Avweb - GAO Rejects Big Air Tanker Ban

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by iflyforfun, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. iflyforfun

    iflyforfun Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Anyone have any good ideas why forest service would ban the big boys from dropping on fires?
    https://www.avweb.com/avwebflash/news/GAO-Rejects-Big-Air-Tanker-Ban-229908-1.html
    I can come up with a few on my own but they don't hold water (pun intended) even to me. This just baffles me. I'm not one for conspiracies, but this does reek a bit of undue influence. I've spent my life being wrong and learning from it, so why doesn't the Forest Service want DC-10s and 747s dropping 10,000+ gallons on fires?
     
  2. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Cleared for Takeoff

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    Sounds like the forest service feels it can bring in the traditional fleet for less than a quarter million a day.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/worlds-largest-firefighting-aircraft-grounded-by-u-s-govt/

    Some firefighter advocacy groups suggest the Forest Service might be trying to control its budget, causing delays for the plane, which could cost as much as $250,000 a day to operate. The Forest Service says it can't comment on the dispute because Wheeler filed an official protest last month.
     
  3. GRG55

    GRG55 En-Route

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    These things have been around a few years now. Although the 747 or one of the 10s can get on station quickly, I've wondered just how good a low level, low speed drop platform a high speed, high altitude pressurized commercial airliner really makes. And doesn't their size and runway requirements limit the tanker bases they can work out of? Most of the tanker bases I see in my region couldn't accommodate these planes. Compared to say a Herc.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  4. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    so maybe just let it burn down....naturally. o_O
     
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  5. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Pattern Altitude

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    The problem with this idea is that for a very long time fires have been put out ASAP resulting in a disruption in the normal burn. Now there are unnaturally high levels of fuel available. We are definitely in a pickle now.
     
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  6. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    The 747 costs 250,000 a day to operate, if you break this up to 12 hours in a day, it's about $20800/hour. Compare that to a CV-580 at $4500/hour but it only carries 2,000 gallons compared to the 747's 19,000 gallons and the 747 is a bargain.

    I suspect it's the "diva factor" for the 747, that it must operate out of more remote airports, which means setting up another support base and spending money to fly it back and forth. That is annoyance, complexity and could result in a higher cost per gallon delivered depending on how much transit time is required.
     
  7. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    a 747 can transit fairly far in 30-45 minutes. My guess is....this is all political....and someone's pet cow ain't getting fed.
     
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  8. ElPaso Pilot

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    That's assuming that the Forest Service bureaucracy is actually calculating efficiency in their decision.

    I would tend to believe that they have a fixed budget that their administration is trying to work within, and looking at $250K / day, someone ran the math for that platform and and realized they would run out of $$ before the end of the year -- and no one wants to go ask for more.

    Internal decision: if more acres burn with that path, then so be it.
     
  9. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Cleared for Takeoff

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    Or what Sixie said.
     
  10. GRG55

    GRG55 En-Route

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    Fifty years ago there was a lot less development (vacation homes, resorts, etc) in the woods.
    This summer out here in the west the firefighting was to save lives and try to minimize loss of property. Putting out the fires was beyond the available resources in most instances.
     
  11. Norman

    Norman En-Route Gone West

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    That sounds comparable to the operating costs of Air Force One.
     
  12. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route

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    They have to cover all of their overhead flying relatively few hours/yr. Makes for an expensive rental.
     
  13. Van Johnston

    Van Johnston Line Up and Wait

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    When in doubt, find the source doc. http://www.gao.gov/assets/690/688291.pdf
    Reading between the lines, looks to me like one or more of the companies with the smaller planes got the Forest Service to add the provision prohibiting the larger planes. The company with the 747 protested, and the GAO upheld the protest citing lack of evidence from the Forest Service for a good reason for the restriction.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  14. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yep, and the Forest Service through up other silly roadblocks as well. It is clear that they were defending their incumbent contractors against the new kid in town.

