Senator suggests possibility of ignoring air tanker protests, 10 Tanker issues statement

10 Tanker Air Carrier issued a statement Monday on their Facebook page about the bid protests that they, along with Coulson, filed over the contracts for next generation air tankers that the U.S. Forest Service announced that they were going to award last summer. The company has two DC-10 air tankers that carry 11,600 gallons of retardant, about six times more than a P2V, but they were not going to receive exclusive use contracts for the aircraft. The USFS had to cancel the process just before the contracts were signed. Four months later the solicitation was reissued with 31 changes, requiring responses by November 1, 2012.

The DC-10 air tankers have received excellent reviews from firefighters and aviation managers, but the USFS has in the past only offered them call when needed contracts, meaning they may or may not be used at all, and if they were, it would be intermittently.

10 Tanker’s statement appears to be partially in response to Colorado Senator Mark Udall’s remarks on the issue Thursday, in which he suggests that the protests may be ignored (emphasis added):

Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged private contractors to respect the U.S. Forest Service’s upcoming decision to award contracts to several U.S. companies to supply next-generation air tankers. Protests and challenges of past contract awards have already delayed the Forest Service’s acquisition of seven next-generation air tankers — which Udall championed last year. Additional protests could leave Colorado and the West without these tanker resources for the 2013 wildfire season.

“Air tankers are critical firefighting resources that can save lives and prevent small blazes from becoming catastrophic wildfires,” Udall said. “When I met with Northern Colorado firefighting and emergency-management officials this week, they all agreed that we need to ensure that Colorado and the Forest Service have the resources they need to fight fires now. If contractors continue to challenge agency decisions, I will urge the Forest Service to use its emergency authorities to override the challenges and finalize the tanker contracts as soon as possible. Colorado cannot wait.

Below is the text from 10 Tanker’s statement:

A widely published Associated Press article recently related the story of the long-term decline in the U.S. Forest Service’s aerial tanker fleet to the Next Generation Air Tanker solicitation bid protest last year by 10 Tanker Air Carrier and another bidder. Some members of Congress have expressed support for Forest Service to use emergency authorities to work around the bid protest. What the article omits and members of Congress may not realize is that it was the General Accountability Office (GAO) that found the 10 Tanker bid protest to be valid. That caused the US Forest Service to withdraw from the bid protest process, to amend the solicitation to correct its discriminatory issues, and to reissue the solicitation.

As you may know, GAO is the investigative arm of Congress “charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and payment of public funds.” As a part of that responsibility, GAO is also charged with handling bid protests, but they do not undertake that role unless there is obvious discrimination in an agency’s contract decisions. In this case, they found that the Forest Service used a decision process that discriminated against 10 Tanker Air Carrier. The issues involved cost basis in which 10 Tanker clearly offered the lowest cost per gallon of retardant delivered on fires, and also involved the USFS use of outdated, third party input that, had the well-known facts been used, would have been in 10 Tanker’s favor.

Had 10 Tanker’s bid been awarded, we could have provided the same protection to the public with four aircraft this 2013 wildfire season that is the equivalent of 15 – 16 competing aircraft that will not be available for use for several years.

10 Tanker wholeheartedly agrees that responsible leaders, including the Chief of the USFS, should use emergency procedures and resources to protect the public in an emergency. However, we discourage the declaration of an emergency as a means of providing a long-term solution to this on-going issue. We are confident it will be resolved within the next several months and thank you all for your support as we move closer to the upcoming fire season.

****

It has has been 1 year, 2 months, and 25 days since the USFS first issued a solicitation for next-generation large air tankers, but no contracts have been awarded.

15 thoughts on “Senator suggests possibility of ignoring air tanker protests, 10 Tanker issues statement”

