforcement airborne units, agriculture, and for the past several years, aided in the training of operators using NVGs for fighting fires at night.
Agriculture spray applicators know that night time conditions allow for better applications. This same principle has proven to be true for fighting fires also.
At night, in most instances, temperatures fall, humidity increases and winds die down. This makes fighting fires at night ideal. Using NVGs at night also help pilots identify hotspots that can fuel fires even further the next day. “Fighting fires at night using NVG’s is not a new concept,” said ASU Director of Business Development and Sales Kim Harris.
“This method was used in the late 70s and NVGs today have advanced significantly with better clarity and provide an unmatched level of situational awareness and safety.”
The Los Angeles County Fire Department began operating with NVGs regularly in 2005. In 2011, ASU began training operators on the use of NVGs for aerial firefighting at night. ASU’s Director of Operations Justin Watlington, is an experienced pilot, certified instructor on both fixed wing and rotorcraft for NVGs.
“Fighting fires at night is a critical operation that helps save lives, property and combats the destructive forces of fires like we have experienced throughout the U.S., Canada, South America and Australia” said Watlington.
“We launched our NVG Firefighting training program in 2010 to increase the safety of operators fighting fires at night with NVG’s. Pilots know flying conditions at night are safer with NVG’s and when you combine that with the fires behavior at night due to climate conditions and reduced traffic, it make sense to continue the fight into the night.”
In 2013, Helicopter Express was awarded a contract by the U.S. Forrest Service for using NVG’s to fight fire at night North of L. A. in Lancaster, California. ASU assisted by training the OAS inspectors, U. S. Forest Service and Helicopter Express as well as actively flying with Helicopter Express for the first month of the contract which played a vital role in preparing the different groups for their important mission.
With Helicopter Express currently scheduled to successfully complete the 5-year contract in November of this year and an RFP from the USFS out for a new 5-year contract beginning in 2018, there is still a growing need to fight fires at night and combat the devastation experienced by many this summer. ASU remains committed to helping advance the expansion of more operators with the ability to fight fires at night.