Daher Kodiak Joins Aerial Firefighting Group As First OEM

The parent company has also installed its own biofuels infrastructure at a logistics facility near Toulouse, France.

Bridger Aerospace flew two of their Kodiaks for 800 hours during one firefighting season without maintenance complaints. [Courtesy: Daher]

The Kodiak series—built for the backcountry—has supported special missions throughout its model run. In partial recognition of this, Daher announced on Wednesday that it has joined the United Aerial Firefighters Association (UAFA) as that group’s first airframe manufacturing partner.

The relationship keys off of the use of the Kodiak by the Bridger Aerospace Group [NASDAQ: BAER], a longtime operator of the model and founding member of UAFA. The association is a newly-created advocacy group that will focus on the specialized needs of the aerial firefighting community.

“The UAFA’s goals are fully aligned with those of Daher: enhancing the safety, operability, and effectiveness of aircraft, especially in such challenging and unforgiving missions as combating wildfires,” said Paul Carelli, director of Kodiak flight operations and special missions, in a statement. “We intend to be an active UAFA member, bringing our expertise as a multi-role aircraft manufacturer, while also benefitting from the feedback of those who are on the front lines of aerial firefighting.”

Kodiak Special Missions

We spoke with Carelli at EAA AirVenture 2022—when Daher debuted the Kodiak 900—about the 100 series and its proven success in special missions. “I’ve taken the mantle on special missions for both aircraft,” he said, “and, I can tell you, being a former military guy, seeing what these can provide in reliability and safety, [their] speed, and loiter[ing capabilities]—and how all of those characteristics are key to providing consistent surveillance or public safety—[they are] great aircraft for that. 

“We have Bridger Aerospace in Bridger, Montana, doing outstanding work with Kodiaks,” Carelli continued. “They do fire attack; they were busy all last summer—as you know we had that tremendous fire season last year—but they flew two of their Kodiaks for 800 hours without a single maintenance gripe. We’re really proud of that, and we’re proud of Bridger Aerospace, too.” 

“We appreciate Daher’s proactivity in joining UAFA, and look forward to benefitting from its aircraft manufacturer’s perspective as the association develops a strong and coordinated voice for the entire aerial firefighting community,” said Tim Sheehy, CEO of Bridger Aerospace and UAFA board member.

As Carelli indicated, special missions ops for the Kodiak go beyond aerial firefighting to include intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), aerial mapping, air ambulance transportation, parachute operations, resource analysis, wildlife management/anti-poaching, disaster/humanitarian relief, and training. Throughout the U.S., several state and federal agencies operate Kodiaks in support of wildland fire missions, in addition to those operated by private contractors.

The Kodiak family features both the 8-to-10-seat 100 series—which features the Garmin G1000NXi, is off-airport/unimproved-strip capable, and comes in an amphibious version—and the stretched 900 model, with increased passenger and cargo space, plus a cruise speed increase north of 210 ktas. More than 320 Kodiaks have been delivered around the world to date.

On February 24, Daher unveiled a PUR-XTL biofuel tank to fuel its truck fleet at its Cornebarrieu, France, facility near Toulouse. [Courtesy: Daher]

Daher Advances Sustainable Infrastructure

Daher—parent company to the Aircraft Division producing both the TBM and Kodiak models—launched 2023 with a celebration of its 160 years in business, and its Take Off 2027 initiative to outline the next five years in its growth and transformation into a global supply and logistics player.

The roadmap includes twin goals of reducing the company’s carbon footprint along with improving customer satisfaction. To that end, Daher announced Monday that it had installed the first PUR-XTL biofuel tank at its Corlog logistics hub in Cornebarrieu, near Toulouse, France.

The “green” fuel, made from waste residual oils and greases, will be used in the company’s ground vehicles to reduce emissions by up to 90 percent. Daher uses the hub to facilitate transport and warehousing of various products, including aircraft sub-assemblies to various assembly lines in the region for its contracts with Airbus.

From a statement released by Daher, it gave the following example: “The route used by Daher to transport engines and aircraft components from Toulouse to Airbus production plants in Hamburg, Germany, accounts for 60 percent of the 3.5 million kilometers traveled annually by the Daher truck fleet.” Road transportation remains one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions in the supply chain, with an average of 25 to 35 liters of diesel used per 100 kilometers driven, depending on the load carried and other factors. 

Biofuels are not generally available at service stations along trucking routes, so Daher decided to make the investment of €50,000 to install a 30,000-liter tank at the Cornebarrieu facility.

Julie de Cevins, senior vice president of programs and nuclear/projects business units at Daher, said, “The progressive introduction of PUR-XTL biofuel to power our entire fleet of vehicles reflects our determination to decarbonize our logistics activities, in just the same way as the projects now underway at our Log'In innovation technical center, which focuses on developing tomorrow’s logistics. Driving innovation for decarbonization is one of the five priorities of our new Take Off 2027 strategic plan. This initiative will significantly reduce our transportation-generated CO2 emissions, at the same time as helping our customers to reduce their carbon footprints.” 

Arnaud Joerger, head of transportation at Daher, added, “Using this biofuel reduces CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent, and NOx emissions by 65 percent without any need to modify or convert our trucks. It's not only a significant environmental gain for the group, but also a matter of pride for our drivers in the knowledge that they’re driving such clean vehicles.” 

Etienne Valtel, CEO at Altens, producer of the fuel, said, “We’re delighted to have this opportunity of helping Daher to decarbonize its fleet. Approved at European level, our PUR-XTL fuel means that Daher can drive green in France right now, and will soon be able to extend that into Germany. This agreement reflects our ambition to accelerate transportation industry decarbonization by offering a range of application-specific alternative fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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