No On-time Delivery?

Senior California lawmakers, ranging from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) are pressing the Bush Administration to keep the promise to deliver two California Air National Guard C-130s modified for firefighting in time for this year’s wildfire season. The San Francisco Chronicle reported May 15 that, despite the protestations of these officials, the aircraft will not be ready by July, as desired, due to integration issues in incorporating the large tanks needed to hold thousands of gallons of fire retardant. Instead, the aircraft might be available in September, at the earliest, assuming testing goes well this summer, the newspaper said. Feinstein called the delays “unacceptable,” telling President Bush in a missive that the state will be “severely underprepared for the coming wildfire season” without them. And Schwarzenegger, in his own letter to Bush, said the modified aircraft are “a critical resource in fighting wildfires that California cannot do without,” the Chronicle reported. Last year Schwarzenegger was forced to rely on modular airborne firefighting system-equipped C-130s from other states to battle California wildfires. Subsequently, the Administration pledged to have two modified C-130s available in time for this year’s fire season, the newspaper said.