Public Report 39: The Silver Creek Fire Review
Jim Hall at the Salmon Arm Airport
Doug Pearce, c. 2016
Jim Hall came out of retirement for the Silver Creek Fire. Until help arrived, he kept helicopters and planes from crashing into each other.
Pilot fatigue was a big concern noted by the Ombudsman in his Silver Creek Fire Review. Although pilots were highly skilled and able to do precision drops onto a blazing forest fire in very extreme conditions, after 6 or 8 hours fatigue became a major safety concern.
In a Ministry of Forests interview, the Assistant to the Airport Manager, Salmon Arm Airport, made this point clear when he said:
“[I]n the morning, you would watch the helicopter pilots land and they would drop the skids on perfectly, right beside the fuel pump. By the end of the day, the same pilots would be landing and they would be wobbling all over the place. You could hardly believe it was the same person [flying].”
An air traffic controller was essential.