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Forest Service Grounds Air Fleet

The Forest Service permanently grounded eleven airtankers today and temporarily grounded other planes used to fight wildfires.

The action comes after an expert panel the aerial firefighting program is unsafe and plagued with problems.

Two planes and a helicopter crashed this summer, including an airtanker that went down in Walker, California, killing all three men on board.

The grounded tankers all are C-130-A or P-B-4-Y-2 models used under contract with private companies. They represent a quarter of the fleet and delivered about ten percent of the water and foam dropped on wildfires.

Nineteen government-owned P-58 lead planes and four Sherpa

smokejumper aircraft were grounded pending evaluation of safety issues identified in the experts´ report.

Another 33 airtankers must pass a rigorous inspection and follow a new maintenance program before they are returned to duty. Those tankers are government owned or leased or have structural differences from the grounded planes.