The Forest Service and the Department of the Interior Monday terminated contracts with the owners of 33 aging firefighting aircraft, saying their airworthiness can no longer be assured.
The surprise decision comes in the wake of three crashes involving such older aircraft between 1994 and 2002. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said the aircraft -- some of them more than 60 years old -- an "unacceptable risk" to those who fly them, firefighters on the ground and people who live in areas threatened by wildfires.
The aging planes include the DC-4, DC-7 and P-3.
The Forest Service had grounded tankers in 2002, after two firefighting aircraft went down while on the job in California and Colorado. In both cases, wings folded on the aircraft as they were in flight.
Most of the aircraft suspended two years ago were reinstated to flying status after they were inspected by the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque (NM). But last month, the NTSB reported that maintenance and inspection programs were not adequate.
Boeing Flown: 701,702,703;717;720;721,722;731,732,733,734,735,737,738,739;741,742,743,744,747SP;752,753;762,763;772,773.