$5m Campaign To Save Fire Air Tankers Goes Online

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SACRAMENTO-

A former Sacramento City firefighter is spearheading a campaign to rescue a fleet of Orion P-3 air tankers from the scrap heap.

The planes are currently parked at McClellan Air Park but the salvage company that owns them is reluctant to dismantle them after the original owners went broke.

Dale Head, a fire pilot who flew some of the four-engine planes on fire fights, says they are worth saving.

"I've seen their capability in canyons, climbing out of canyons, their maneuverability in canyons in very tough drop sites," Head told FOX40.

He believes that the planes designed for low altitude anti-submarine warfare can do things that newer jet tankers can't.

He's organized a group of supporters among pilots, engineers and former crew chiefs who have worked on the planes that were built in the 1960's.

He is convinced that agencies like the U.S. Forest Service will need large air tankers during the fire season. He says investors are ready to put up money if contracts are awarded to the team, but agencies won't commit to contracts unless the planes are airworthy.

Head's goal is to raise $5 million from individuals and has gone to the IndieGoGo website to raise funds by offering things like patches, jackets and airplane rides for donations.

He needs the money to get at least two of the planes in the air.

"Once we can demonstrate that those air tankers are viable, then we should be able to save the rest of the fleet," Head said.

Since the goal is to preserve the fleet rather than make a large profit, he believes he offer smaller bids than competitors. But he also knows it's a long shot to raise so much money with a crowd funding strategy.

"What I'm trying to do is get a wink from the girl across the dance floor," he said.

But he said it would be a shame if they are scrapped because they won't be available when they're needed to save lives and property.

"These aircraft are a national resource," said Head.

Besides the IndieGoGo website, interested donors can go to www.orionaff.com for more information.