Colorado Senate passes modified air tanker bill

Tim Holmes P2V
The second place entry in our contest to Photoshop an advertisement onto an air tanker. A Colorado state Senator suggested that ads on firefighting aircraft could generate revenue for the state. This image shows the Colorado Rockies logo on a P2V, by Tim Holmes.

On Friday the Colorado Senate unanimously passed a revised version of SB14-164, completing another step towards the state being able to issue contracts for firefighting aircraft. If the House passes the same version of the bill, this year there would be up to three helicopters fighting wildland fires in the state and in 2015 they could add up to four large air tankers to the fleet.

This version of the bill is very different from the one that was first introduced, which listed numerous specific requirements for the types and capabilities of the aircraft, including night flying air tankers, which would have been the first on the planet Earth.

Colorado SB14-164, April 25, 2014

The configuration of the bill allows and actually states, that the legislators intend for the subject matter experts that will work for the Colorado Firefighting Air Corp (CFAC) to make the decisions about the specifications of the aircraft. The legislation when it was introduced took many of those decisions out of the hands of the fire aviation specialists. Instead, they were made by politicians who had no applicable expertise. The current version passed by the Senate requires that the CFAC adhere as nearly as possible to the recommendations as presented in the Special report: Colorado firefighting Air Corp, report to the Governor and General Assembly on strategies to enhance the state’s aerial firefighting capabilities, which was released March 28, 2014.

The bill allows the CFAC to use 19.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, or employees, in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014.  A previously passed bill, “FY 2014-15 Long Bill”, appropriated $19.67 million for the Division of Fire Prevention and Control to acquire aircraft.

The legislation also creates a “center of excellence for advanced technology aerial firefighting”, to…:

  • Serve as a laboratory to evaluate the “three fundamental contributing factors to successful aerial firefighting: effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability”.
  • Conduct research to evaluate new technology in a variety of settings, such as initial attack, night operations, and operations in wildland-urban interface areas.
  • Produce data and documentation on science and technology relevant to aerial firefighting.

Since the Senate has passed the bill, it is now up to the House, where it was introduced April 25 and referred to the Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee.

10 thoughts on “Colorado Senate passes modified air tanker bill”

  1. Colorado needs to sit down with CAL FIRE and get the straight scoop on how to plan and operate aerial fire fighting assets.

  2. I just hope they aren’t playing this by ear and have some responsible people in charge, FTA-“The legislation also creates a “center of excellence for advanced technology aerial firefighting”. They either will be brilliant or recreate the Wheel.
    I feel there will be a learning curve…

  3. A centre of excellence for Colorado aerial firefighting would be great if it also challenges many of the current aerial firefighting pardigms. Using alternate technologies other than long term slurry out of large airtankers and then using them for direct attack, very early intial attack with large airtankers, and learning from centres of excellence around the world sucha s France, Australia and Calfire.

  4. Centre of Excellence, it doesn’t seem that the topic is wildland fire fighting? When I see type three helicopters as part of the initial air fleet I wonder what is really going on, personal transports? Certainly not fire fighting beyond helimoping stump holes. Cal Fire does not operate type three helicopters. If they need one they rent it for a particular mission (CWN).

  5. Fine to have a “Centre of Excellence”

    BUT the airtanker industry has been around for 60+ years and the naviation world has been around for about 111 years now.

    There are a number of airframes out there…….MOST airframes that were not built for the intended purpose and a FEW with intended purpose.

    Biggest problem: Politicians and MOST lanad management agencies with mostly fire specific backgrounds and with “aviation management” backgrounds.

    IT is different managing as opposing to building up a program with STRATEGIC GOALS and FUNDING established and contract operations that are aviation specific and not “on the fly forestry” requirements.

    Granted the checks and balances systems has somewhat worked in the LMA’s….it is also been its deteriment to the current status of the Large Airtanker industry…….one sided……the LMA’s have said “they have worked with industry.”

    In reality,that is questionable. Working by contract and actually WORKING with industry is a misnomer.

    A “centre of excellence” without TRUE aviation industry and input is only going to push this can down the road.

    INDUSTRY such as the previous operators and today’s newer turbofan and jet aircraft operators have bee the TRUE “centre of excellence.”

    They know the RISK of both aviation and industry standards that the LMA’s are just starting to realize in the last few years as evidenced in the real world and here on this website and other aviation websites……..although the aviation industry does not put this fully on their radar because of other aviation committments that need to generate dinero to put aircraft into the air.

    Those things the LMA “aviation world” simply have tol learn……….no strategic goals, no plans on how fund and dreamin about rappell ship and night flyin helicopters when one does not have an ESTABLISHED plan and getting the basics running from ZERO hardly seems realistic.

    How are those “centres of excellence” going to solve those problems from a zero to hero program? Simply can not be done without heavier aviation representation involved with those LMA / EMA and politicians equally

    But at age 55 I can still dream for perfection….with the full realization that it “ain’t” going to happen seein the last 30+ YEARS of what has been happening!!

  6. Taking the opposite view of the glass-half-empty opinions, it is very possible that a Center for Excellence actually could produce some valuable results. It has not been done before and if that provision of the bill remains intact, I will commend Colorado for taking a important step to improve fire aviation.

    It is easy to take pot shots at people who actually take bold actions to improve the status quo, even though you are more likely to avoid criticism if you remain in the shadows and keep doing the same thing but expecting different results.

    General Eric Shinseki, former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, said:

    If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.

  7. I have not seen a solicitation for helicopters nor have I seen a final decision on what helicopters they intend to utilize but I hope they are not intending to hire Type III lights. Given the limited number of aircraft they can hire and the meager budget I sure hope they are looking at Type II’s
    It could be a tough job to find Type II helicopters at this time of year. My guess is we might see a few if not all come from Canada.
    20 Million sounds like a large budget but keep in mind this will be a State Government program so rest assured the bulk of the funds will be for overhead and supervision.

  8. I heard there are 29 Bambi Buckets already in Colorado. Between Ft. Carson and the Guard.

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