Cessna 185 Firefighting Operations

In aviation, conventional wisdom dictates that some models of aircraft are more common to industrial and commercial operations, while others are more likely to be owned privately and for personal use. Individual aircraft that fall outside of these norms are uncommon and therefore have avionics configurations that are atypical to their model.

This C185, for example, is destined for firefighting work this summer as a lead-plane, also known as a spotter or a bird-dog. It will assist waterbombers with verbal target descriptions or by physically leading them on drop runs. Because this aircraft has a very specific mission, its avionics package is also very specific; it includes everything it needs, and nothing it doesn’t. For starters, this 185 has some very unusual communication equipment for little Cessna. FM radios and airborne telephones by Cobham and Latitude are interfaced to a reliable and full-featured audio panel from P&S engineering. Communications systems like this extend capability beyond typical airband coms and are vital for sensitive and coordinated operations like firefighting. Likewise, sophisticated commercial tracking systems such as this Latitude S200 Skynode, are a boon to commercial fleets but are typically rare for private pilots.

That said, this plane does have one new piece of equipment that might be found in either a commercial or private plane. The CGR30 engine monitor from EI helps pilots and operators keep tabs on engine health with more efficiency and less guesswork. Newer more reliable glass solutions in this field of engine monitoring are making this easier and easier. In fact, this is Maxcraft’s first install of a CGR30. This is a relatively new product in the EI catalogue, and is ideal for those who need to retrofit a glass engine monitor, but don’t want to re-fabricate their instrument panel. If fact, the CGR30 is certified to replace the majority of engine instruments and act as a primary instrument.

Those looking closely at the panel photos will have noted the absence of IFR equipment. Indeed, this aircraft’s mission is strictly VFR, making things like WAAS GPS unnecessary, both in cost and in weight. That said, VFR navigation aids like this Garmin Aera 796 handheld are excellent tools and we see no reason not to include one, especially in a panel-mount configuration like this.

Summary of Equipment

  • CGR30 Engine Monitor (EI)
  • NPX FM Transceiver (Cobham)
  • PTA12 phone dialer (Latitude)
  • PAC24 Audio Panel (P&S Engineering)
  • Aera 796 GPS (Garmin)
  • S200 ‘Skynode’ Satellite Tracking System (Latitude)