GAO Rejects Big Air Tanker Ban

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The U.S. Forest Service clearly doesn’t want to use the so-called “super tanker” firefighting aircraft that have emerged in the last decade but the Government Accountability Office says it has to come up with better reasons for barring them from the battle. Last May, the Forest Service limited the size of retardant tanks on aircraft it leases for firefighting to between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons. According to Wildfire Today, it was the first time such restrictions had been put in place and it barred so-called Very Large Air Tankers from being included on the Forest Service’s "call-when-needed" list of aviation assets. Global Super Tanker, which operates a converted Boeing 747 with a 19,200-gallon tank, challenged the new rule with moral support from 10 Tanker Air Carrier, which has three DC-10 tankers (11,600 gallons).

The GAO said the Forest Service “failed to provide reasonable justifications for the challenged specification, such that we are unable to conclude that the challenged specification is reasonably necessary for the agency to meet its needs.”  The GAO said the Forest Service’s defense of the tank restriction essentially didn’t make any sense and the documentation it provided didn’t support the unprecedented limits. The DC-10s and 747 did get some work in the horrific 2017 fire season but they were hired by states outside of the Forest Service contracts. The GAO recommended the Forest Service reimburse Global Super Tanker for the costs incurred in challenging its decision.

Comments (3)

I don't understand this report. Why do they not want to use these aircraft? The story doesn't say.

Posted by: Ken Keen | November 13, 2017 4:40 PM    Report this comment

I work in communications and logistics supporting several public safety agencies. I have responded to numerous wildland fires over many years. I have witnessed these large aircraft make their drops on the fire lines. They are not only very cost effective but they also lay down fire retardant in one run than the work of several smaller aircraft. Not only are they cost effective but they also reduce the safety risks of so many planes covering the same areas. The introduction of aircraft as another firefighting tool was the greatest inovation to a very diffacult task. Countless lives, property and structures have been saved by the introduction of aircraft. Restricting the larger super tankers would be a step backwards in my opinon. This decision is typical of some of the policy changes of the U.S.F.S. They remind me of the F.A.A. If something "ain't broke...don't try to fix it."

Posted by: John Bunnell | November 14, 2017 7:44 AM    Report this comment

This article is so hard to read. I ran it through the Hemmingway writing tool and almost every part of the article got a red flag. I suggest you guys start using the tool to make sure your articles make sense before publishing them.

Posted by: S P | November 16, 2017 12:42 AM    Report this comment

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