  1. From an Examiner.com article last summer:
    “While Colorado, New Mexico and other states deal with one of their worst wildfire seasons in history, the (B747) Supertanker sits idle in Arizona, never called into action. Late last month as fires burned out of control, the company (Evergreen International) issued a statement asking to be allowed to jump into the fight. The pleas thus far have fallen on deaf ears.
    When questioned why the 747 and other assets were not called into service, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told KUSA, “This is complicated.” “
    During that same period, Tom Harbour was quoted in several interviews as saying we had “plenty of airtankers”. But as the FIRE AVIATION pointed out yesterday, “Almost half of requests for air tankers were not filled in 2012”.
    In a 22 February Billings Gazette (AP) article:
    “ (Chief) Tidwell said contracts now are on track to be awarded about 60 days from now. “One way or another, we’ll have an adequate large air tanker response this year,” he said.
    As many as seven next-generation large air tankers could be contracted, according to the Forest Service.”
    Oh really? Which airtankers? B747? DC10 (two)? MD87 (not yet carded)? More BAe146s (interim tank approval)? Beriev Be-200 (not FAA certified)? C130H/RADS (not yet converted or carded)?
    Fire season is fast approaching. Although it’s been almost 15 months since USFS put out an RFP for NextGen airtankers, and Chief Tidwell says maybe contracts won’t be awarded for a couple more months, the word on the street is that USFS will require aircraft awarded contracts to be ready to go in 45 days. So everyone should stay current, airworthy, and ready to perform at a moments notice. Or maybe Lockheed Martin can be called on to pick up the pieces.
    But I guess being reasonable or fair isn’t part of the deal. And as Mr. Vilsack said, “This is complicated”.

  2. Someone’s nose is going to grow, or should I say grow even longer this fire season. Has anyone check to see if the Thiland Air Force can loan out their tanked DC-3? They probably have a better chance of securing a place in the air circus than some AMERICAN companies.

  3. I agree that 10 Tanker should have the ability to protest the award and I also agree they have a place in firefighting…especially now. However, I have a serious issue with their cost reasoning. Their website is riddled with comparisons of cost per gallon delivered, many of which are comparisons to the BAe-146 (which I assume they picked because it’s perceived as the biggest threat to their business). I haven’t checked their figures, so I wont argue them. What I will argue is using cost/gallon to quantify value in firefighting. It is inherently flawed, and only used by 10 Tanker to misrepresent their product. Unfortunately, people sitting in a cubicle enjoy this number because it’s effortless to produce…making their job easier.

    Why is it flawed?
    We are not in the business of transporting retardant from point A to point B, we are in the business of firefighting where time has a lot of value. Countless studies have been done on the value of IA…it saves time, money, and ultimately heartache. I’m not saying the DC10 can’t be an IA aircraft, but it has distinct disadvantages, particularly in the current infrastructure.

    Here’s an example of what I mean…a direct comparison of equipment.
    Delta Airlines has 11 flights a day from KMSP to KATL…all narrow-body aircraft. If their’s so much demand between these two cities, why aren’t B777s and A330s doing them? I’m sure they can get the same capacity out of 3-4 wide-bodies as they do with Mad Dogs and the Plastic Fantastic (A320), and do it much cheaper. Of course I’m being rhetorical, because we all know that KMSP and KATL are hubs for Delta, and what matters most at a hub is schedule (time).

    One might argue, using my logic, that Delta should be using 25 CRJs instead of MD88s and A320 between KMSP and KATL. Well…there is a point where frequency doesn’t pay dividends. A balancing act, that Delta constantly refines with demand. A balancing act between VLATs, LATs, SEATs, scoopers, rotor-wing and other aerial assets the USFS is still trying to figure out (Rand).

    I think the DC10 is an awesomely effective tool…one can’t help but be in awe when it drops. However, it’s only one tool in a firefighting toolbox, a toolbox full of other tools that are better suited for certain jobs. Though who decides what tool to use for what task, the tool or the mechanic? It’s obvious what tool the USFS wants. Are they wrong? Maybe. Is 10 Tanker wrong in using cost per gallon delivered to valuate their product? Definitely.

  4. So what we have is basically the same if not worse situation than
    last season. my prediction-The USFS will kick the can and everyone
    loses…

  5. I wonder why no decision makers don’t understand the “Tool Box” concept. Simple, logical, efficient… common sense.
    Copters and fixed wings, various sizes, complementing each other.

    As I said before; 2002…BRP(not perfect but was a start)… Nothing done since! No orders, no Heading.

    Jerome

  6. Tim Holmes on February 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm said:

    “I agree that 10 Tanker should have the ability to protest the award and I also agree they have a place in firefighting…especially now. However, I have a serious issue with their cost reasoning. Their website is riddled with comparisons of cost per gallon delivered, many of which are comparisons to the BAe-146 (which I assume they picked because it’s perceived as the biggest threat to their business). I haven’t checked their figures, so I wont argue them. What I will argue is using cost/gallon to quantify value in firefighting. It is inherently flawed, and only used by 10 Tanker to misrepresent their product. Unfortunately, people sitting in a cubicle enjoy this number because it’s effortless to produce…making their job easier.

    Why is it flawed?
    We are not in the business of transporting retardant from point A to point B, we are in the business of firefighting where time has a lot of value. Countless studies have been done on the value of IA…it saves time, money, and ultimately heartache. I’m not saying the DC10 can’t be an IA aircraft, but it has distinct disadvantages, particularly in the current infrastructure.

