GAO Rejects Big Air Tanker Ban


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.