by Michael Lowrey
Seems the GAO has a new report out calling for the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to work together to develop a new plan to increase the number of air tankers available to fight forest fires. It’s a real issue, as there are currently only nine private-operated air tankers that operate under contract to the Forest Service. What happens when there aren’t enough air tankers available? Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130s get called in. And, of course, Charlotte is the home of one of the four C-130 units trained to fight forest fires.
Not everyone agrees that the approach the GAO recommends is the way to go. As KJZZ-FM reports:
Tony Kern is the former National Aviation Director of the Forest Service. He said that federal oversight of airtankers is costly, timely and too big a job for the agencies.
“I think the state ought to look at requesting federal funding to develop their own state fleet of airtankers,” Kern said. “I think the timeline for a federal fleet test acquisition, you’re looking at a decade, I think the states are much more nimble.”