Of particular interest at this time, when forest fires rage in the West, is the sad story of the depletion of the U.S. water bomber fleet. (h/t JWR and Michelle Malkin) In August 2011, the Obama administration had canceled a contract with Aero Union for seven ex-Navy P-3 Orions converted to firefighting duties. That left the Forest Service with only eleven aircraft — even as forest fires were raging throughout the West, destroying property and killing people. At issue, apparently, was the government’s disapproval of Aero Union’s 15-year maintenance plan, even though the planes were passing their annual inspections. Soon afterward, Aero Union shut down, throwing 60 people out of work.
Even as huge forest fires rage now, as this one in Colorado, the Forest Service’s firefighting ability, with only nine aircraft on the flight line (down from 44 just eight years ago), remains dangerously impaired.
The government ultimately intends to replace Aero Union’s aircraft with Canadian-built CV-580s, which are much smaller than the Orion and reportedly need more maintenance.
Even though Aero Union is now out of business, Britt Gourley, its CEO, reached out to his former employees, who are willing to return to work and do what they can to help. They can reportedly have four aircraft ready to fly in 48 hours. I wonder if the government will take them up on their offer.
It strikes me that if the Federal government had ever been serious about finding shovel-ready projects for its pork-for-friends-of-Obama
stimulus payola, a few million — mere chump change in the overall scheme of things — shoved in Aero Union’s direction would have gone a very long way toward maintaining the Forest Service’s readiness to fight forest fires. The “sufficient-bang-for-the-buck” test would have been satisfied many times over.
This is a very pedestrian thing, and so it may have remained beneath the notice of the exalted Obama “brain trust.” Or maybe the folks at Aero Union (likely a lot of ex-Navy guys) voted for McCain. Or maybe the government bureaucracy is now so huge that, the good will and hard work of the thousands of meritorious government workers notwithstanding, mere size and complexity prevents it from making good decisions, ever. Whatever the reason, the melancholy fact is that the water bomber fleet is now tiny, while the danger of forest fires grows.
Parenthetically, if Michelle Obama really wants to tackle obesity, government bureaucracy would be a good place to start. But that’s another story.