Since 1994, incidents involving aging U.S. Forest Service firefighting planes have killed 36 crewmen. Many of the aircraft the Forest Service uses to drop water and retardant on wildfires were built during the Eisenhower administration. Wings have broken off mid-flight. Engines have caught fire. Pilots have made mistakes, crashing into other planes or flying into inclement weather.
In addition to the challenges of keeping half-century-old aircraft flight-ready, these planes and their crews take an extra beating from the turbulence, updrafts and hot ash they encounter on firefighting missions. Critics say the outdated air fleet is dangerous, inadequate and no longer capable of helping to contain fires when they burn out of control.
The map below shows 14 deadly incidents, which resulted in 36 deaths, dating to 1994. Click on the planes to see larger images of the U.S. Forest Service fleet.
|Jul. 1, 2012||White Draw fire, Black Hills, S.D.||4||MAFFS-equipped C-130||1994||U. S. Air Force|
|Jun. 3, 2012||White Rock fire, Nevada||2||Lockheed P2V-7||1962||Neptune Aviation Services|
|Apr. 25, 2009||Ferrying from Missoula, Mont., to Alamogordo, N.M.||3||Lockheed P2V-7||1962||Neptune Aviation Services|
|Sep. 1, 2008||Taking off enroute to Smitty fire, Calif.||3||Lockheed P2V-7||1962||Neptune Aviation ServicesÂ|
|Apr. 20, 2005||Air tanker training flight, Tahema County, Calif.||3||Lockheed P-3B||1966||Aero Union Corp.|
|Oct. 3, 2003||Ferry flight from Prescott, Ariz., to San Bernardino, Calif.||2||Lockheed P2V-7||1955||Minden Air Corp.|
|Jul. 18, 2002||Big Elk fire, Colo.||2||Consolidated PB4Y-2||1945||Hawkins & Powers Aviation|
|Jun. 17, 2002||Cannon fire, Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, Calif.||3||Lockheed C-130A||1957||Hawkins & Powers Aviation|
|Aug. 27, 2001||Bus fire, near Hopland, Calif.||2||Two Grumman TS-2As||1953 / Unknown||San Joaquin Helicopters|
|Jun. 27, 1998||Leggert fire, Gila National Forest, N.M.||2||Lockheed P2V-7||1961||Neptune Aviation Services|
|Apr. 20, 1997||200-acre fire near Bellwood Reservoir, Blair County, Pa.||2||Lockheed P2V||1945||Hirth Air Tanker|
|Jun. 21, 1995||Butterfield Ranch fire, Anza Borrego Desert, Calif.||3||Beechcraft Barron Beech-58P, Douglas C-54G||Beech; U.S. Forest Service, Tanker; Aero Union Corp.|
|Aug. 13, 1994||En route to Northrop fire, Kern County, Calif.||3||Lockheed C-130A||1957||Hemet Valley Flying Service|
|Jul. 29, 1994||Butler Creek fire, Lolo National Forest, Mont.||2||Lockheed P2V-7||Neptune Aviation Services|
Sources: Always Remember; www.wlfalwaysremember.org, Federal Aviation Administration
Credits: Armand Emamdjomeh and William J. Hennigan