Firefighting Fleet Gets A Boost...

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More Helicopters, Single-Engine Tankers Coming...

With the fire season already under way in the Western states (and 33 heavy water bombers grounded), the U.S. Forest Service last Wednesday said it is "reconfiguring" its firefighting fleet. The agency will contract with private companies for 139 additional aircraft, in an effort to make up for the 33 aging air tankers whose contracts were canceled last month after the NTSB raised safety concerns. The $66 million in new contracts will pay for up to 46 single-engine airtankers, 26 heavy helicopters, 45 medium helicopters and two Canadair CL 215 water bombers. In addition, eight U.S. military C-130 aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System are available. "We are committed to using available resources to stop fires before they became unmanageable," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. "These additional aircraft will enable fire managers to fully maintain their ability to stop nearly 99 percent of all fires on initial attack."