    One of my friends is one of the pilots for the GST. He's actually got more hours in that particular airframe than anybody else. While it started as a JAL plane, it spent years as an Evergreen freighter. They can cycle that thing in 30 minutes on the ground. The advantage is that it allows one or two very long line drops where you'd have to make multiple passes with the smaller aircraft (and if you didn't have multiple aircraft or good coordination between the two you had, you wouldn't get as an effective use out of them).

    Here are the billed numbers from one of the articles:
    “Whether they fly or not, if we call them, it’s going to cost a minimum of $165,000 for three days,” Cal Fire Deputy Director Janet Upton said. “Once they fly it will cost $16,500 per flight hour.”

    Pricey, but not quite as bad as mentioned.
     
  15. jonnyjetprop

    jonnyjetprop Line Up and Wait

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    I have former work colleagues flying for 10 Tanker. It seems it's politics and budgets. Does the government pay for steak when ground beef will do? There are arguments for both positions. 10 Tanker has just been working for other governmental organizations.
     
  16. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Pre-takeoff checklist

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    747 and DC-10 recently saved Sonoma County from the massive fires we had. They were able to cycle from Sacramento and be dropping within 30 minutes. We would have lost a lot more than the 8000 buildings we lost in these fires over the two weeks they were burning.

    When you consider the millions and millions of dollars that were burning up each day and the number of people who died, in Sonoma County while these fires were going on somehow the $250,000 cost does not seem significant.

    There's no way the smaller bombers out of Santa Rosa could have fought these fires successfully. At least not without more people killed and many more thousands of buildings destroyed in the meantime.

    I don't know the politics involved but these aircraft can do what the smaller bombers and choppers simply cannot do.
     
  17. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Three weeks ago I watched a 747 cresting the hill near my home at 300 agl, then drop into the valley to dump its load on the fire near Geyserville. While these planes might not have been designed for this, these pilots are unbelievable. I would not have believed what they were doing if I hadn't seen it myself.

    They spread a load at least 1/4 mile long and flat outvstop the raging inferno from continuing on its path. Literally thousands of S.F. north bay residents can thank these aircraft and pilots that they still have a home.

    There is no doubt these aircraft saved Santa Rosa (A city of 175,000) from what could have been total destruction.
     
  18. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Average price fires home in Santa Rosa is $500, 000. We lost 3000 homes in the fire. These aircraft saved thousands of other homes.

    $165,000 for three days is 1/3 the cost of a single home. What is there to discuss???

    This is dirt cheap for what they can do.
     
  19. wanttaja

    wanttaja Pattern Altitude

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    Sounds like paying the upkeep for a whole herd of cattle in case you feel like a burger vs. buying 16 ounces of filet mignon when you're actually hungry.

    Ron Wanttaja
     
  20. tspear

    tspear Line Up and Wait

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    If CA pays for it, I am all for it.
    However this is a Fed issue. If CA is going to join TX, FL, OH and the other states that think issues caused by nature should be paid by the Feds, then the Feds should also take over all snow removal.
    Dealing with fires is just part of the cost of living there.

    Tim

    Sent from my LG-TP260 using Tapatalk
     
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  21. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    Another element is that most of the places where the firefighters are staged are relatively small airports. Having something the size of a 747 complicates the work flow during the ground handling, and can cause operational restrictions on adjacent taxiways/runways due to inadequate separation.

    A couple years ago the Forest Service was talking about soliciting a study for base reassessments for operational safety and design standards to incorporate these things. I don't think the study was ever completed, likely because the ban went into place.
     
  22. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Cleared for Takeoff

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    What Wanttaja said.

    The Forest Service budget is completely unrelated to the price of local private homes in this fire’s path.

    Are the homeowners in CA willing to vote for another tax increase to fund potential federal fire protection using 747s?
     
  23. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route

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    The Air Force put a big fire out with 12 large airplanes (not sure what model) in a fire that was threatening the Air Force Academy. If they can get good drops in the right place, those big tankers are the way to go. Put a line of 12 on the fire and watch it go out! Someone with no ax to grind should take a good look at the cost/benefit of a tanker fire fighting armada. Im inclined to think the planes would pay for themselves. These fires are doing a lot of EXPENSIVE, heartbreaking damage.
     
