The day after the Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to give a training to the US Forest Service at the Air National Guard base in Oxnard California. During the winter, the USFS performs maintenance and upgrades to their aerial fire fighting equipment. In this case it was for their MAFFS program. Even more specifically, their MAFFSII program. About ten years ago, Solutions Cubed developed the electronic controller for the fire fighting system. It reads inputs such as drop amount and flow rate and then controls the output so that the right amount of retardant is dropped for the right amount of time. We were sub-contracted to the main company that produced this system. Unfortunately, during the economic downturn, they went bankrupt and the USFS is now scrambling to cover the support issues with the system and its continued operation. That is where the Solutions Cubed training comes in.
There are about ten mechanics that service all of the MAFFS systems, but they were not around during the initial design and development of the system. In addition, they are not super techno-savvy. Also, because the MAFFSII system is loaded into Air National Guard C-130 airplanes, there is a layer of military rules and regulations on top of the USFS layer. So the training and resource materials we provided had to be very straight-forward and super easy to follow. I was able to accomplish both goals, but just barely. When I started the two hour talk, it soon became apparent, I was approaching the training from a too-technical direction. I was able to change things up on the fly and things went smoothly from there.
Solutions Cubed redesigned some interface software for the controller, so we demonstrated its use and detailed all of the functions of the controller. The mechanics and the USFS representatives were receptive to the training and appreciated the contents. After the classroom portion of the training we were able to try out the new software on an actual system that had been removed from a C-130 and was on a trailer. The photo shows the size of the system and its complexity. After we hooked up the software, we went through a couple of procedures in the manual. We found a couple of problems with the documentation that Solutions Cubed will have to change, but overall it was a good training. I look forward to seeing the planes flying and fighting fires again.