...Large Air Tankers Back At Work

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Meanwhile, the Forest Service wasted little time getting the five heavy tankers it now has back in its arsenal back to work. Within a few days of the P-3 Orions from Aero Union Corp. being given the go-ahead to fly, two of them were used to battle a blaze threatening a telescope in Arizona. The five turboprops will be dispersed throughout the Western U.S., with one going to Alaska, but they will travel where needed to fight fires, said Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Jo Simpson. Other air-tanker contractors are now anxiously awaiting their turns for airworthiness inspections that could allow them to get back into business. DynCorp Technical Services is evaluating the tankers for the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, and Minden Air Corp. of Nevada is among the companies that has asked to be included in the review. "It's something we want to complete as soon as we can," owner Len Parker told The Record-Courier. He said he's sure his two ex-military aircraft will be cleared for takeoff by DynCorp. But a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center says safety, not speed, is the priority for the inspections. "We're in absolutely no rush to get any of (the tankers) back in the air unless they're safe," she said.