Crowdfunding Could Save Tankers

  • Jan 22, 2015 6:56am GMT

Help keep half a dozen P-3 Orion air tankers flying and win a BBQ / Water Drop for two people. A new crowdfunding initiative offers that experience at $750.00, for $20,000.00 they’ll put your name on the landing gear doors. Dale Head, a third generation firefighter, air attack pilot and the CEO of Orion Aerial Firefighters, wants to keep these planes flying in the state of California and hopes to raise $4,950,000.00 in the next 54 days to do it. If he doesn't they are headed to the scrap yard. According to the group’s Indiegogo page, the US Forest Service has a shortage of Large Air Tankers, resulting in a dangerous reduction of firefighting capabilities. The group lists a series of examples demonstrating why the planes are needed.

  • Firefighters first on scene of the Eiler fire north of Redding requested airtanker support but were denied until two days later, when the fire was out of control.
  • 8 homes and 23,000 charred acres later, that fire was contained.
  • There were 6 P-3 Orion airtankers only 40 minutes away, but without a contract, they were unable to provide assistance.
  • In 2002, there were 48 Large Airtankers pre-positioned around the US, ready for initial attack to suppress wildfires before they were out of control.
  • As of December 2014, there are only 17 Large Airtankers available.

Orion Aerial Firefighters say the planes are available because of a contract dispute between the owners and USFS. Head's group claims they have assembled a team of engineers, maintenance experts, and pilots ready to return these aircraft to aerial firefighting within a year of funding. They chose crowdfunding because, “The risk to the venture capitalists is too great without a guaranteed contract with the USFS.  Many of us in the firefighting industry (including many of the front line personnel at the USFS and CalFIRE who cannot go on record) know that once we have this fleet back in service, the USFS, and possibly other state agencies, will use this fleet to help address the current Large Air Tanker shortage, with the ultimate goal of saving the United States from further devastation from wildfires," adding, "To a typical investor or bank, our mission does not make sense, because they cannot operate on faith that they will get a return on their investment. This project is about much more than financial gain – it is about taking an opportunity to save a US national asset from destruction. Our team is ready and waiting to go to work, and with your help we can have these P-3 aircraft on the ground ready to fly before the 2016 fire season, and potentially by the time the Santa Ana winds kick up in southern California in 2015." They conclude their pitch by saying, "If every person who was ever threatened by wildfire were to give just one dollar, we can easily attain our goal.” As of this posting $2,167.00 dollars has been raised. The campaign closes March 16th, 2015 at 11:59pm PT.