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Feds Drop Air Tanker Contracts

Firefighters in the drought-parched West could have an even tougher job this summer.

The government is ending its contract for 33 large air tankers due to questions over their airworthiness.

The action follows last month´s National Transportation and Safety Board report on three previous tanker accidents. The tankers´ average age is 48 and some are more than 60.

The report says no effective mechanism exists to ensure the airworthiness of the planes. They´re operated by private companies under contract to the Interior and Agriculture Departments.

Fire officials say they´ll contract for more large helicopters, helitankers and single engine air tankers, and will sometimes use tankers maintained by reserve and National Guard units.