  24. Lindberg

    Lindberg Pattern Altitude

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    Who pays for it for one. If my tax dollars pay for the plane, do I get a piece of the houses saved?
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
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  25. Doug F

    Doug F Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Well sure! Just the same as you own a piece of your neighbor's home when your local fire department keeps it from burning down after that unfortunate 'fried turkey' event. That's how that works, right?
     
  26. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    Sounds like we believe smaller airplanes can do the same job for less money.

    While the cost per hour is definitely less, how many missions will each fly got the same fire? What's the total cost per fire?
     
  27. ElPaso Pilot

    ElPaso Pilot Cleared for Takeoff

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    I’m not sure that’s the case.

    I would imagine that the Forest Service has a fixed budget to spend, and paying for a 747 and a 10 to fight fires would set a precident to use them on all/many fires, which would likely deplete the budget before year end.

    Effectiveness or efficiency may not have been the major factor here. If the bureaucracy rewards behavior based on adherence to budget more so than putting out all fire as are rapidly as possible and minimizing property damage, then individuals are likely to maximize their personal career reward system and not blow the budget.
     
  28. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route

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    All of which is fine. You just write the op-spec's where the big aircraft are not allowed to participate where their footprint doesn't work. Otherwise, there's no reason to exclude them.
     
  29. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route

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    If the goal is to save houses, perhaps the insurance underwriters should fund the efforts.
     
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  30. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Underwriters don’t care, they just raise premiums.
     
  31. kyleb

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    Which is fine. When someone chooses to live in a high risk area (fire, flood, quake, etc.), they ought to pay for that choice. Insurance is part of the cost of living in their desired location.
     
  32. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Have you heard the wailing of folks about protection from wildland fires? Some of it makes sense and some doesn’t. Fire risk can be mitigated through various measures. When the general public benefits from public land forest who should pay for its care? Who should be responsible when fire moves from public to private land?

    When I lived up in the hills we had a few fires in the area. Firefighters would assess homes and red tag them if the firemen considered the home indefensible. Some homeowners would complain to friends in media and sometimes the firemen ended up defending their decisions. It was ridiculous. Some of my neighbors and I spent a lot of time limbing trees and removing dead wood. If you don’t do your part the firefighters can’t do theirs.
     
  33. kyleb

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    All locations have their downsides. If they are known risks, it is the prospective owner's option to buy there or look elsewhere. But they shouldn't expect others to subsidize their chosen lifestyle.

    Big brush, I know...
     
  34. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    That thought goes both ways. Why should a hill dweller pay to fight inner city gang violence? Why should childless people pay for public schools? Why should healthy, accident free people pay for public EMS? Where and how should lines be drawn?
     
  35. tspear

    tspear Line Up and Wait

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    The fire budget in that case is local. When I lived in TN, you had a choice to pay for fire protection or not. In New England, no choice is given, it is included in your taxes.
    Fire protection is a local issue, feds should not be involved.

    These should largely be local issues, not national. Where society overall has an interest in its own longevity, the feds could/should incentivize behavior which provides for the long term benefits of the society. e.g. Education is done this way.

    Tim
     
  36. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I think you missed the point which is what is fair. It’s not about looking at the individual issue but taking a balanced position on all. I’m not claiming that this is done. Self interest seems to be the rule rather than the exception.
     
  37. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    The opspecs maybe could cover the flight operations, but not the airports'. They need to meet airport design standards. The pavement strength is probably inadequate. So many moving parts, you can't hand wave it away so simply.
     
  38. kyleb

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    The airport requirements would be part of the opspec's. Doesn't seem that hard to me.
     
  39. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    There are 60+ airports used as bases. That's what the study would have involved. Hard? No. Expensive? Yes.
     
  40. Shepherd

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    Somebody didn't get bribed.