Besides the Senate Appropriations Committee’s concerns about adequate plans to replace the U.S. Forest Service’s aircraft resources, the General Accounting Office also reported concerns about the plans.

While neither group questions the need to replace and expand the Forest Service’s firefighting aircraft, they both recommend that the agency improve and revise its plans for accomplishing this effort.

In an Aug. 20 report, the GAO made three recommendations:

  1. Expand efforts to collect information on aircraft performance and effectiveness to include all types of firefighting aircraft in the federal fleet;
  2. Enhance collaboration between the agencies and with stakeholders in the fire aviation community to help ensure that agency efforts to identify the number and type of firefighting aircraft they need reflect the input of all stakeholders in the fire aviation community; and
  3. Subsequent to the completion of the first two recommendations, update the agencies’ strategy documents for providing a national firefighting aircraft fleet to include analysis based on information on aircraft performance and effectiveness, and to reflect input from stakeholders throughout the fire aviation community.

The Forest Service defended its involvement of partners in the planning process, but did state, “We know we have more work to do on collaboration, and we plan to do so.”

Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell also added that the agency is investigating the use of the C-27J — a medium-sized aircraft — to complement its large airtanker fleet.