Chopper flop

Combine El Nino’s record-breaking rainfall that generated a tremendous volume of underbrush with the predicted La Nina droughts and it means that this fire season may be an especially dangerous one.

The County of Los Angeles Fire Department is considering bringing back a heavy lift fire-fighting helicopter during Southern California’s fire season. However, the recent Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) grounding of “restricted-category” helicopters raises some public safety questions about the department’s selection process.

“Standard-category” heavy lift helicopters must conform to stringent FAA standards for aircraft safety and maintenance. “Restricted-category” helicopters (which are mostly army surplus aircraft) do not comply with the same safety standards and that is why the FAA has banned them from flying over heavily populated areas such as Los Angeles.

The county fire department can choose an FAA approved “standard-category” helicopter or a “restricted-category” helicopter because it is a “public use” agency that can obtain a FAA waiver.

If the FAA believes a “restricted-category” helicopter is not safe enough to fly over populated areas for commercial purposes, what makes it safe enough to fly over a city to fight a fire?

I believe that the residents of Malibu and Los Angeles County deserve the safest and most cost efficient heavy lift fire fighting helicopter available, not a military surplus, unsafe or unreliable helicopter.

Phillip Milner

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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