There is a shortage of pilots who are qualified to fly single-engine air tankers–there are about 100 in the country, reports Desert News.
“I’ve got airplanes in the hangars because I don’t have pilots to fly them,” says Andy Taylor, pilot and owner of New Frontier Aviation, an aerial firefighting company based in Montana.
In the last few weeks, firefighting pilots have flown 350 missions and dropped 250,000 gallons of fire retardant in BLM’s West Desert District, which is everything west of I-15 to Nevada, and then south to Beaver and north to Idaho.
It takes a special breed to do what these pilots do. Flying single-engine tankers, which look like World War II fighters, demands highly skilled flying. The big tankers have the advantage of being able to carry bigger loads of fire retardant, but because they require large runways to land for refueling and reloading retardant, their turnaround time is slow (in Utah they have to land at either Hill Air Force Base or Cedar City).
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