Turkey plans to buy five firefighting planes – minister

Turkey will buy five firefighter planes in the coming months and keep them “readily available” in the event of future wildfires, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli told CNN Türk late on Wednesday.

“We can rent out the helicopters anytime. It is also logical to rent them out. We use the firefighting vehicles three months a year. Maintaining them the rest of the years costs a lot,” Pakdemirli said, according Hurriyet Daily News. “But we will keep them readily available.”

Turkey was in the process of buying the planes over the last two years. However, when 270 wildfires killed eight people last month Turkey lacked any operational firefighting aircraft, sparking public criticism. The fires “accelerated the process” of buying the new aircraft, the minister said.

Russia and Iran sent firefighting planes to help Turkey battle those blazes while the United States sent two Chinook helicopters.

The Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) had three firefighting planes in its inventory, but they were antiquated and inoperable.

“We have no problem with the THK,” Pakdemirli said. “If the institution’s officials had useable planes at hand, they would have sent us. However, those planes were not active. It is like making a car without a number plate legal.”

Maintaining existing THK planes would cost between $3.2 and $4.1 million which “is nearly the price of a new plane”, he added.

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