Air Operations Branch Director*

AOBD decorative banner: photos depicting AOBD position. AOBD Position Description: The Air Operations Branch Director (AOBD) reports to the Operations Section Chief (OSC1) and is primarily responsible for preparing the air operations portion of the IAP, for implementing its strategic aspects, and for providing logistical support to aircraft operating on the incident.

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AOBD Incident Position Description

The Air Operations Branch Director (AOBD) supervises all air operation activities, prepares the air operations portion of the Incident Action Plan (IAP), implements its strategic aspects, and provides logistical support to aircraft operating on the incident. The AOBD supervises the Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS) and the Air Support Group Supervisor (ASGS) and reports to the Operations Section Chief (OSC) or Incident Commander (IC). The AOBD works in the Air Operations functional area.
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Prepare and Mobilize

  • Ensure individual readiness.
  • Obtain and assemble information and materials needed for assignment.
  • Gather critical information pertinent to the assignment.
  • Travel to and check in at assignment.
  • Obtain briefing from previous shift/assignment position as necessary.
  • Review local area aviation plans and obtain initial briefing from supervisor.

Build The Team

  • Establish and communicate chain of command, reporting procedures, risk management processes, and aviation operational strategy.
  • Establish and maintain positive interpersonal and interagency working relationships.
  • Establish contact with local area aviation officers/managers, airtanker base, and dispatch centers.
  • Oversee and establish expectations for proficiency checks and drills.
  • Calculate amount and type of resources required and ensure adequate staffing is in place to support anticipated activity.

Lead, Supervise, Direct

  • Model leadership values and principles. Provide positive influence. Emphasize teamwork.
  • Establish and communicate objectives, priorities, work assignments, and performance expectations.
  • Identify, analyze, and use relevant situational information to make more informed decisions and take appropriate actions.
  • Adjust actions based on changing information and evolving situation awareness. Develop and implement contingency plans. Communicate changing conditions to assigned resources and supervisor.
  • Ensure daily operational objectives and performance standards are met.
  • Monitor performance and provide immediate and regular feedback to assigned personnel.

Perform Air Operations Branch Director-Specific Duties

  • Obtain initial briefing from OSC.
  • Ensure pilot and aircraft capabilities meet mission objectives. 
  • Coordinate with assigned dispatch center regarding ordering and release of aircraft.
  • Evaluate the airspace surrounding the incident to identify airspace conflicts or impacts to air operations, such as military operating areas (MOA), military training routes (MTR), special-use airspace (SUA), visual flight rules (VFR) airways, or airports.
  • If necessary, conduct an aerial survey of incident operations airspace.
  • If necessary, ensure completion of an aerial hazard map for all assigned aviation resources. Ensure all pilots are briefed on these hazards.
  • Assess organization and adjust structure to meet mission objectives.
  • Coordinate with Resource Advisor (READ) regarding potential helispots, helibases, mobile retardant base, helicopter dip sites, and fixed-wing aircraft scooping locations.
  • Coordinate with host agency unit aviation officer to identify retardant and foam use restriction areas.
  • Ensure fireline personnel, aerial supervision, and pilots report known misapplications of wildland fire chemicals near avoidance areas according to local protocol.
  • Initiate contact with unmanned aircraft system (UAS) personnel upon UAS order fills.
  • Participate in preparation of the IAP or other relevant plan. Ensure plan includes known missions/tasks for the operational period, including proficiency training, and/or UAS missions.
  • Determine hours of operational period for air operations. 
  • Prepare and provide Air Operations Summary Worksheet (ICS-220) to air support group and fixed-wing bases. 
  • Coordinate with local unit, OSC, and assigned aviation assets regarding aviation initial attack responses within and outside of the incident Temporary Flight Restriction. (TFR).
  • Establish procedures for emergency reassignment of aircraft. 
  • Coordinate with Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). 
  • Develop Incident Aircraft Mishap Response Plan, and coordinate mishap reporting with Agency Administrators’ aviation management personnel and/or local dispatch center. 
  • Report special incidents/accidents utilizing the SAFECOM system or other appropriate means. Arrange for accident investigation team if warranted.
  • Resolve conflicts concerning non-incident aircraft. 
  • Ensure that the helibase organization runs effectively. Identify and correct helibases that are not operating effectively.
  • Responsible for the establishment of all helispots. Perform an aerial reconnaissance to locate desired helispots. Approve significant helispot improvements, such as the cutting of numerous trees, in consultation with the READ.
  • Identify the amount of improvement needed and approve the extended use of unimproved landing areas.
  • Coordinate with local agency officials and the agency aviation management specialists to ensure the planned use of National Guard assets complies with applicable policy and procedures specific to the local area and/or participating jurisdictions. 
  • Coordinate with Aerial Supervision Military Liaison (civilian), Military Air Operations Coordinator (civilian), Military Operations Officer, and aerial supervisor in utilizing, assigning, and coordinating military air operations. 
  • Stay informed on the number of aircraft available and the types of missions the military unit can provide on a daily basis. 
  • Determine coordination procedures for use by air organization with ground branches, divisions, groups, and other incident sections. 
  • Consider requests for non-tactical use of incident aircraft. 
  • Inform ATGS of air traffic situation external to the incident. 
  • Debrief ATGS, personnel, and pilots at end of shift; adjust operations as necessary. 
    • Frequency Management
      • Communicate and coordinate with the Communications Unit Leader (COML) concerning frequency needs and assignments. Ensure that the frequencies on the Incident Radio Communications Plan (ICS-205) match those identified on the Air Operations Summary Worksheet (ICS-220) and on form HBM-1, Helibase Organization Chart.
      • Ensure sufficient copies of the Air Operations Summary Worksheet (ICS-205) are made available for use by the Helibase Manager (HEBM), Aircraft Base Radio Operator (ABRO), and pilots.
      • Ensure that dispatchers relay new or changed frequencies and air/ground contacts when ordering additional aircraft for an incident.​
    • FAA Temporary Towers
      • Responsible for ordering FAA Temporary Tower and ensuring adequate FAA-certified radios are available for use. Coordinate with Airspace Coordinator (ASCO) when in place.
      • Provide a thorough briefing to the FAA Temporary Tower controllers.
      • Conduct a briefing on the tower facility and include details in the Air Operations Summary Worksheet (ICS-205).
      • Request that the airport manager/FAA/vendor requests a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that informs the public when an FAA Temporary Tower has been established. Ensure this information is disseminated to appropriate dispatch and aviation personnel including airtanker and helibases.
    • TFRs
      • Request declaration/cancellation of TFRs to FAA.
      • Consolidate multiple overlapping TFRs and/or restrictions into one manageable TFR. Coordinate with other incident AOBDs, Area Command Team, geographic area aircraft coordinator dispatchers, ASCOs, FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC), dispatchers, and frequency coordinators to avoid confusion. These changes must be forwarded immediately to the dispatch center that will initiate a new order to the FAA.
      • Coordinate with other agency personnel, ASCOs, and cooperators (such as power companies conducting fire damage surveys) that may need to fly within the TFR to avoid nonparticipating aircraft inadvertently reported as an unauthorized intrusion.
      • Actively manage TFR hours of operation and size to meet current and predicted incident objectives.
  • Complete narrative and documentation for final fire package. 

