The OV-10 Bronco; Ramona Air Attack 330
The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is a turboprop light attack and observation aircraft.
One of my final Huey flights was to Ramona Air Attack Base to take the crew up for some morning training, along with Scott Bligh who was piloting the 2nd Fire Rescue Helicopter.
The trip allowed me to get another up close & personal look at Cal-Fire's OV-10 Bronco, also known as Air Attack 330. The aircraft is technically still being used for the same mission it was designed for, that of a forward air observer. The only thing that has changed is the peace time fire fighting mission vs. the war time mission.
To understand more about the aircraft here is an excerpt from the OV-10 Wikipedia page;
"The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is a turboprop light attack and observation aircraft. It was developed in the 1960s as a special aircraft for counter-insurgency (COIN) combat, and one of its primary missions was as a forward air control (FAC) aircraft. It can carry up to three tons of external munitions, internal loads such as paratroops or stretchers, and can loiter for three or more hours.
The concept aircraft was to operate from expedient forward air bases using roads as runways. Speed was to be from very slow to medium subsonic, with much longer loiter times than a pure jet. Efficient turboprop engines would give better performance than piston engines."
With max air speed for the OV-10 is listed as 281 MPH at sea level and a cruise speed of 195 MPH it is often the first aircraft on scene of a vegetation fire followed closely by retardant carrying bombers from the same fire base.
The "back seater" in the OV-10 coordinates all aircraft in and out of the Fire Traffic Area, as well as all of the retardant drops.
When a fire call comes in the pilot and Cal Fire Captain head straight to the aircraft while others in the Air Attack Base gather date on the fire location. By the time the crew is ready to taxi they are given a heading and distance to the fire by the base tower. At 200+ MPH they are on scene in just minutes, ready to do what the OV-10 was designed to do.