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Flight Design CTLS for fire spotting in the mountains

From Left: Tito Palacios, Mateo Vásquez, Mauricio Fernandez de Córdova, John Hurst, and Santiago Peña

My name is John Hurst and I’ve been associated with the Flight Design brand in various forms for more than 10 years. 7 years ago, I was contacted by the Benemérito Cuerpo de Bomberos Voluntarios de Cuenca to see if the Flight Design CTLS would be suitable for their mission of forest fire spotting high in the mountains surrounding Cuenca Ecuador.

Cuenca (Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca) is a city in southern Ecuador’s Andes mountains. The 8,306 Ft. elevation of the airport at Cuenca makes it a very specialized operation just to fly out of the city, much less climb up in to the mountains for fire spotting, search, rescue, and ground crew support.  After some testing in Florida they decided to use the CTLS. I have worked with them as a trainer and support staff helping with their annual inspection and equipment upgrades.

The Cuenca Volunteer Fire Department has been successfully utilizing the CTLS CB07CT, or call sign “Bomberos 07” in their firefighting and search and rescue efforts.

The volunteer Aerial Unit is led by their commander Hugo Cobo a Boeing 767 first officer for LATM Airlines. To date they have flown 450 hours safely doing a mission no one thought possible for a light aircraft. They have flown missions as long as 2HRS, and helped the rescue team help people lost in the mountains.

Each year I visit Cuenca to train the pilots and assist with maintenance. During my last trip, we trained 3 new pilots for the fire department, Santiago Peña, Mauricio Fernandez de Córdova, and Mateo Vásquez.  All three pilots recently earned their pilot’s certificates.  Also Cesar Mancheno, a local tower controller, flew an airplane for the first time at the controls of Bomberos 07 as we provided him with in introductory flight lesson in the CTLS.  The new pilots adapted quickly to the CT after training in Cessna 152, and 172 aircraft.  Training included a thorough check out in the CTLS including mountain flying the CT, and landings at the Cuenca Airport which sits on a plateau in the heart of the city.

So rare is it to see light aircraft in the area, during an approach on a recent training flight, a startled LATAM Airlines pilot called the tower to alert them that a small aircraft was flying towards the field.  “He flew right in front of us, I think he intends to land here!” the pilot exclaimed.

The performance, and capabilities of the CTLS serve the unique requirements of the Aerial Unit including high mountain flying. Landing at the Cuenca airport utilizes the ability of the CTLS to make a steep approach in a full slip avoiding the heavy downdrafts often encountered on approach to the field.

It has been my pleasure to assist the “Bomberos 07” crew as they continue their great work for the City of Cuenca and I look forward to going back soon.

Flight Design aircraft – Designed for your mission!