Wyoming's congressional delegation has asked the U.S. Forest Service to consider basing a fleet of seven U.S. Forest Service firefighting planes in the Cowboy State.
The Cheyenne airport and the airport in Greybull, in particular, are eager to have the HC-130H search-and-rescue/reconnaissance planes the Forest Service has begun acquiring from the U.S. Coast Guard, Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis wrote Tuesday to U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Robert Bonnie.
At the airport in Greybull, B&G Industries LLC has a new runway and a hangar facility with room for two aircraft, the delegation wrote.
Cheyenne Regional Airport has a move-in-ready facility and can offer the government fuel incentives and cost-sharing in snow removal and de-icing, they added.
"We ask that you consider all viable Wyoming facilities in your search for a long-term facility for the Forest Service aircraft," they wrote.
The USDA has received the letter, and Cheyenne and Greybull are among many possible locations for the planes in 11 Western states, USDA spokesman Michael Illenberg said Wednesday.
The HC-130H is a four-propeller aircraft similar to the C-130 cargo plane used by the military.
The Forest Service already has acquired the first plane, one that has been outfitted with a large, removable device that sprays fire retardant out the rear of the aircraft. The plane has flown about 100 firefighting missions out of Sacramento, California, since late July. The plane will continue to fly out of Forest Service Air Station McClellan for two years, according to the Forest Service.
All seven HC-130H planes will be outfitted to drop fire retardant and transferred to the Forest Service by 2019, said Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Jones at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
Cheyenne and Greybull already have ties to aerial firefighting.
Two Wyoming Air National Guard C-130s equipped for firefighting like the HC-130H flying out of California are based at the Cheyenne airport. They're among eight such planes nationwide that are called to duty when firefighting needs exceed those able to be addressed by private aircraft contracted by the Forest Service.
Greybull was home to the Hawkins & Powers Aviation air tanker company that closed in 2005. Five men died when two of the company's planes crashed separately in 2002.
B&G Industries now occupies the space at the airport and provides aircraft repair and modification services to military and commercial customers, according to the company's website.