It is rare that I agree with George Ochenski but the recent (Aug. 31) column about the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation helicopters not being able to be used on U.S. Forest Service lands is one where we agree.
I retired in 2003 from the Forest Service, where I served as the Regional Aviation Officer for Region 1. Occasionally bad decisions get daylighted only when situations get bad. This position by the Forest Service only serves to show that the aviation decision-makers in Region 1 think they know better than the Federal Aviation Administration.
The question needs to be asked: Has the FAA certified the helicopters to carry the water loads that the state DNRC is asking them to perform? If the answer is yes, then the Forest Service needs to rethink the decision to not use these helicopters on national forest lands.
Forest Service aviation has made another bad decision that will daylight in October. The Forest Service has decided to retire the Turbine DC-3 in October. This aircraft has the best performance capability of any Smokejumper aircraft currently in use and they have no existing replacement aircraft in hand that comes close to providing the same capability. This decision is just as arbitrary as the helicopter decision described above.
The best explanation I have been able to get as to “why” is that it is hard to manage an aviation program with only one aircraft of that type. My response was that I am OK with the Forest Service having to work hard to spend our tax money smartly.
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I hope our governor and congressional delegation will look at both these situations and help bring some common sense to the table. This current bad fire situation requires us to work smarter and sometimes harder.
retired Regional Aviation Officer,
U.S. Forest Service,