CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — As fire season heats up, the U.S. Forest Service remains able to use only one of seven large, state-of-the-art air tanker planes it contracted last month to fight wildfires.
The other six planes have yet to be certified, a process that could take as much as two more months under the contract terms, according to U.S Forest Service spokesman Mike Ferris at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
"They could come on sooner," Ferris said Friday. "They just have to go through the steps to get them certified."
The Forest Service announced May 6 it was contracting five companies for the seven "next-generation" air tankers. The Forest Service has awarded the next-generation contracts twice in the past year — the agency did so last year but started the process over after two companies that didn't get contracts filed protests.
One of the protesters was 10 Tanker Air Carrier, which flies two DC-10 passenger jets modified to drop fire retardant. The company won a contract in the latest round to fly one of its planes.