The Walt Darran International AFF Awards


The Walt Darran International Aerial Firefighting Awards are presented annually to recognise a significant contribution by an individual or organisation to aerial firefighting. The Awards were inaugurated in honour of the late Walt Darran. Walt was a pioneer and advocate for advances in aerial firefighting. Being a highly experienced S2-T airtanker pilot and former highly decorated US Navy aviator from California, USA, Walt was a constant and passionate advocate for safety and improvement in the international aerial firefighting community.  

Congratulation to the 2020 Winners!

The Award in the Safety in Aerial Firefighting category was presented to Bill Moody, a well-known and respected professional who began his career as a firefighter, smoke jumper base manager, regional/national fire/aviation specialist and instructor. Bill Moody started his career in fire suppression in 1956. He devoted his life to halt and reduce the adverse consequences of landscape fires affecting our precious environment, human lives and the assets of our societies. He was an advocate for the safety of our dedicated firefighters in the air, on the ground, and between these two spheres – the smoke-jumping community.

After his retirement from the US Department of Agriculture – Forest Service in December 1989 Bill formed a consultant business which allowed him to continue instructing fire aviation courses in the United States, Canada and in Mongolia. Since 2004 Bill had also accompanied Evergreen Aviation in the development of the Boeing 747 SuperTanker project. As a primary author of the B-747 SuperTanker Operations Plan and related papers on potential fire uses of the B-747, Bill’s work had an enormous impact not only on aerial firefighting safety but also on international relationships of this community. 


The Award for Industry Innovation & Advancement went to a person very well-known by the audience. In recognition of outstanding achievements in Industry Innovation & Advancement the posthumous Award was given to Larry Vandersall and received by his family, especially invited to the dinner.

Larry Vandersall was a pioneer of the Firefighting Chemical Industry and served for approximately 64 years. He was a graduate chemist who began his work in the fire chemicals arena with Monsanto prior to the development of, what is known today as Long-Term Fire Retardant (LTR). The early deployment of airtankers was hugely successful for fire suppression with water, bentonite, borate and gels being the primary chemical agents dropped. It was only in the late 1950s that companies began to develop phosphate / sulphate-based products that, would not only act as a fire suppressant, but would also be effective to prevent combustion for weeks and months later. This technology has since been adopted worldwide.

The Walt Darran Aerial Firefighting Awards 2020 ceremony took place on 4th March during the Aerial Firefighting North America 2020 Conference Dinner at the Aerospace Museum of California in Sacramento CA, USA. Read the full announcement.

Awards History

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Previous Winners

View the previous Awards winners here...

Nomination Process

Nominations are now open!