news and events » news

News Header

News Item

return to News

Half of Heavy Tankers Never Coming Back

by Chris Sorensen |

From the Prescott AZ Courier:

Federal officials say Arizona will have the necessary aerial resources to help battle a potentially huge fire season, despite the loss of half of their heavy airtanker fleet. However, the number of available heavy airtankers probably won’t reach previous levels for a long time, if ever, says Rose Davis, a Forest Service spokesperson at the National Interagency Fire Center.

“The USFS probably won’t ever contract to use converted Douglas DC series commercial planes again, Davis said.

“The Forest Service expects to contract for 16 heavy airtankers this year. They are all P-3 and P2V retired military planes. It contracted to use 17 last year.

“While the agency returned those old military aircraft to duty after extensive safety evaluations, it probably never will use DC planes again because Boeing won’t give the government its old (maintenance) records, Davis said.

“Boeing contends the information won’t be useful because the firefighting use is different than past commercial use.

“Next year, the Forest Service plans to buy three more P-3s from the Navy when the aircraft are retired from use, Davis said.

“The Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management have been putting more aerial responsibility on much smaller single-engine airtankers and helicopters since 2004. The two agencies combined will have nearly 600 helicopters of various sizes available (for use this year), according to BLM spokesman Randy Eardley.”