Denver-The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the fatal single-engine aerial tanker crash in the Kruger Rock fire near Estes Park on Tuesday night. The pilot’s company confirmed that he was a 32-year Air Force and Army veteran.
CO Fire Aviation confirmed that the pilot killed in the crash was Marc Thor Olson and stated that he has been a FAA-certified pilot since 1979. As a civilian and combatant, he has more than 8,000 flight hours and 1,000 Hours of flight time for night vision goggles.
The company said: "The Co Fire Aviation family is deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic death of one of our brothers who was a tanker pilot, and added that it is fully cooperating with the investigation of the crash."
"Although we are seriously aware of the inherent dangers and still existing problems of aerial fire fighting; we ask family and friends to give them distance and time to deal with and heal when we feel sad for this loss. In this difficult period, thank you for your Pray," the company said in an emailed statement.
A biography on the company’s website stated that Olsen “looks forward to his second season as a level 1 pilot at CO Fire Aviation” after he had previously spent “safe and efficient first season” with the company. .
According to the biography, Olsen also trained UAE pilots and flew various types of aircraft during the military and civilian life.
According to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred around 6:37 pm. The crash site was near the south side of Hermit Park-about 5 miles from Estes Park. Olsen was the only passenger on the plane.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft is an aerial tractor AT-802A belonging to CO Fire Aviation, headquartered in Fort Morgan. According to FlightAware, the plane departed the North Colorado Regional Airport at about 6:15 pm
At the time, the wind speed in the crash area was 40 to 50 miles per hour. The Colorado Department of Forestry stated that the single-engine aerial tanker did not fly in accordance with the state's contract on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said that when asked who ordered the flight, who decided to perform the flight, and whether this was the first single-engine aircraft, the Sheriff’s Office was still trying to find answers. The tanker flies at night in Colorado because the state's contract does not allow SEAT to fly at night. Oregon has tested flight seats at night.
The Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that it contacted CO Fire Aviation around noon on Tuesday and asked if they could assist in aerial operations because it is too difficult for firefighters on the ground to have access to the terrain.
The sheriff’s office stated that they were indeed available and interested. Within a few hours, the company stated that they could easily carry out the airdrop, the sheriff’s office said.
The plane left Fort Morgan and successfully launched, then went to Loveland Airport to load inhibitors for the second launch.
The sheriff’s office said the plane returned an hour later and told ground firefighters that he encountered turbulence and the conditions were not suitable for the fall, the sheriff’s office said. The pilot said he would do another fire before returning to Loveland.
"A moment later, at approximately 6:37 pm, ground resources heard the crash of the plane," the sheriff's office wrote in its press release.
The Colorado Department of Fire and Control confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the plane was contracted by Larimer County and that it was not flown under a state contract, adding that it did not know whether the crash was related to night operations.
“It’s too early to know the cause of this tragedy and whether it is related to night operations, but the DFPC hopes that through cooperation with Larimer County, the U.S. Forest Service, the contract aircraft company CO-Fire Aviation, the FAA, and the NTSB Learn everything we can learn from this tragedy to promote the safe and efficient use of aviation assets in order to effectively and safely respond to wildfires during the day and possible night operations in the future."
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office stated that the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board conducted an investigation at the scene on Wednesday, and the pilot’s body was found on Wednesday morning.
"CO Fire Aviation has confirmed that their pilot is Marc Thor Olson and stated that he is a skilled and experienced pilot. We extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Olson's friends and family and CO Fire Aviation," the Sheriff's Office said.
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office stated that it first started talking with CO Fire Aviation after participating in a demonstration in Loveland earlier this year.
The Sheriff’s Office stated that it has been negotiating with the company throughout the year, and under the condition of tight air resources, “if this is beneficial to firefighting operations, it is willing to give them a chance”.
The Sheriff’s Office stated that it reached an oral agreement with the company on October 5 and the written contract is still under negotiation.
The Sheriff’s Office said: “LCSO has contacted CO Fire Aviation regarding services during other fires this year, but they either have no availability or have decided that air operations are not required in these fires.”
The Sheriff’s Office said: “Recent technological advancements that have been used in other states to enable night air operations have proven to be an effective strategy to help prevent medium-sized fire explosions and large-scale operations like we saw last year.”
The department stated that after years of research on possibilities, trials and training, DFPC used helicopters for the first time in the night firefighting operation of the Dell Fire in Virginia in September.
"The use of rotors and fixed-wing aircraft at night, using night vision technology, has been widely and successfully used in the US military and certain public safety environments, but fixed-wing assets have less research and practical experience in field fire fighting," DFPC Say.
Colorado used helicopters to conduct night aerial operations trials in June, July, and August of 2019-which has never been done in Colorado before-and found that they may be beneficial in the future because no significant water transport was found. The problem is based on a report, speed, communication and visual effects.
But the 2019 report also found that before making any decision to fly a helicopter at night to look for water droplets, a "thorough risk/benefit analysis" should be performed, and that lives, buildings, or valuable property must be threatened. Take advantage of it.
The report from the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Fire Fighting also stated that more research is needed to expand night vision flights for other aircraft. A year before, an interim report on night fire fighting was released.
The 2019 report stated: “More research may be needed on the feasibility of using fixed-wing aerial tankers (including SEATs) to extinguish fires after dark.” “Technology that makes fixed-wing aircraft more acceptable for night missions Advancements-such as synthetic vision and terrain perception-also need to be checked. This will be treated as a separate assessment."
The webpage archived by the Department of Fire and Control also outlines how the state treats the night helicopter program.
"If it is not planned and executed in a safe manner, night helicopter suppression will add additional risks to pilots and ground personnel," the page said. "Under certain circumstances, night vision suppression capabilities can be applied to aviation missions performed by public safety and firefighting agencies. The use of aircraft in emergencies at night will improve the safety, operational efficiency and financial prudence of the public and firefighters."
As of noon on Wednesday, the fire area was 140 acres and 15% had been contained. Some evacuations were also cancelled on Wednesday morning. A 9News reporter spoke with Olsen shortly before the flight on Tuesday night, and the company and night vision goggles technology were introduced in a PBS report earlier this year.