Background Checks Ground Tanker Pilots...

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Eight Pilots Awaiting A Reason Why

A year ago, the U.S. Forest Service decided most of its heavy air tankers were unfit to fly, not because they were demonstrated to be unsafe but because there was some circumstantial evidence they might be. Now, it seems some of the pilots who fly the big planes are suffering the same fate. According to Wildfire News up to eight pilots have been told they are not allowed to go near the airplanes because of "issues" in background checks that were initiated this year. According to the magazine, the pilots, some with military experience, are not being told what flags were raised on their checks and they must wait for the government to complete the reviews before they find out. "It's pretty amazing they can pull us off the line on an assumption," Steven Maxwell, one of the grounded pilots, told Wildfire News. "The background check isn't even completed." Wildfire News editor Kelly Andersson told AVweb that repeated calls to numerous USFS officials were not returned. The groundings stemmed from a new requirement to make heavy tanker pilots fill out Form 85P, or Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions, and submit it to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The OPM screens personnel for most federal departments and normally assesses whether they can be trusted with classified and national security-related information. Only the contracted heavy tanker pilots were subject to the screening. Helicopter pilots and Bureau of Land Management pilots were not. The groundings are affecting crew scheduling as the air tanker fleet gears up for its busy season.