Sinema Provision to Enhance Aerial Firefighting Capabilities Clears House

Sinema provision cuts red tape, provides Arizona firefighters key tools for fighting wildfires

A measure proposed by Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09) to better protect Arizona communities from wildfires passed the House and is on track to be signed into law. Sinema’s provision aims to make more air tankers available to fight wildfires, giving firefighters the support they need to keep Arizona families safe this fire season. Sinema’s measure was included as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization conference report, which was approved by the House this week.

Sinema’s amendment directs the FAA to review and revamp the approval process for air tankers to ensure it is consistent, efficient, prioritizes safety, and encourages use of the best available technology.

“Air tankers belong in the air, protecting Arizona communities and supporting our first responders, not sitting on the tarmac awaiting Washington’s approval,” said Congresswoman Sinema. “The bipartisan provision we sent to the president today cuts through red tape and dysfunction and ensures our firefighters have the tools they need to keep Arizonans safe.” 

As fires tore through the West last year, the Supertanker, a very large air tanker (VLAT) based in Marana, was grounded due to an inconsistent, bureaucratic, and lengthy government approval process. These wildfires forced Arizonans from their homes and put firefighters in harm’s way. Sinema’s provision overhauls the approval process so that the most effective tankers are available when Arizonans need them.

The Supertanker is the largest air tanker by carrying capacity in the world. VLATs like the Supertanker are critical tools to get large and unpredictable wildfires under control. While traditional air tankers can hold up to 5,000 gallons of water or retardant, the Supertanker can drop over 19,000 gallons.