Dan Hanson FOX 41 YAKIMA
The Richland Airport is hosting some boss pilots 
August 16, 2023
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  • This year’s fire season has seen a lot of need for air support to assist with getting fires under control. Jesse Weaver a pilot of the Fire Boss aircraft spoke about his experiences. 

    As the temperatures rise, so does the risk of fires. Jesse Weaver has been flying since 1986 but has also been fighting fires from the air for 20 years. 

    Weaver says it’s a rewarding mission. 

    Jesse Weaver is the Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Dauntless Air. He says was the first person in the nation to be certified to fly the Fire Boss aircraft. 

    “There was one airplane in the country in 2007 when we started, and now there’s 30,” said Weaver. 

    He’s seen it all, from the beginning of the program to watching it grow. Weaver says he knew this is what he was meant to do after his first mission. 

    “I flew two fires that day,” said Weaver. “Not the first fire but the second fire, I knew I was going to spend the rest of my career in this airplane.” 

    Bill O’Neil, a retired NASA flight test engineer and a pilot himself says in our area, the importance of smaller airports such as the Richland Airport is crucial to not only fighting fires but also for agriculture and life flights. 

    “To get access to an airport like this is a lot easier to get on and off the airport,” said O’Neil. “The air traffic control is just announcing your intentions at this airport, versus an air traffic control tower. So they can get on and off of this airport a lot quicker.” 

    The aircraft is called the Fire Boss and at a moment’s notice, the Fire Boss can be in the air and on the way to a fire. 

    Weaver says per their contract they have to be in the air within 15 minutes of a dispatch, but at a smaller airport like Richland, the time is shorter. 

    “We can usually be in the air in six to seven minutes,” Weaver says. 

    Wildfires are frightening for most people and can be catastrophic, that’s why pilots like Weaver don’t think twice. 

    “We make a difference to people,” said Weaver. “Us being there, maybe means their home is still there at the end of the day. Being a part of that, being responsible for that makes you feel really good.” 

    Weaver says to fill the tank of the airplane, they will fly down to a water supply such as the Columbia River, and pick up 800 gallons of water in 15 seconds.