20 Apr 2011, 9:45am
Latest Fire News
by admin

Aerial firefighting company grounds its fleet of 8 planes

By Celinda Emison, Abilene Reporter-News, April 19, 2011 [here]

Aero Union, the aerial firefighting company that has been working missions in the area, grounded its planes voluntarily because of a dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Forest Service over safety inspections.

Company officials said Aero Union’s fleet of eight air tankers, three of which are in Abilene, were grounded because of issues with the company’s certification, calling the dispute a “paperwork issue.”

“During a recent audit of Aero Union Corp.’s repair station, FAA inspectors raised concerns about whether certain required safety inspections had been performed on some of the company’s aircraft,” said Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the FAA in Fort Worth. “Aero Union voluntarily removed its airplanes from service pending a resolution of the issue. We are working on a solution with Aero Union that would allow the company to safely return its planes to service in a timely manner.”

Aero Union officials are concerned over the matter.

“Our deepest sympathy goes out to the people of Texas,” said Britt Gourley, CEO of Aero Union based in California. “Our pilots and mechanics are literally sick about this situation as they take firefighting very seriously.”

On Tuesday, Aero Union officials held emergency meetings with the U.S. Forest Service and the FAA in Washington and Los Angeles, urging the agencies to grant a variance to allow the planes to go up and fight the fires.

The planes were grounded on April 13, after flying fire eradication missions over the Swenson Fire in Stonewall and Kent counties that has burned more than 122,000 acres.

“Safety is not an issue,” Gourley said, adding that the company’s independent FAA representative has “represented that conclusion to the FAA.”

Aero Union has a five-year firefighting contract from the federal government that was approved in 2008. …

“We prefer to fight fires, not bureaucracies,” Gourley said. “We hope to be back flying soon.” … [more]



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