Aircraft and Pilot Carding

Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Aug 2020


Every aircraft and pilot used in support of a Federal wildland fire mission must have a current Aircraft and Pilot Card or letter of authorization. The card must be held in the aircraft or with the pilot, and give specific authorization to do the mission being requested.

These missions could be all, one, or any number of missions as follows:

  • Air attack (Level I, Level II, Level III).
  • Reconnaissance.
  • Fire surveillance.
  • Water Delivery (buckets).
  • Helitorch.
  • Cargo.
  • PSD Operations.

Every pilot who flies a properly carded aircraft must possess a current Interagency Airplane or Helicopter Pilot Qualification Card that gives specific authorization to fly the type of mission being requested and for the specific type of aircraft being used for the mission.

These missions could be all or any number of missions as follows:

  • Air attack.
  • Reconnaissance.
  • Fire surveillance.
  • Low-level.
  • Paracargo.
  • Mountain/Remote airstrips.
  • Smokejumper.

Before the aircraft and pilot can be used for a specific mission, the aircraft must be specifically listed on a valid and current contract for the type of work being performed and a copy of the contract must be onboard the aircraft.

Each user of the aircraft and pilot has the authorization to physically inspect the Aircraft Data Card, the Interagency Airplane or Helicopter Pilot Qualification Card, and the contract. If any one of these three is not available for inspection, the mission must be canceled or at least postponed until the authorizations of the aircraft, pilot, or contract can be determined.

Pilots have very specific and closely monitored duty time and flight time limitations that users must understand and adhere to:

  • 14-hour duty day.
  • 8 hours flight time per day.
  • 2 days off in 14 calendar days.
  • 36 hours cumulative flight hours in any 6 consecutive days.


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
NWCG Standards for Helicopter Operations, PMS 510
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

Have an idea? Have feedback? Share it.

EMAIL | Facebook | URL:
MAIL: 6 Minutes for Safety Subcommittee • 3833 S. Development Ave • Boise, ID 83705 | FAX: 208-387-5378