Blog Cabin

Entries in Neptune jets (4)


Hundreds show up to celebrate Neptune Aviation birthday

Dennis Bragg photo(MISSOULA)- Hundreds of people turned out Saturday to help Missoula-based Neptune Aviation celebrate its 20th anniversary, getting a rare behind-the-scenes look at the aerial firefighting company. 

Neptune started in the early 1990s, when a local group of business owners purchased New Mexico-based Black Hills Aviation. That gave the company its first of the venerable P2V air tankers and other gear, which was then moved to Missoula, in addition to keeping the base in Alamogordo.  

It's a relationship that fills both an economic development and business role, but also a safety role, Just like this past summer, Neptune planes frequently coming to the rescue of their neighbors when wildfire hits here in Western Montana. 

"We have over 100 employees that live here in Missoula," notes Chief Operating Officer Dan Snyder. "And of course all their family associated with them. So if you were to put a number to it it's over 300-people that are tied into the Missoula community."

People attending this weekend's open house were treated to tours of the planes, including the company's "next gen" jet-powered airtankers, free food, live music and prizes. They even got to see a few demonstration runs as the planes made water drops over the Missoula runway. 


Tester says Forest Service tanker deal puts Montana "at risk"

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)- Senator Jon Tester is upset with the Forest Service's decision to award contracts for "next generation" air tankers to companies which still don't have their jets ready to fight fires. 

The criticism came at a hearing in Washington Wednesday, when Tester grilled Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell during a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

Earlier this month the Forest Service announced it was awarding a contract for 7-new tankers to several companies after starting over on the bidding process last year. That decision left Missoula's Neptune Aviation off the list, even though Neptune had initially won the first contract last year and is one of the few operators with jet tankers ready to go. 

Neptune is appealing that decision. 

Tester says the Forest Service left "better options on the table", and not having all the tankers ready this year puts Montana communities at risk this fire season. 

“I’ve seen what’s happened in Montana’s forests, and I can’t figure out why the award was made how it was,” Tester told Tidwell.  “My problem is there are better options on the table to be taken up by the Forest Service and you didn’t do it.”

Tidwell said the new planes still need to be tested. 




Accidents cut supply of air tankers as fire season begins

Neptune jet featured on company's website(MISSOULA)- Sunday’s crash of a Neptune Aviation fire place in Utah, and an emergency landing by another company’s plane in Nevada means there are only 9 flyable fire bombers left in the entire country, even as the 2012 fire season is just getting started.

Two crew members from Boise were killed Sunday when Neptune’s “Tanker 11” went down near the Utah-Nevada border after experiencing problems as it was making its second retardant run of the day. A Minden Air Corp plane, also one of the aging P2V tankers, had to make an emergency landing in Western Nevada Sunday morning when part of its landing gear failed to deploy.

That leaves the Forest Service with only 9 large tankers under contract to fight fires for the entire country. With Tanker 11 destroyed in Sunday’s crash, and the Minden plane suffering major damage in the emergency landing, the agency has just 8-conventional tankers and Neptune’s jet-powered tanker on contract. And the jet, known as the BAe-146, is seeing its first work on an “interim basis” after undergoing extensive tests in Missoula last year.

By comparison, the Forest Service had 44-tankers a decade ago for the 2002 fire season.

The agency had solicited proposals for “next generation” tankers like the Neptune jet. That process closed back in February but the Forest Service has yet to make any decisions about putting those any new planes on line, with the exception of using the Neptune jet this summer. 


Neptune takes next step with jet-powered tanker for firefighting

Neptune Aviation's website has been proudly displaying photos of the new jet tanker(MISSOULA)- It's flying with "interim approval", but Neptune Aviation's new jet-powered tanker is being moved into service, leaving Missoula Saturday enroute to help with fires in New Mexico.

The BAe-146 is considered a "next generation air tanker", and if it proves out could help in replacing an aging, and diminishing fleet of prop-powered aircraft that have been the backbone of the wildfire fighting for the past several decades. The jet saw extensive testing here in Missoula over the past year.

The blog is reporting the Neptune jet left Missoula Saturday morning under a new Forest Service contract that runs through October 5th. Forest Service officials have said they want to see how the new plane performs in actual aerial attacks on wildfires. Neptune has indicated it could buy as many as 11 of the new jets in the coming years if they get final certification from the Forest Service. was also reporting the jet came on line as Neptune had to park one of its P2V tankers this week. That's the same plane that was grounded because cracks developed in the skin of the aircraft and on a section of the wing last winter. 

Even with the Neptune jet coming online on a trial basis, there's still a shortage of heavy tankers this fire season, with only 11-planes currently on the Forest Service contract roster.