by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) July 2, 2012
The US military suspended flights Monday for C-130 transport planes equipped to fight wild fires after one aircraft went down in South Dakota, officials said.
Crews for the fleet will spend the day to "reflect, reset and review," 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander Colonel Jerry Champlin said in a statement.
"We all need to make sure our crews and planes will be ready to re-engage in the mission safely," he said.
A C-130 helping to contain a blaze in South Dakota crashed on Sunday, with an unknown number of casualties among its crew, military officers said. The specially-outfitted planes usually carry a crew of about six but the number varies depending on the mission.
The C-130 planes have been battling a major wild fire in Colorado for days but it was unclear when the fire-fighting aircraft would resume operations, according to the 153rd Air Expeditionary Group.
The cargo planes are outfitted with equipment, known as Modular Airborne Fire-fighting Systems, or MAFFS, that allows the aircraft to dump about 3,000 gallons (11,350 liters) of water or fire retardant in several seconds.
The suspension applies to a few dozen aircraft that are equipped with the fire-fighting gear, while the rest of the American military's vast C-130 fleet would remain unaffected.
US President Barack Obama paid tribute to the crew of the C-130 that crashed, saying that airmen in the fire-fighting planes "put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans."
"I know Americans across the country share my concern for the well-being of the surviving members of the crew and my deep condolences to the families of those who lost their lives," he said in a statement.
Over the past week, four of the C-130s were often in action every day battling the most destructive fire in Colorado's history.
Authorities said earlier they had turned a corner on the Waldo Canyon fire partly due to cooler temperatures and estimated the blaze was 55 percent contained.
The fire has burned through some 17,827 acres (7,214 hectares) and will not be fully contained until July 12, according to an official status report.
Aerospace News at SpaceMart.com
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