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W. Shedd: Why Ilyushin Il-76 Waterbomber is not used by US Forestry Service

Dear Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey,

While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, it seems to be rather irresponsible for you to misinform the Russian public and others about the reasons the Ilyushin Il-76 Waterbomber are not used by the United States Forestry Service to fight fires.  There is no restriction on the private contractors that work for the USFS to not use the IL-76.  It just simply isn't required or particularly useful for the way the USFS fights fires (see below this letter). 

Further, President Bush was not the originator of this opinion or policy by the USFS.  In fact, the IL-76 has existed and been available for use fighting fires for quite some time.  It was not considered necessary during the Clinton Administration either.

While using the name of President Bush might be an interesting way to confuse and inflame readers, it is grossly inaccurate and irresponsible. 

Like all US presidents, Mr. Bush listens to the opinions of the experts involved with fighting forest fires in the US.  Perhaps you should do a bit more research and cite actual experts on both sides of a problem, before launching another yellow-journalism rant.

For your enlightenment, I have included the following statements from the USFS.  This is something you might have considered doing yourself, as they are the originators of the policy.  Certainly if you wish to continue to discuss the lack of Il-76 planes use in fighting fires in the US, you should cite these individuals as the responsible parties.  Mr. Bush can be blamed for quite enough, without you crediting some other nonsense to him.

Wendell Shedd
Exeter, New Hampshire, USA

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"We are not interested in buying or using the IL-76 for several critical reasons," Forest Service spokesman Joe Walsh told the Colorado Springs Gazette in June, at the height of the Hayman fire. "The plane would not meet
our firefighting needs."

Walsh said the Forest Service has enough air tankers, "despite what commanders at many of the fires are saying, we're in good shape. We're not having any problems with our resources. We don't have any need for it."

The plane is "too costly and lacks ability to make downhill drops, a necessary maneuver in fighting fires in the mountains. It actually drops too much water."

"It's like wasting water," Walsh said. "Water is not a commodity we can just dump hundreds of thousands of gallons of and not worry about running out, especially in drought conditions."

USFS aviation official Ed Stone shares Walsh's views. "We've had contact with this aircraft since 1994," Stone told ABC News in August 2000. "In the fires of 1994 there was intense political pressure to use it and bring it in, when we were actually holding [our own] planes down. We looked, and we didn't care for the product," he said.

Dennis Lamun, head of Bureau of Land Management's Fixed Wing Program at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, is similarly critical.

"The only thing the IL-76 has in its favor is that it's big," Lamun told WorldNetDaily. "Not that it's sophisticated or technologically advanced, it's just that it's big. We build big airplanes in America, but we don't go out and tank them because they don't fight fire very well."

"Bigger isn't necessarily better," he added. "The Forest Service has more 3,000-gallon, Type 1 air tankers than BLM does, but our philosophy at BLM is that we'd rather have two airplanes carrying 2,500 gallons each, that can go in two different directions, than one airplane carrying 5,000 gallons, because if I want all 5,000 gallons in the same spot, I can get it.

"We have 54 600-, 700-, and 800-gallon airplanes, and we want more of them, and it isn't because we're ignorant that we don't trade all those smaller airplanes in for one big 10,000 gallon one. It's because we know what we want because we fight fire for a living."

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