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AAP Postion Statement on Air Tanker Contract Cancelleation

by Chris Sorensen |

Associated Airtanker Pilots
Position Statement

The large airtanker operators completed all directives of Sandia Labs, the contracted inspected firm designated by the Forest Service/BLM for airworthiness oversight, and have complied with both the letter and intent of the Forest Service mandate that followed the Blue Ribbon Panel report.

Aircraft have been inspected and carded, deemed airworthy and flight-ready by Forest Service maintenance inspectors. Pilots have demonstrated flight proficiency and were issued interagency qualification cards by Forest Service check pilots.

The board of directors of the Associated Airtanker Pilots considers the contract cancellations arbitrary, capricious, and counter-productive to the intended goal -- conducting fire operations safely and efficiently in the protection of life, property, and natural resources. We further believe that canceling the contracts for heavy airtankers creates an unacceptable threat to the public, to ground-based firefighters, to taxpayers' private property, and to the natural resources of the country. The timing is particularly inauspicious in light of the growing terrorist threat.

We have no intention of flying unsafe aircraft and we look forward to the issuance of an FAA Advisory Circular clarifying the remaining issues that will allow these aircraft to return to service. We welcome efforts to modernize and upgrade the fleet of large airtankers with new purpose-built airframes, and the efforts to develop data supporting the use of existing airframes or identifying deficiencies.

We do not believe the cancellation of the large airtanker contracts is the way to achieve what's needed. We are confident that this transition can be accomplished while maintaining the high level of readiness and safety the public has come to expect -- and which the public deserves -- and we are committed to being a part of that process.