President signs bill to speed contracting of air tankers

747 drop Railbelt fire
747 drop Railbelt fire
The 747 air tanker dropping on the Railbelt fire in Alaska in 2009

UPDATE at 2:45 p.m. MT, June 13, 2012

The U.S. Forest service, shortly after the President signed the bill, announced they have awarded contracts for seven additional air tankers.

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Today the President signed Bill Number S.3261 which could shorten the time required to issue new contracts for air tankers. The bill waives a requirement that the U.S. Forest Service give Congress 30 days notice before they award a contract for an air tanker. This only applies to the solicitation that closed in February for what is described as “next-generation” air tankers which will have turbine or jet engines, be able to cruise at 300 knots (345 mph), and carry, preferably, 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of retardant.

Many companies submitted proposals and hope to receive new exclusive use contracts for their proposed or existing air tankers. Some of the aircraft only exist in the minds of the companies and would not be airborne for a year or two at best, and others could be flying over fires this year such as the two DC-10s, the 747, and more BAe-146s. Other air frames that are being considered, longer term, include the Dash8/Q400, C-27J, MD-87, C-130J, C-130H, and the B-737.

The White House released a signing statement about the bill.

More information about the air tankers that are currently available for wildfire suppression.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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5 thoughts on “President signs bill to speed contracting of air tankers”

  1. For a second there I thought the government actually did something, but in reality all they did was cut their own red tape. And now they are patting themselves on the back!

    1. Right, Dodge. A reporter from the AP called me today who was under the mistaken impression that the bill authorized the USFS to PURCHASE new air tankers.

      However, we’re checking on a rumor about an announcement that may actually BE meaningful. Hopefully, good news to follow.

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