Ask Joe: Why are Minden air tankers sitting idle instead of helping to fight fires?
As wildfires continue to burn all around us one of our viewers has a question about some resources that are not being used to fight the fires.
Janice McCauley wrote in on Facebook to ask why the air tankers at the Minden Airport are not being used to fight the fires in Nevada and California? She says they seem to just be sitting there.
Here's what I found out:
There are two tankers sitting at the Minden Airport including a BAE 146 "next generation" tanker jet. The plane has four jet engines and can carry more than three thousand gallons of fire retardant. The U.S. Forest Service has eight of them under contract right now across the country.
That's the good news. The bad news is the tankers were purchased by Minden Air Corporation and the Forest Service signed a contract with Minden Air to use the planes for firefighting but the Forest Service says Minden Air defaulted on that contract in 2014. For whatever the company was never able to meet the requirements of the contract so the planes have been sitting there unused ever since. It's too bad because they can be very effective in fighting fires but all they're doing now is collecting dust.
We did reach out to Minden Air and have not heard back from them so we don't know what the company's status is or if they're still in operation. If anything changes or if they do manage to get those planes up to speed that would be a great follow-up but it doesn't look like anything's going to happen with those jets anytime soon.