I am in full rant mode right now.
On Monday we were told by the media that two C-130s had arrived to fight the fires raging in Southern California, but by Tuesday I hadn’t seen or heard that they were being used. All of the news sources had scads of live coverage showing tiny airplanes dropping red fire retardant in the hills, and helicopters and that strange yellow airplane dumping water on the fires, but nothing larger, nothing the size of the C-130s. I figured it was a crewing problem, but why hadn’t they sent a crew and an extra pilot when they sent the plane? How hard is that to figure out?
Today it was announced that we had gotten 6 of these planes, and that they arrived on Tuesday, but I still didn’t see them in the air. The same small planes and helicopters were flying over the fires, in the areas where it wasn’t too dangerous to fly, but no bigger planes.
Granted, there were some issues between the forestry service and the marines that kept their copters grounded for a while, but they worked things out. There was a claim made that by the time the red tape was sorted out it was too dangerous to fly them and I know that there was a point when the planes were directed away from the fires in the Lake Arrowhead area, but I kept seeing those tiny airplanes and helicopters working like mad over the other fires.
The following excerpt from MSNBC answers my questions regarding the C-130s… sort of. I’ve seen hours of news coverage yesterday and today. I have still not seen one single frame of footage of the C-130s flying over the fires.
An excerpt from the above site.
“…….‘Design difficulties’ plague upgrades
The C-130 saga is a much different story.
More than a decade ago, Congress ordered replacement of the aging removable tanks for the military planes because of safety concerns and worries that they wouldn’t fit with new-model aircraft. California’s firefighting C-130 unit is one of four the Pentagon has positioned across the country to respond to fire disasters.
New tanks were designed, but they failed to fit into the latest C-130s. Designers were ordered back to the drawing board. Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly said Congress was assured the new tanks would be ready by 2003.
Four years later, the U.S. Forest Service and Air Force have yet to approve the revised design. Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Paula Kurtz said “technical and design difficulties” have delayed the program.
Rohrabacher and Gallegly are angered by the delay, which has left no C-130s capable of fighting fires on the West Coast. The last of the older-model C-130s with an original tank was retired by the California National Guard last year.
“It’s an absolute tragedy, an unacceptable tragedy,” Gallegly said.
The situation meant that rather than deploying C-130s from inside the state, Schwarzenegger was forced to ask Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to call in the six remaining older C-130s from other states as far away as North Carolina.
None of them began fighting the fires until Wednesday afternoon.
Big difference in aircraft’s ability
In the meantime, the state relied mostly on smaller retardant tankers that carry about a third of the C-130’s 3,000-gallon capacity.
Gallegly said such firepower was sorely needed earlier.
“I have actually flown in one and pressed the button,” he said. “I know what they can do.”