Communicate and Coordinate

  • Brief subordinate staff. 
  • Prepare for and participate in pre-planning/strategy meetings. 
  • Ensure aviation expectations are communicated to other functional areas during meetings and briefings. 
  • Coordinate information sharing with Incident Management Team (IMT) functional areas. 
  • Review delegation of authority for initial attack responsibility, aerial ignition operations, communication procedures, and other items that will impact incident air operations.
  • Receive briefing from the host unit aviation officer outlining geographical information, frequencies, retardant avoidance areas, air ambulance services etc.
  • Ensure clear understanding of expectations and timely communication within and across Incident Command System (ICS) functional areas and chain of command.
  • Coordinate information sharing with personnel external to the IMT: local airport authority, media, landowners, local unit dispatch, unit aviation manager, adjacent incident personnel, and/or Area Command. 
  • Establish communications and exchange necessary briefings/information with the following:
    • Support resources
    • Adjacent resources
    • Supervisor
    • Other ICS functional areas
  • Coordinate with vendors, contractors, and other incidents. 
  • Coordinate with local dispatch center. 
  • Ensure subordinates understand assignment for operational period. 
  • Conduct functional area briefings and After Action Review (AAR). 

Manage Risk

  • Ensure documentation of all aviation assignments that are declined.
  • Perform risk assessment and include aerial supervisor. Consider adding the following personnel when appropriate: duty officers, host agency fire management staff, UAS personnel, and dispatchers.
  • Plan for medical emergencies. Ensure that assigned resources are prepared to execute the Medical Plan (ICS 206 WF). Manage the medical emergency based on procedures stated in the IAP, Medical Incident Report, or other relevant guidelines.
  • Establish line of authority and identify decision making process. Ensure risk decisions are made at the appropriate level.
  • Provide for the safety and welfare of assigned resources. 
  • Apply risk management practices to all aviation operations. 
  • Account for location, health, safety, and welfare of assigned personnel.
  • Submit accident/incident reports with pertinent forms (SAFECOM, SAFENET, agency-specific forms) through established chain of command.


  • Complete, authorize, ensure timeliness of, and route as required:


  • Assist in development and implementation of incident demobilization plan. 
  • Coordinate planned release of aviation assets with the local dispatch, geographic area aircraft coordinators, and/or national aircraft coordinators.
  • Plan for demobilization. Brief assigned resources on demobilization procedures and responsibilities. Ensure incident and agency demobilization procedures are followed.
  • Anticipate demobilization, identify excess resources, coordinate with operations to prepare demobilization schedule, and communicate with supervisor.
  • Upon demobilization, report status to home unit including reassignment or estimated time of arrival (ETA) to home unit.


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