An Air National Guard base in Nevada has proposed replacing its 25-year-old fleet of big turboprop planes that can carry troops or cargo with newer aircraft that are better for their firefighting capabilities.
“They have a lot of hours on them and we have a difficult time coming up with maintenance parts at times in the supply chain,” said 152nd Airlift Wing Commander Col. Jacob Hammons.
Multiple senators have sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett requesting the planes to help firefighting efforts throughout the western U.S.
The newer aircraft model provides crews with better performance and safety, Hammons said.
“You’re low to the ground, you’re at heavy weight and you’re at slow air speeds, all in a constrained environment where there is fire present,” Hammons said. “Fighting fires is one of the most dangerous things that we do with these aircraft and with our aircrews. For me, as a commander, it’s all about increasing that safety margin.”
Congress approved funding for fleet replacements at two or three different air bases in its last spending bill, officials said. The Air Force expects to finalize which of the 13 air bases under consideration will receive new aircraft.