The Washington Post, on aging air tankers

The Washington Post has an article about the U.S. Forest Service’s new strategy for replacing aging air tankers, a topic that we covered on February 10. Here is an excerpt:


…“Trying to figure out the right attributes . . . the right specifications, and . . . working across the variety of land and . . . just coordinating with people takes a bunch of time,” [Tom] Harbour, [national fire director for the Forest Service] said. “We’re happy it’s out. It’s a part of the discussion we have to have with Congress.”

Money also played a role in the agency’s struggle to draft a proposal to modernize. Its pricey shopping list of planes was not acceptable to the Office of Management and Budget.

The agency sought state-of-the-art C-130Js, at $80 million each, a price it cannot afford, according to congressional staffers and aviation experts. The head-turning cargo plane flies at nearly 400 mph and can deliver an optimal load of 4,000 gallons of fire suppressant.

Harbour called the C-130J “an aircraft . . . designed for the kinds of stresses and strains of this work.” As a 20-year investment, he said, it “might be the best thing we could do.”


Thanks go out to Dick and Ken

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

6 thoughts on “The Washington Post, on aging air tankers”

  1. If the Department of Homeland Security can somehow be funded to build a $3.4Billion (yes billion) office complex that rivals the Pentagon, surely the money exists somewhere to buy some airtankers?


  2. As usual, the Forest Service, hampered by Executive Branch bureaucratic BS cloaked behind USDA priorities, is hampered from doing what is right.

    Someone needs the huevos to stand up and present a well thought out plan for funding to Congress. It takes LEADERSHIP… not another string of multi-million dollar studies.

    It can be done!! See the early 2000’s MEL buildup funding and the HFRA funding as EXAMPLES (similar funding amounts)… It isn’t rocket science. Once again, it takes leadership.. FIRE LEADERSHIP.

    ONE THING FOR CERTAIN… if the Forest Service (USDA) doesn’t ask for the funding from Congress… it surely won’t happen.

    ASK and you might be surprised at the reception.


  3. “A pricey shopping list and a twenty year investmement”. Your trying to appropriate money from folks that live in the city? Buying an airplane is like buying a horse, money pit. Twenty year investment, how old are the B-52’s that are still in service? LET THE PRIVATE SECTOR PROVIDE THE FIXED WING AIR TANKERS! Give a gleamer of hope to these companies that the Federal goverment can look beyond one or two years when contracting and not get blind sighted. As for the military, forget that idea. Good people fine work, it is a “after- the- fact” resource. It appears that the entire Federal air program is now after-the-fact.

  4. IF and only IF the C27’s ever came on line…

    The first stop even before USFS “acquires” anything…usually winds up going to Foreign Millitary Sales (FMS) route first, for sales to foreign countries. Unless that program has changed in the last ten years.

    Guard units getting rid of AH1 and UH1 aircraft for newer acft and missions…..those aircraft went FMS before any civilian operators got anything!

  5. The new DOD budget proposes to eliminate all C-27J models from the Air Force and retire them. Maybe there is a way the USFS can acquire them on a government transfer program at no cost and therefore have a new airframe even though the gallon capacity is less than desired.

  6. On a side note, the Montana Air National Guard is getting a C 130 mission. I beleive they will be getting 5 C130’s in 2015 (?).

    The Montana Air National Guard Fire Department is in the midst of becoming USAR certified. I have worked with the MANG FD on a few exercises and they are a top notch organization!


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