Walden reports progress in air-tanker discussion

WASHINGTON – Talks between the Federal Aviation Administration), the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service aimed at designing a system to certify the airworthiness of fire tankers are progressing well, according to U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.

The agencies met Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

“The FAA has responded quickly to our call to help the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management develop the criteria needed for contractors to prove the airworthiness of their tankers,” said Walden. “That’s an important step forward in the effort to get these tankers certified to fight fires this summer. We need to make sure that these aircraft are safe to fly in a firefighting mission, but we need to get the certification process done as soon as possible if we’re going to get any of these tankers back in use this fire season.”

The FAA agreed to put together a letter explaining the criteria with which the companies must comply to be certificated for fire fighting. This list of criteria will go to the companies and they will have to compile and submit their responses to the Forest Service and the BLM.

The agencies will work with the FAA to review the submissions to determine who qualifies. The criteria will cover the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations following an investigation of the crashes of tankers in 2002. They hope to have the criteria developed by June 3rd when Chairman Walden and Chairman John Mica (R-FL) have scheduled another meeting with the various agencies.

Congressman Walden represents the Second Congressional District of Oregon, which includes 20 counties in southern, central and eastern Oregon. He is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce as well as the Committee on Resources.