Schiff, lawmakers want Forest Service to reuse Air Force cargo planes to fight wildfires

With the Air Force announcing it no longer needs its fleet of C-27J cargo planes, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), today joined other members of Congress in introducing a new bill to transfer 14 planes to the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires.

The bill, the Wildfire Suppression Aircraft Act of 2012, is a companion bill to a Senate measure introduced by  Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla).

Since the 2009 Station fire scorched 160,000 acres on the edge of the San Gabriel Mountains, Schiff has pressed the U.S. Forest Service to develop night flying capabilities. While he is still seeking answers as to the slow initial response to the Station fire, Schiff said, he also is looking for proactive steps that the Forest Service can take to modernize equipment and plans for firefighting.

“The Forest Service should be examining any and all ways to improve their approach to fighting wildfires, including updating and replacing their aging fleet of airplanes,” Schiff said in a statement.

 The C-27J, or Spartan, is a medium-sized military transport plane made by Italian aerospace firm Alenia Aeronautica and used by the U.S. military to move cargo.

With the Air Force deciding it no longer will use the C-27J, the existing fleet of 12 planes plus nine more that have already been ordered will be evaluated for use in other defense operations. If the Department of Defense declares them to be surplus, the planes will become available for other agencies’ use.

Schiff, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and about a dozen other California legislators from both sides of the aisle are co-sponsors of the bill by Ken Calvert (R-Corona).

--Daniel Siegal, Times Community News

Twitter: @ValleySunDan


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