Cal-Fire Facing Pilot Shortage As Fire Season Rages

Aviation industry experts have been warning of a pilot shortage for years. Now a newspaper claims that some of Cal-Fire’s firefighting aircraft were grounded due to a lack of pilots. Schedules obtained by the Sacramento Bee show a rising number of grounded aircraft as the Summer fire season progressed because pilots were unavailable to fly the planes. The shortage is particularly acute among low-flying S-2T tanker pilots. According to the paper, an average of four of the state‚Äôs 23 tankers have been grounded on certain days in August because they lacked pilots. Cal-Fire Chief of Flight Operations Dennis Brown says his plans have been hampered by intense July fires that kept pilots working nonstop, retirements, long-term medical absences, private companies poaching their experienced pilots, an unexpected death and a cluster of job candidates who opted not to become tanker pilots after completing training. Within the last year they lost 10 air tanker pilots to those issues.

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