Journalism students write about air tankers

A P2V air tanker being reloaded at Rapid City
A P2V air tanker being reloaded at Rapid City
A P2V air tanker reloads at Rapid City while working on the Myrtle fire, July 21, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert

Four students studying journalism at Washington State University have written an article that summarizes the state of the federal air tanker program. It is interesting in that it quotes several knowledgeable people who have close ties to management of the fleet, including Jim Hall, former Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Ron Hanks, head of aviation safety with the U.S. Forest Service. They also interviewed Dick Mangan, past president of the International Association of Wildland Fire.

Mr. Hall, who chaired the 2002 Blue Ribbon Panel following the crashes of two air tankers that killed five aviators that year, continues to lament the current state of the air tanker program, much as he did earlier this summer.

Mr. Hanks apparently told the student reporters:

Right now, we have 17 aircraft, and that includes the Canadian aircraft that we have borrowed.

That puts an extremely favorable spin on the fact that as the fire season ends there are nine large air tankers on exclusive use contracts, plus two BAe-146s that were put on temporarily as “additional equipment” on Neptune’s contract. The Canadian air tankers and lead planes that Mr. Hanks referred to were borrowed for a month or so last summer. In 2002 we had 44 large air tankers.

Here is a video that illustrates the student’s story;

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One thought on “Journalism students write about air tankers”

  1. What folks will have to remember here, even after reading this piece, and re reviewing the 2002 BRP report………that the “new jet technolgy” aircraft do not or are not purpose built aircraft for this job.

    Believing that point A to point B jet aircraft are somewhat better or are going to be the answer…..well let’s look at it this way……40 yrs from now without proper funding either by Congressional or LMA recognition…..we will be in the same boat we are now.

    The 2002 BRP was only a start and the fact that 10 yrs has gone by and the full realization has been ,,,,,,,,that industry has invested its own money into technology that will suffice for the next 20 yrs (provided the airframes last due to non standard jet aircraft in operating environments that jet aircraft are not normally used to).

    The BRP did not exactly set into motion true cost analysis of aircraft operation……ask the airlines why they shed aircraft and personnel.

    The article is good positive journalism…but there has been more than enough press the last 10 yrs that only a small contingent of Congressional support have recognized this important issue. Industry has made a move. Making new contract reqs and adding layers of LMA managers have not really moved this forward. Again in the aviation industry, money talks and the “new” jets are going to cost…….get ready for it. Jets to props…..guess what?

    Hey, Merry Christmas!!!!

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