Student firefighters get hands-on training at National Aerial Supervision Training Academy

PHOENIX - Students, made up of mostly "boots on the ground" firefighters, are learning from some of the best.

"We're not in the major leagues, but that's why we're training," said one instructor.

They're all gathered at the National Aerial Supervision Training Academy. One of only two schools of its kind in the country.

"There's four to five layers before they can even get their name drawn to be a student here," says Academy Coordinator Shaylor Sorenson. "Just to get here is quite a process."

He says his main objective is to see students succeed.

"Before we started this whole training academy process in 2014 we had a less than 5% success rate on some of it. And now we're well into the 70% success rate...and climbing," Sorenson said. 

So after they're given their coordinates and perform their inspections, the hands-on training begins.

The simulation takes place near Picket Post Mountain just outside Superior. The academy uses giant sheets of orange material to represent just how far the fire has spread.

According to Air Tactical Group Supervisor Jack Marvin, the most important part of the exercise is communication.

"The more we do it, the better we are at it," Marvin said. 

And they'll do it over and over again. Because when lives and land are at risk, these pilots plan on perfection.  

"If you make mistakes in some of these environments, they're not slight and small mistakes. They can be a big deal," Sorenson said. 

 

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