    Here’s an example of what I mean…a direct comparison of equipment.
    Delta Airlines has 11 flights a day from KMSP to KATL…all narrow-body aircraft. If their’s so much demand between these two cities, why aren’t B777s and A330s doing them? I’m sure they can get the same capacity out of 3-4 wide-bodies as they do with Mad Dogs and the Plastic Fantastic (A320), and do it much cheaper. Of course I’m being rhetorical, because we all know that KMSP and KATL are hubs for Delta, and what matters most at a hub is schedule (time).”

    I think I understand your logic. 11 flights versus 3-4. That means an extra 7-8 crews, extra mechanics, spares, maintenance requirements, scheduling, etc, etc.
    No disrespect but I don’t see the correlation. Airlines are scheduled to move the public at set intervals. Tankers just the opposite.

    1. You don’t have to have the same business model to emphasize the importance of time. I was not correlating the mission but rather showing how time is an important factor in valuation of a product, using representative equipment (wide-body vs. narrow-body).

      I don’t disagree with the fact that more equipment means higher fixed costs. I’m not talking cost, I’m talking value. What I disagree with is the product value represented in a simple cost/gallon delivered, or gallons/fire acre delivered. It is misrepresentation of the product we provide.

  7. I follow Mr Holmes very well

    I also understand the bid protests very well

    I also understand MR Walt Darran VERRRY well!!

    What I do not understand…the continual harping about the B747 and DC10. We in the professional aviation industry understand very well the limitations of current day tanker bases and current maintenance procedure of heavy turbine and jet aircraft….more so than the naysayers of VLAT’s. The naysayers will tell about gallons delivered…which is the USFS way. It is very apparent. Because, in reality, they were not ready for aircraft this size nor the basing of these larger aircraft. But they sure could walk on down to NASA Dryden and spend more R&D dinero and then have the audacity to NOT contract these ships, especially this daze in age of 3000 gallon, turbine/ turboprop powered, 300 kts +,etc “requirements” is beyond common sense.

    What I do not understand is the BRP of 2002 and prior of the reliance of P3 and C130 series aircraft ( when we all understand those were mainstay airframe) and then the USFS still uses all those P3 and C130 picture splattered all over their websites, when effectively the are no longer being contracted by no longer active airtanker operators. Is it their way of honoring the industry they have effectively eliminated? We know there may have been some MX issues, burt the USFS “SMS Safety System” needs some work in itself.

    What I don’t understand is….The audacity of a professional LAM agency and their pressuring RAND into not recognizing a multi aircraft approach

    What I don’t understand is…. why does it take this many studies to an already amswered approach….there is NO aircraft out there other than the Bombardier series 215/415, the Russian and Japanese amphibs. So what is left, huh?? I know……..P3, C130, B747, DC10, Hopefully MD87 and more BAe146. Any one consider Coulson? Anyone consider Q400 series.

    What I do not understand …….. the so called dependance on thinking the LMA’s are going to get the C130J and C27J and consider those as “some purpose built” aircraft when for the last 60 + years no one has even considered a future beyond the WWII series aircraft and then have the audacity to say 60+ yrs after the fact, these aircraft are no longer safe, then run around in the “sky is falling” lights and sireeeen mode to get rid of operators and then hire on Canadian operators ( who have equally aged and equally non purpose built aircraft for the same job and then run around and say we have enough resources …using military aircraft and aircrews ( Thank God , they are around and available…maybe with sequestration…who knows for 2013)

    OH I understand this industry as a pilot, mechanic and forester as some of my brethern here.

    What I do not understand….why hasn’t the US Guv taken away this mission, put in more capable hands like a GOCO or some semblance of COGuv shared maintenance using both for their knowledge and get the LMA’s back to maintaining timber and range and stop this 2 month at a time kickin the can down the road. The BRP may have started something, but obviously it wasn’t presented well enough to those on the Hill and the the OIG study in approx 2005 showing the USFS had a difficult time justifying the requests for MO MONEY

    What I do understand is….5 studies with “one from AVID” sure has not proved its weight in paper, although it had some high speed aviation representation, that this has improved any of today’s situation and hopefully another Office of the Inspector General needs to be done, even with less leniency, to the LMA’s, and hopefully it would address allllll the accountability issues that have not been met other than some “Safety program” that instills some sort of “zero defect” program.

