After it was first proposed on March 15 by two Colorado state lawmakers, the state continues to pursue the goal of acquiring a fleet of air tankers. Senate Bill 245 introduced by Senators Steve King and Cheri Jahn passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday on a 5-0 vote, and the next step is in the Appropriations Committee. That seven-member committee will decide if they want to fund the concept.
The bill would create a “Colorado Firefighting Air Corps” which if approved and funded would:
Purchase, acquire, lease or contract for the provision of firefighting aircraft, facilities, equipment, and supplies for aerial firefighting, and retrofit, maintain, staff, and support the firefighting aircraft or contract for the provision of those services.
The Cortez Journal interviewed someone whose name will be familiar to those who have been involved in aerial firefighting for a while, Tony Kern, who formerly headed the U.S. Forest Service aviation program. Here is an excerpt from their article:
The federal government has been studying its air tanker problem for a decade, but it isn’t getting more planes in the air, Kern said. And the planes that are in service are old.
Kern thinks federal failures create an opportunity for Colorado to position itself as an international hub for aerial firefighting technology.
“We can fly a smart bomb through Kim Jong-Il’s window, but we’re still throwing slurry down from 1950s technology into the wind over fires when our own citizens are at risk,” he said.
If you have several hours to kill, you can peruse the seven air tanker studies the federal government has commissioned and paid for since 1995. And if those are not enough for you, an eighth one, the AVID study, was completed at the end of 2012. We are waiting with bated breath for it to be released by the USFS.