With a wildfires raging in parts of Colorado, Utah and Arizona, President Obama on Tuesday gave the OK for the Forest Service to expand its fleet of aging air tankers and speed up work on developing the next generation fleet.
The legislation, which was pushed by Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden among other Western lawmakers, will allow the Forest Service to immediately add seven more air tankers to the nation’s fleet which has dwindled to 17 planes, largely because of safety concerns about the aging fleet of distinctive orange and white tankers, many of which date back to WWII when the planes were developed as submarine hunters. The stalwart fleet, however, has been hampered by mechanical problems and safety concerns. The most recent fatal crash involving one ofthe P2V tankers occurred earlier this month in Utah when the plane crashed into a mountain near a wildfire in southern Utah. Both pilots died in the accident.