    The real defect is how this whole has been let go without some real heavy handed counseling to those involved for not even producing a product other than the elimination of contractors for some “new generation program” that still not has seen a purpose built aircraft and somehow the “new generation” aircraft are NOT new generation to any of us in the real aviation world.

  8. Leo,
    What I really don’t understand is that fighting fires have been a major issue for the last 50 years in the US but no aircraft manufacturer ever considered designing a purpose built Large Airtanker! No market? Look at the world…it’s on fire.

    Aerial Fire Fighting was invented in the US. USFS had it too cheap for too long. Aviation is expensive…

    The Government (Armed Forces) spend billions in B2’s, F18’s, C17’s, etc… and not a dime to fight fires with a new, purpose built, tactical airplane. That’s a shame.
    “Nextgen” is a nice word but except Coulson’s C130H, these airplanes are still surplus, used civilian transport; far from a “Tactical Profile” required for the mission. Pilots will adapt so they can fight fires with and no doubt they should be considered. Just like the Douglas DC-4, 6, 7’s were considered..(and what a second career they did!).

    Jerome

    1. I fully agree Jerome.
      A Canadian helo pilot friend of mine and I were on the ramp this summer looking at our plane and he’s wondering what the hell is going on with the state of our tanker fleet here in the U.S. He asks me where the real threat to the American people is.
      I suppose we can argue politics…but think about it.
      Hello!!!!!!!!??????

  9. Jerome

    Have to agree with alot of what you said here.

    BUT…Yes we did invent the airtanker program and definitely YES to the USFS having it too long on the industry’s back with low dollar renumeration “at the convienience to the Government.” We know the deal……

    The land management agencies are truly learning the costs of aviation and it IS more than online education, more than “studies to study the studies”, more than the the Center at McClellan to “increase the safety of aerial firefighting.”

    Some of the stuff that came out in the last few to 10 years including UC Davis, where each class costs about $1200 USD to get a mere certificate in Aging aircraft issues and aeronautical decionmaking has been the stuff of many an aviation school across the nation ….this just was the start to relevancy of aviation relevance in the land management world.

    Now I am not dissing the program….but what was the costs of the facility and the MOU with UC Davis???

    What I am getting at is…….many an operator of airtankers still spends or the pilot still spend dinero with their 6 month to yearly currency with no help from the USFS types….that is why it is such a deal….if the USFS had to pay for currency and recurrent…they would be amazed at the cost.. ya ya I know the USFS pays to send their own to recurrency but I woulld venture say they get a pretty goooood deal on those package rates…

    The next thing, Jerome, and you already know this……what US aircraft manufacturer is “gonna” set up a line of purpose built airtanker ( 30-40) out of the “goodness of their hearts” to “rectumfy” the poorly run forest management programs that either start on fire due to lightning or man?

    Yes the pilots will adjust to the training and new aircraft in somewhat short order.

    OH that word “Next Gen”…….you know another buzzword the folks use……about aircraft that have already existed for the last 20 – 40 yrs…you know….C130H, MD87, BAe 146, RJ85, B747, DC10…….hardly “NextGen”….More like “Turbine Gen” or “JetGen.” Not hardly “Next Gen” for us who used to service or fly these fine pieces of iron.

    Yes Jerome, the tanks, DC4, DC5, DC5/6, and DC7…….can’t fly em over the National Forest System in the National Airspace System governed by the FAA. that little bit of info “not flying over my forest with those “old” airplanes”, sure has had me chuckling as a degreed forester, about those chuckleheads, who came up with that liiiitle decision. Good for Oregon to keep the Douglas alive!!

    There is on old saying I once heard……Don’t let those high costs of aviation overshadow the equally high costs forest management. Because if the forest is not managed properly, those aviation costs will surely overshadow what could have been properly applied in the first place.

    I take that to heart as both a pilot and forester…..I think my forestry brethern should have taken heed of this by now………most have not and it does show. Ask those folks at USFS FAM and State and Private Forestry about aircraft costs and forestry management costs………I would venture to say suppression and aircraft costs have faaaar outstripped PROPER forest management!!!

    1. “I would venture to say suppression and aircraft costs have faaaar outstripped PROPER forest management!!!”

      AMEN!!!

  10. Purpose-built? Be careful what you wish for.

    The Edsel was purpose-built.

    Look at what Lockheed-Martin has done with the F35 program.

  11. Leo; thanks.

    Walt: CL215 was well designed and did a pretty good job..still does. CL415..well…not as good and stout as I hear.

    For a Retardant Tanker: Market 300 worldwide? Ideally must be a Multirole.
    Jerome

Comments are closed.