Forest Service cuts air tankers by one-third

The agency also intends to abandon the project to convert Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft into air tankers

Fire Aviation broke major stories today. Below are excerpts:

The number of air tankers is cut for this fiscal year

The U.S. Forest Service is cutting the number of large air tankers on exclusive use (EU) contracts this year from 20 to 13.

air tankers number each year wildfire

U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Babete Anderson said budget issues are affecting the availability of ground and air-based firefighting resources:

The Forest Service is working to responsibly allocate ever tighter financial resources in the most responsible manner. Over the past few decades, wildfire suppression costs have increased as fire seasons have grown longer, and the frequency, size and severity of wildfires has increased. This means less funds available for our crucial restorative work on your National Forest System lands to prevent large fires.

Fewer Type 1 helicopters this fiscal year

Type 1 helicopters on exclusive use contracts have already been cut from 34 to 28. These are the largest firefighting helicopters, holding 700 to 2,800 gallons.

Forest Service to abandon the HC-130H conversion program

The U.S. Forest Service intends to abandon the program that it has been working on since 2013 to convert seven HC-130H Coast Guard aircraft into air tankers for fighting wildfires.

This is the last year the agency will support the HC-130H program. After four years none of the seven aircraft have completed the entire maintenance and conversion process.

HC-130H 1709 Jeanie Menze
One of the Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft, #1719, being transferred to the USFS; shown with Jeanine Menze several years ago–1st USCG African American female aviator. She earned her wings June 24, 2005.

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. Google+

13 thoughts on “Forest Service cuts air tankers by one-third”

  1. Are they really cutting aircraft from NG2.0, or just referring to the end of the legacy contract? I believe Neptune had 6 line items last year, perhaps another company had one. Is that what they are really referring to?

    1. As the article says, they have removed the P2V’s from EU contracts, but have not replaced them with the NG tankers now in CWN status. I don’t think many anticipated a net decrease in heavy tanker numbers when the P2V’s were retired.

      1. The CWN numbers will go up. Given the drought in California this/last year, fire activity will sure to be heavy.

    2. In 2017 Neptune had 11 air tankers on EU contracts, 7 BAe-146’s and and 4 P2v’s. This year Neptune has 4 BAe’s on EU and no P2V’s. One of the Neptune BAe’s that was cut was on a “legacy” EU contract like the P2V’s; the other two BAe’s that were cut were on a “next generation” EU contract.

  2. Great. Here we go again. The federal fire aviation never ending political bouncing ball. Isn’t the USA WUI challenges growing? Silly me

  3. I don’t have a problem with cutting the C-130H program. First off, I thought it looked like a money pit from the beginning. All those “free” aircraft weren’t exactly “free”. Secondly, the USFS does not need to be in the air tanker business. I feel that is better left to the contractors.
    I do have a problem with cutting the EU numbers. All that means is a lot more CWN aircraft that will cost a lot more. But then that doesn’t count, because their costs don’t come out the budget.

  4. So we taxpayers and big business all got impressive tax cuts. Surprise… the guvmint services get cut too. There ain’t no free lunch, except MRE’s on the fireline.

      1. oops, old fingers on a new phone.

        I meant that lobbyists and government contract companies with politician stakeholders never seem to do poorly…

        Lets have Orrin Hatch or Jeff Wyden own shares (or have a family member on the board) of a publicly traded airtanker company and I bet we’d have 100 on EU.

        Remember Jackson, WY in 2002 or 2001 when Cheney’s ranch was threatened- it was PL4 or 5 and there was a gaggle of Engine, tankers, and shot crews milling around Jackson Hole’s downtown because there was nothing to do. Cheney even paid the caterers to stand down one night and brought his own circus in to ‘show appreciation’.

        Budget cuts only hurt the un connected.

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