Aircraft and Pilot Carding

Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Nov 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 complete the requested mission. These missions could be all or any number of missions as follows:

  • Air Attack (Level I, Level II, Level III)
  • Reconnaissance
  • Fire Surveillance
  • Water Delivery (buckets)
  • Helitorch
  • Cargo
  • Longline
  • Plastic Sphere Dispenser (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 requested and 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
  • Longline


Before the aircraft and pilot can be used for a specific mission, the aircraft must be listed on a valid and current contract which includes the type of work being performed. 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 items is not available for inspection, the mission must be canceled or at least postponed until the authorization of the aircraft, pilot, or contract can be determined.

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

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


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110 
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center


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