Will air tankers become a partisan issue?

Today a far right-wing web site that usually writes about politics ran an article about air tankers. The author, a well known pundit, blames President Obama for politicizing fire suppression, while she politicizes fire suppression to the extreme.

I knew this would happen eventually, but it’s sad that this day has finally arrived. Up until now it’s been a small bipartisan group of politicians who have criticized how the administration has been handling the management of air tankers. Most of them, on the surface anyway, appeared to actually be pushing the administration to improve the safety and efficiency of our fire suppression capabilities, rather than turning it into a partisan issue.

One of the author’s main points is the cancellation of the contract with Aero Union for their eight P-3 air tankers. Unlike the information provided on that web site, the generally accepted reason for the cancellation was that the contract required regular safety inspections which the new management of the company was not performing. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the previous owner had been running the company very well for a long time, but the new team failed to participate in a Continued Airworthiness Program which the USFS felt was critical to ensure the safety of the crews flying those very, very old aircraft. However, Aero Union claims all of the inspections were done and their paperwork was complete. Too many pilots have died in the last 57 years flying air tankers that should have been hanging in museums instead of flying into smokey canyons. The USFS said the new owners of Aero Union were not in compliance with a critical portion of the contract related to safety, so it was cancelled.


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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.