Eight of the nineteen heavy air tankers in the United States have been grounded indefinitely from the national fleet. A memo sent by the Southwest Coordination Center on April 14 stated that all P-3 Orions are grounded due to “issues found during aircraft inspection on one of the P-3s last week”.
This leaves 11 heavy air tankers, nine P2Vs operated by Neptune Aviation out of Missoula, MT and two P2Vs operated by Minden Air, Inc. out of Minden, NV.
One might assume, then, that the MAFFS and the very large air tankers, the 2 DC-10s and the 747, might see more use this year, if we have at least an average fire season.
We expect to have more on this story as the details emerge.
UPDATE 11:00 p.m. PT, April 15, 2011
A story in the Lubbock Avalance-Journal says all of the P-3s belonged to Aero Union who voluntarily grounded the planes due to a disagreement or misunderstanding between their company and the U. S. Forest Service and the FAA over inspections of the aircraft. The article said the company hopes to resolve the issue at a meeting on Tuesday of next week.
UPDATE at 3:32 p.m., April 21, 2011: