A dozen air tankers have been assisting the firefight since Monday, but Cal Fire needed assistance controlling all of the air traffic, so they called a local company for help.
“The traffic becomes a little bit too complicated,” said Titus Gall, President and CEO of Tower Tech, Inc.
When the fires broke out on Sunday, the company got a call from Cal Fire saying they needed help coordinating their planes.
“We have to decide where they fit,” Gall said. “In other words, create landing opportunities and departure opportunities for those that have to go.”
Gall spent years working as a FAA-certified air traffic controller and founded Tower Tech in 2004, using 30 years of experience. Tower Tech now operates three trailers capable of providing mobile air traffic control services.
Each trailer has two generators, self-leveling hydraulics, a P.A. system, satellite internet and TV, a kitchen, and even a pull-out bed so the crew can stay as long as necessary.
“Everything that uses this airport is now talking to these guys,” Gall said, referring to the two-man team running the traffic control.
Typically, there is no air traffic control team at McClellan and the pilots simply communicate with each other when they need to land and depart.
The Tower Tech team is scheduling 12 air tankers on a loop, loading fire retardant, making drops and coming back to load up again. But the guys are also handling private planes here on business.
“This is a very convenient airport for them to land at, as opposed to international,” Gall said.
All together, they’re averaging 300 operations a day.
“Those guys and gals are the backbone of the business, and I think they deserve all the credit,” Gall said.
McClellan broke a record yesterday by pumping more than 266,000 gallons of fire retardant. At this point, Tower Tech isn’t sure how long they will be based at McClellan, but on Wednesday they are setting up another operation in Oroville.