Aviation plays a critical role in wildfire management. The threat of wildfires is increasing due to the continued volatility surrounding climate change. It’s important to understand the role aviation plays in containing wildfires and mitigating disasters. In this article, we’ll explore:

  • The History of Aviation-Assisted Wildfire Management
  • The Essential Resources For Wildfire Management
  • The Future of Wildfire Management Through Aviation

Greenwood Aerospace is a trusted supplier of U.S. government agencies, military programs, and defense programs. We work with our nation’s top agencies to provide essential equipment that directly assists with wildfire management efforts. 

Let's take a closer look at how aviation assistance has informed modern wildfire management missions.

The History of Aviation-Assisted Wildfire Management

Aviation-assisted wildfire management has a long and proud history in the United States. Aerial support for wildfire management efforts originated as a practical method for transporting personnel for ground support and logistics operations. Over time, wildfire management evolved to utilize aircraft for controlling blazes and to reduce the number of casualties of on-the-ground firefighters.

Initiatives through the United States Air Force and Forest Service informed the role aircraft play in modern wildfire management. After Congress passed the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act in 1974, the development of the U.S. Fire Administration and National Fire Academy became a crucial part of enabling aviation-assisted wildfire management. Through federal government programs, aerial support expanded into innovative wildfire attack solutions. From deploying personnel to dispensing flame retardants, aviation assistance has greatly impacted wildfire management.

In recent years, aerial assistance has revamped the way wildfire management operations are handled. This has streamlined wildfire missions and lowered the rate of casualties. The ways aerial assistance has transformed introduced: 

  • Improvements in aerial logistics and ground support
  • Waterbombing with aircraft and helicopters
  • The Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS)

Aerial Logistics and Ground Support

Aviation-assisted wildfire management developed alongside warfare defense solutions during World War II. Many of the U.S. Air Force’s defense aircraft informed the ways emergency aircraft were introduced into wildfire management solutions, such as air tankers. Early aviation-assisted wildfire management offered practical solutions for ground support and logistics. The movement of emergency personnel and supplies using aircraft was an effective means to provide tactical support for ground crews. 

Helicopters were introduced into wildfire management initiatives through the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 1947. They quickly became an essential part of helitack operations. Helitack crews, to this day, provide ground support during wildfire management operations. Utilizing three different types of helicopters in accordance with the Interagency Helicopter Operations Guide, crews are deployed into areas where they can assist in creating a firebreak and provide additional support to ground crews. 

Official smokejumpers were also introduced in the 1940s to provide aerial logistic support during wildfires. These trained wildland firefighters are deployed by parachute into fires where they commence initial attacks. The nature of a smokejumper’s role has adapted with developments in modern aviation-assisted wildfire management. However, since its inception, smokejumper operations provided essential on-the-ground support and aerial logistics to wildfire management efforts.

Waterbombing With Aircraft and Helicopters

With the introduction of aviation assistance to wildfire management operations, aircraft soon began to adapt to emergency efforts' needs. In the mid-1950s, developments in early waterbombing solutions were created to eradicate the need for extensive ground support during wildfires. 

By the 1960s, the monsoon bucket, more commonly known as the helibucket in the U.S., was operational. This allowed helicopters to dump large amounts of water and other flame retardants on wildfire outbreaks. Today, helibuckets are still an essential method for waterbombing wildfires via helicopter. 

A helicopter bucket in use in California
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Smaller helicopters carry buckets that can hold anywhere between 100-400 gallons of water. Larger helicopters fill their tanks with a snorkel that siphons water from nearby lakes or rivers, with some having the capacity to lift as many as 2,600 gallons of water.

When it comes to planes, there are a variety of aircraft that assist with wildfire management, including:

Fixed-wing aircraft are a key resource in aviation-assisted wildfire management. Similarly to helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft were introduced to assist in the transportation of personnel and essential equipment. However, in more recent times the load-bearing capacity of fixed-wing aircraft has proved more impressive. Very large aerial tankers alone are able to transport 8,000 gallons of flame retardant to wildfires.

Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS)

In the 1970s, congress established the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) after a major fire ravaged Long Beach, California. The MAFFS provides emergency capabilities to large air tankers that can assist in wildfire management. C-130 airplanes are the most common aircraft to utilize the MAFFS as they can be fitted inside without any structural modification.

The MAFFS is operated under the Air Force, most often by the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. However, the MAFFS requires interagency cooperation through the BLM, the Department of the Interior, and other government agencies. 

