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Forest Fires in İzmir: “Non-existent plane” quarrel between the Minister and Turkish Aeronautical Association

Forest fires of last week in İzmir have been extinguished however Turkey faced with a bitter truth: There are no active fire extinguishing planes in the country. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forest has become target of the criticisms but the minister chose to answer them through Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK). What is left behind the fires is the quarrel on planes between these two public institutes, hundreds of hectares burned forest fields and İzmir’s environment that is destroyed by the hands of humans.

İzmir faced with one of the worst disasters in its history last week. 500 hectares of forest turned into ashes in the area between Adnan Menderes Airport and Urla district. The fire started on Sunday two weeks ago and could have been taken under control only after four days of non-stop burning, by Wednesday.

After the fires, hundreds of dead plants and animals, and the fire extinguisher quarrel between Minister of Forest and Turkish Aeronautical Association are left behind…

WHERE ARE THE PLANES?

Public’s outcry was justified after helicopter’s late intervention to fires and fire extinguisher planes not working. The question was asked to Minister: Where are the planes?

The Minister’s answer to this question was interesting:

It is sad to see how some people see the fires as an opportunity for themselves. I call some of them ‘keyboard warriors’.”

Our Forest personnel do not want to use these aircrafts because they find them unsafe. If you are defending these planes so much, these planes are at an apron in Ankara. Three of them malfunctioned, another three are leaking oil. They are welcome to come and fly them if they wish.”

MINISTER SAID “WE ARE READY FOR INTERVENTION ASAP” FOR ATHENS FIRES PREVIOUSLY

Minister of Forest was reminded of what he said during Athens fires after his words regarding the incapacity of planes:

Fire extinguisher planes are waiting in İzmir. Our planes and helicopters are ready to fly Greece. If there is any demand, we are within 45 minutes distance to the area, we can intervene ASAP.”

AUTHORITY TO PUT OUT FIRE BELONGS TO PRIVATE COMPANY WITHOUT ANY PLANES IN THK…

Another side of this scandal is taking away the authority to put out fires from Turkish Aeronautical Association.

Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) had been putting out fires for 35 years but the agreement was not renewed. As it turns out, a new agreement was made with an architecture firm and that firm did not have any planes registered under their name.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FROM MAIN OPPOSITION CHP DEPUTY

CHP İzmir Deputy Atilla Sertel claims that “planes are malfunctioned” explanation does not reflect the truth. According to Sertel, THK officials did not find any malfunctioning on the fire extinguisher planes. Sertel says, the planes were not rented because “their costs were too high” and he then went on to list the following items:

  • THK’s 5 out of 6 planes are in Ankara.
  • One of the planes is in Menderes district of İzmir at the moment.
  • THK officials say that there was no malfunction on planes.
  • A plane’s renting cost per hour is about 100.000 TL.
  • Planes are very effective at putting out fires and they use foam extinguishing systems.
  • The mentality that does not rent planes just for high costs blatantly let the forests burn.

SAID “CAN NOT FLY” TO CERTIFICATED PLANES

Suitability for flight certificates of the fire extinguisher planes are also revealed in the last few days:

According to the suitability for flight review certificates given by General Directorate of Civil Aviation; it can be seen that TC-TKT, TC-TKV and TC-TKM tail certified fire extinguisher planes are suitable to fly until mid-2020.

However, Minister Pakdemir says that there are four planes with certificates. Two of these planes were given certificates because it is a public institution, which means they do not actually complying with the qualifications. Even if the claims are correct, this time it means that there seems to be at least two planes who can intervene to fires.

THK OFFICIAL: “PLANES ARE READY BUT THEY ARE IDLY ON HOLD”

An anonymous official from THK gave a statement to bianet as there are 6 CL-215 type fire extinguisher planes but they were not allowed to use due to Ministry not giving them the related tender and thus the planes are on hold idly.

MALFUNCTIONING PLANES CLAIMS ARE NOT CORRECT”

The official I reached about whether Minister Pakdemir’s “malfunctioned planes” claims were correct or not, said that the institution founded THK Technical (THK Technical Plane Maintenance Services Inc.) company under the purpose of carrying out institution’s technical work and maintenance.

The official answered the claims as “ridiculous” and added “We have the ability to fix our own planes. We are already carrying out the maintenance of military planes in Isparta and several other cities.”

Saying that the institution has 95 years of history, the official also added that they did not know the reason for Ministry giving the tender to a different firm instead of THK.

WE INFORMED WE ARE READY TO HELP MUĞLA FIRES”

The controversies began when 400 hectares of forest field were burning in Muğla’s Dalaman and Fethiye districts back in July. We made contact with the Ministry, readied our planes. We expressed that we could help for free as these forests are Turkey’s national treasures. But they told us it was not needed. If the authorities asked for our help, we were ready to intervene.”

Honestly, it hurts to see the name of a 95 year-old institution is reflected badly in media. People have no idea of what happened and as a result, we are being blamed for what happened. But our institution will overcome this situation.”

Open sources show that Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) has a total of 9 planes with 6 of them being active and the Turkish Air Force has 6 giant fire extinguisher planes.

 

Translated by Demet Demir