DOI Oversees Extensive Fleet Of Gov't, Private
by ANN Correspondent Maxine Scheer
When thinking about aviation activities of the federal
government, most people would probably think first of the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) or branches of the military which
operate large fleet of aircraft, such as the Navy or Air Force.
What may be less familiar, are the aviation activities of the US
Department of the Interior (DOI).
The DOI is the nation's principal conservation agency and
manages over 500 million acres of surface land, or about one-fifth
of the land in the United States. Agencies organized under DOI
include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Indian
Affairs (BIA), US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS), National Park
Service (NPS), Bureau of Reclamation, US Geological Survey (USGS),
Office of Surface Mining (OSM), and the Minerals Management Service
(MMS). Each agency's responsibilities include missions that involve
the use of a variety of aircraft, many of which are used in
critical mission situations such as search and rescue or fire
Located in the Federal Pavilion here at AirVenture 2007 are
representatives from DOI's Aviation Management Directorate. Under
the Direction of the National Business Center (NBC), the Aviation
Division (NBC-AM) provides an extensive list of aviation training,
maintenance, management and support services. NBC -AM's primary
goals are "...to raise the safety standards, increase the
efficiency, and promote the economical operation of aircraft
activities in the Department of Interior."
As aviation missions are often regional, NBC-AM is headquartered
in Boise, Idaho with three regional locations (Atlanta, GA;
Anchorage, AK; Boise, ID - satellite in Phoenix, AZ). NBC-AM
provides the DOI with about 400 government controlled aircraft (97
fleet aircraft owned by the government, and 300 obtained from the
private sector though various long-term contracts.) The NBC-AM
regional network also provides DOI access to some 1,000 aircraft
through short term contract arrangements.
For example, aircraft which fly missions for NPS are estimated
to log over 20,000 hours per year. The Alaska Region of the DOI
boasts what is arguably the largest fleet of "bush" aircraft in the
world with over 56 single engine fixed wing aircraft that fly
10,000 hours per year.
Safety training services offered by NBC-AM are extensive, and
include instructor-led and web-based training classes on accident
prevention, transporting freight and hazardous materials,
rappelling, hoisting and management. NMB-AM also maintains the
Aviation Safety Communication database (SAFECOM) that can generate
reports used to educate and prevent aviation mishaps.
Other services include commercial flight services such as
scheduling and coordination of flight missions, aviation program
management, which includes ground school and flight training,
research and evaluation of technology for aircraft and pilots, and
development of aviation policies.
Aero-News spoke with a
few of the representatives of DOI's Aviation Management group to
get a sense of the types of DOI missions that require the use of
aircraft and to learn about their services. Shad Sitz, National
Aviation Training Specialist, described some examples of aircraft
missions common to its DOI customers. Most visible to the general
public is the use of aircraft for search and rescue or firefighting
and transport of supplies to support these operations. Other lesser
known examples include the use of helicopters to transport federal
inspectors to oil platforms, aircraft used to perform aerial
surveys of wildlife, or to observe the condition of the country's
While the NBC-AM owns aircraft, the agency contracts extensively
with private entities that provide aircraft and aviation support
staff. Representatives of the Aviation Division describe the use of
three primary types of contracts: Aircraft Rental Agreements,
Exclusive Use Contracts, and Call When Needed (CWN).
NBC-AM exclusively uses negotiated procurements that consider,
at a minimum, Past Performance, Contractor Experience, Aircraft
Capability and Price as significant evaluation factors. The
expectations of contractor' abilities to perform the job in the
most effective, efficient, and safe manner are extremely high. That
means that contractors must have had similar experiences, performed
them exceptionally well, providing an appropriate aircraft, at a
cost effective price.
Aviation Management is also pursuing contracts to support
aircraft activities for agencies outside of DOI such as the
National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), and Environmental Protection Agency
Aviation Management coordinates extensively with the National
Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), based in Boise, Idaho. Wildland
fire aviation includes a variety of aircraft and operations.
Helicopters are used to drop water, transport crews,
reconnaissance, infrared, and deliver resources to the fireline.
Fixed-wing aircraft include smokejumper aircraft, air tactical
platforms, Single Engine Airtankers (SEATs), large airtankers, and
large transport aircraft. These aircraft play a critical role in
supporting firefighters on the ground.
"Many aircraft used by the government are for missions that
require some kind of specialty", says John "Bud" Walters, Aviation
Safety Compliance Specialist, Alaska Region. Safety is of utmost
concern to NBC-AM. In these situations, there is significant
interface between vendors and other emergency response entities
operating in the air and on the ground, so safety training is
NBC-Aviation Management continues to stay informed and trained
in the latest aircraft and aviation technology to provide the best
service to its customers. Current trends in aviation have required
knowledge and involvement in unmanned aerial aircraft, composites,
and intimate involvement with Automated Flight Following (AFF).