MAFFS units drop either water or a retardant slurry made from 80 to 85% water and 10 to 15% ammonium sulfate with red coloring. Red slurry mixtures help pilots see where they’ve dropped previous loads during wildfire management operations. MAFFS units can discharge loads in less than five seconds, at up to 3,000 gallons each. Upon a plane’s return to an airtanker base, it can be refilled and airborne again in less than 20 minutes. An average MAFFS retardant covers a one-quarter of a mile long by 60-foot wide area.  

Currently, one Air Force Reserve Command and three Air National Guard locations participate in the MAFFS Program.

Essential Resources For Wildfire Management

When it comes to modern aviation and wildfire management, there are a lot of moving parts. From interagency coordination to operational readiness, wildfire management is layered with complexity. Access to key resources through a trusted parts supplier is a critical element of effective wildfire management. 

In this section, we’ll cover:

  1. The key parts and services for fixed-wing aircraft
  2. The essential resources for smokejumpers and other wildfire management personnel
  3. How sourcing crucial resources affects wildfire management operations

Greenwood Aerospace provides effective services to U.S. government agencies nationwide. With over forty years of experience, we’re experts in assisting complex aviation programs. We help our customers overcome obstacles in aircraft parts distribution, procurement, and more. 

Let’s break down the key parts and supplies for wildfire management using fixed-wing aircraft. 

Fixed-Wing Aircraft

A key part of any wildfire management operation is the deployment of fixed-wing aircraft. In order to mitigate disaster, aircraft must be operationally ready to support government agencies in their coordinated efforts. Down to their most intricate parts, fixed-wing aircraft need attentive care that covers every aspect of maintenance and operation.

But what kind of parts and services keep fixed-wing aircraft operational? At Greenwood Aerospace, we’re experienced in fixed-wing aircraft support across a variety of aviation programs. Our background in aircraft sustainment and government procurement allows us to deliver essential aircraft parts on a national scale, fast.

Each component of a fixed-wing aircraft contains critical parts that affect the structural and mechanical workings of the aircraft. It’s essential that parts are procured through a reliable supplier in order to be compliant with regulations and standards. 

Greenwood Aerospace's expansive inventory of aircraft parts and accessories covers everything you need for operational readiness. From landing gear parts to proprietary parts, we make it our business to keep aircraft flying in order to assist wildfire management operations. Our key services for fixed-wing aircraft include:

It is essential that fixed-wing aircraft and their aviation programs have quick access to necessary aircraft parts. Our stock of proprietary and aftermarket aviation parts offers competitively priced parts for your fixed-wing aircraft. 


Smokejumpers and other emergency personnel need access to essential equipment in order to effectively complete their missions. When it comes to wildfire management, it is truly a matter of life and death. 

Smokejumpers use essential cargo boxes to execute their missions once they’ve parachuted into wildfires. Cargo boxes include rations for 48 hours of on-the-ground attacks on wildfires, along with equipment smokejumpers need, such as shovels and Pulaskis. These cargo boxes and other essential resources are sourced through the government supply chain and the defense supply chain

Working with these supply chains is essential for wildfire management as they provide key resources in food, clothes, maps, fuel, and more. The Defense Logistics Agency provides a wide range of resources through the defense supply chain that is critical to mission preparedness for smokejumpers. 

There are currently nine smokejumper crews that operate within the United States:

  1. The Redmond Smokejumpers
  2. The North Cascades Smokejumpers
  3. The Region 5 Smokejumpers
  4. The Missoula Smokejumpers 
  5. The Grangeville Smokejumpers
  6. The West Yellowstone Smokejumpers
  7. The McCall Smokejumpers
  8. The Boise Smokejumpers
  9. The Alaska Smokejumpers

These smokejumper services are operated by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The operations span from Redding, California, through to Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Sourcing Essential Equipment

Wildfire management focuses on moving firefighters, smokejumpers, and any other emergency personnel quickly and effectively. In terms of equipment needed to make this possible, fire authorities depend on reliable aircraft and ground support vehicles. No matter if it’s an airtanker or ground-level logistics, wildfire operations are precarious and depend on high levels of accuracy and efficiency. 

Ensuring the use of high-quality parts and trusted resources is crucial in sourcing essential equipment for wildfire management. Technological advancements and inventory management all play a key part in how essential equipment can reach the front lines of wildfire disasters.  

