A Proposal For Change: Aerial Firefighting In Germany
Quite a few wildfires kept firefighters and emergency responders on their toes this year. The thought to implement a fleet of aerial firefighting aircraft was a logical consequence and its nothing new. Quick and effective measures are needed to successfully deal with fires in hard to reach areas. Now, a concept is being presented at the Welzow Airport in Brandenburg (EDCY), to show just how such an undertaking could become reality in Germany, if given consideration.
Germany has not one single independent aerial firefighting aircraft. The only available tools are German Military Helicopters equipped with buckets. A known fact however is, that the German Military has tremendous challenges with keeping flying equipment flying and technical equipment functional. In contrast, other parts of Europe are home to no less than 76 CL-415’s (example) as other countries seem to have zoomed in on the increased risk for fires and their need to be prepared in fighting them.
A added concern is, that the German Feuerwehr itself still rejects the idea that adding aerial firefighting equipment would be feasible or useful. Opposing arguments range from not having enough usable waterways to allow air-tankers to fill up, exorbitant costs associated with the acquisition, maintenance and operation of the aircraft and regurgitating the notion that “the German Feuerwehr is well equipped” to deal with the increasing challenges.
A German company trying to promote PZL-M18B Dromader has made statements that a CL-415 would be unfeasible and operational costs would be exorbitant. Fun fact: The German Firefighting Assn. regurgitates this statement almost ad verbatim. The wheeled PZL is able to carry 439 gallons of water and requires filling on the ground. In comparison, the CL-415 picks up more than triple the amount of water in about 12 seconds. It only touches the ground when refueling.
What else speaks for a Waterbird?
The airport Welzow with its nearly directly connected and a registered and approved Seaplane Base can be considered a good location for a fleet of Aerial Firefighting machines. The airport would be well suited to act as a training base for aerial firefighters as well. The eastern part of Germany is rather disconnected from strategic growth and would benefit from being home to innovation and progress.
The idea isn’t new in Germany, Frank Degen who runs Frank Air has been working in cooperation with Dresden Aerospace AG for a number of years to bring a concept to the table of decision-makers. The concept is considered viable and could be implemented rather quickly – provided that decision-makers finally begin to listen and take action.
About the proposed location: The Welzow Airport is a public airport in the province of Brandenburg. Built in the 1920’s the airport served as military airbase on the 30’s for the German Air Force. After Worldwar II the airport fell into Soviet hands which operated it until 1993. After renovations and demilitarization the airport began serving as a civil airport in 1996.
The airport is considered important for the further improvement of the regions that centers between Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden – and it represents the only usable airport which has a PCN45 solid surface runway which measures 6.500 feet in length and a width of 100 feet and a Seaplane Base. Night flying is possible and there is Jet A1 available on site. Near the runway one finds the Sedlizer Lake which is the only fully approved Seaplane Base in Germany. Highly interesting topic we say – so we will attend the press conference with local politicians which is scheduled for tomorrow. Knowing that large parts of the German and European population remain blissfully unaware about the benefits for aerial firefighting – we have our own set of questions to ask. The Executive Summary of the EU Study is available for download here and the full study may be requested by Email from [email protected]