Fire Politics Vs. Fire Safety?...

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New Law Might Put Tankers In The Air...

Despite two reports saying that large air tankers may be unsafe to fly, federal and state representatives are mounting pressure on the FAA to get 33 grounded heavy fire-bomber aircraft in the air in time for the forest fire season. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Thursday he and other members of the House Resources Committee are meeting with the FAA on Tuesday to ask the agency to do an "emergency review" of the planes. "I think you saw bipartisan support to get these tankers flying," Walden told the Bend Bulletin. That may mean quickly passing legislation to give the FAA the authority to certify the highly modified aircraft, many of them decades-old ex-military planes. The FAA currently defines many of the tankers as "public-use" aircraft and does not directly oversee their airworthiness in their firefighting role. Instead, that responsibility has been shifted to the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management as well as the contractors who supply the planes. The aircraft owners insist the planes are thoroughly maintained and inspected but the NTSB says service records are unavailable for many of the ex-military aircraft and information is lacking on the effects of the unusual loads put on the aircraft in firefighting use.