A controlled burn in open farmland, as smoke billows across the landscape
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Greenwood Aerospace’s services cover ground support equipment, aviation logistics, and more. Our inventory is stored and distributed from a 42,000 sq ft warehouse in Ponca City, Oklahoma. We offer shorter shipping routes to both coasts that make sourcing essential equipment for any aviation program fast. If you’re looking for an aerospace parts distributor with a wealth of industry knowledge, contact us today to see how we can help you. 

The Future of Wildfire Management Through Aviation

The threat of climate change is increasing the ferocity of wildfires. As a result, wildfire management and aviation programs must continue to work together. From NASA tracking wildfires from space to the continued evolution of aircraft parts, we are already seeing a glimpse of what to expect from aviation programs and wildfire management operations. The future of wildfire management relies on effective aviation programs and innovation. 

Climate Change

With the rise of extreme weather threatening Americans nationwide, there’s no denying that aviation programs will play a key role in mitigating disaster. The wildfires across Australia and the west coast of the United States in the last five years have heavily relied on aviation programs for containment. 

In Australia during the Black Summer fires of 2019-20, over 16 nations deployed aid in the form of personnel, aircraft, and funds. The United States alone supplied Australia with over 300 firefighters. While Australia’s climate has a long history of wildfires, scientists have stated that climate change played a key role in the severity of the fires. 

The future of aviation-assisted wildfire management is hugely influenced by climate change. As fires grow more intense, essential resources in wildfire management must be expanded in order to contain blazes.

While climate change remains a global issue, wildfire management will only further depend on aviation programs as climate change worsens. The effects of climate change will see wildfires becoming more aggressive and increasingly difficult to manage. Aviation programs need to anticipate and prepare for fire seasons becoming more unpredictable in the future.


In order to be prepared ahead of the next wildfire season, aviation programs must be operationally ready. Ground support operations and aerial logistics teams need to be appropriately prepared ahead of wildfire seasons to provide ready support. Ensuring parts are available for priority air transport missions is key when assisting with wildfire management efforts. 

When facilitating aviation services that assist with wildfire management, it’s imperative that programs are on top of part inventory and have a thorough understanding of how supply chains work. Failure to establish organizational and operational preparedness in aviation programs can lead to costly problems. 

For aviation programs, working with Greenwood Aerospace assures procurement of high-quality parts that meet complex regulations and standards. Working with us ensures that your aviation program will: 

  • Remain compliant
  • Mitigate supply shortages
  • Have access to inventory management expertise

Working with Greenwood Aerospace takes the pressure out of your inventory management and part procurement. Get comprehensive assistance and quality parts procured quickly. Our expert team mitigates shortages and uses our extensive network to leverage your buying power. We can get the parts you need ahead of wildfire season fast.

Staying prepared and developing internal strategies that support wildfire management missions is crucial in providing aviation assistance. With climate change influencing how the federal government funds, manages, and assists aviation programs, it’s important to be prepared and remain compliant. 


Climate change and preparedness are just the first steps for the future of aerial wildfire management. At a federal level, strategies are being implemented to help meet aerial firefighting equipment needs. The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission’s focus is on improving federal policies related to the mitigation, suppression, and management of wildfires under the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

What does this mean for aviation programs that support wildfire management operations? It means the federal government is focusing on:

  1. Assessing the need for new and updated aviation resource benchmarks
  2. Addressing national procurement models and improved coordination with agencies
  3. Addressing improvements to the use and availability of existing resources
An airtanker drops water and retardant over a wildfire as black smoke blocks out the view
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In order to work with these improvements, aviation programs must be informed and compliant with new regulations and standards that could be introduced. Working with trusted part suppliers who understand government regulations is key to operating an effective aviation program. Develop strategies and working relations with an industry-leading aerospace company in Greenwood Aerospace.

Our qualifications allow us to work with large defense contractors to deliver innovative and agile aerospace solutions. With over forty-one years of industry experience, Greenwood Aerospace streamlines project management needs to keep complex operations running smoothly. We cover all manner of federal regulation compliance so aviation programs can keep providing crucial assistance with wildfire management operations.

Join with Greenwood Aerospace For Effective Support in Wildfire Management

For all your aircraft procurement, storage, and distribution needs, contact Greenwood Aerospace. We deliver rapid solutions that assist aviation programs in operational readiness and preparation. For any inquiries, contact us today at contact@governmentprocurement.com

For large sales inquiries, please reach out to us at sales@governmentprocurement.com.