Forest Service to purchase up to 20 new King Air 250’s

They “expect” to purchase four each year for five years.

King Air 250

Above: The King Air 250 as seen on the Beechcraft website.

(Originally published December 16, 2017)

The U.S. Forest Service has awarded a contract to purchase up to 20 new King Air 250 twin-engine aircraft. The contract, potentially worth $142 million, guarantees the procurement of only one plane, but contains “estimated” purchases of four a year for five years.

The contract was awarded to Textron Aviation, Inc., the company that was formed in 2014 following the acquisition of Beech Holdings which included the Beechcraft and Hawker Aircraft businesses. The new business unit includes the Textron-owned Cessna.

The aircraft would be used primarily for four missions:

  • Lead plane/Aerial Supervision Module
  • Infrared Mapping
  • Air Attack/Air Tactical
  • Forest Health Protection

The solicitation uses the term “Multi-Mission Aircraft” several times. The state of Colorado bought two Pilatus PC-12’s in 2014 that they refer to as MMA’s which since then have been loaned quite a few times to agencies in other western states. The PC-12 is single-engine, while the King Air 250 is a twin. The performance of the two is similar in some respects, but the PC-12 is much less expensive to operate. If you’re curious about the other differences between the two, check out Charlie Bravo Aviation for a comparison.

Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft”
One of Colorado’s two Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft” which was seen at McClellan Air Field March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

I doubt if Colorado uses their aircraft as a lead plane often, but the USFS would use it frequently in that role. Flying low and slow over rough terrain, many pilots would prefer to have a pair of engines.

The “presolicitation” for the procurement was issued July 14, 2017 and the award was made five months later on December 11. That may be a record in the last five years for a USFS aircraft contract. But if there are protests, all bets are off. The first Next Generation large air tanker contract took 555 days.

Here are some of the award details:

King Air 250 contract award Forest Service
King Air 250 contract award

5 thoughts on “Forest Service to purchase up to 20 new King Air 250’s”

  1. Thanks Bill. One thing for sure, the Lead Plane fleet would be standardized. Another is the maintenance and repairs parts stocking at the designated service facilities. Great agile aircraft.

  2. If you stand back about 1000 feet from either aircraft (looking at the tail) notice the differences in their profiles, size of mass is important in the lead/asm role. Looking at the cockpit views as shown on this web site during a drop, sometime difficult to see the lead/asm until the release of marker smoke. Air tanker cockpit communications between the captain and first officer, “do you see the lead, lost him, there he is (lead)”. Size does matter!

    1. Any time we wanted to keep track of small drones or targets we put a high intensity white strobe on them. Much easier to keep track of them over land.

      1. Here’s the first Army study done on helos:

        “This study provides the first known in-flight data pertaining to the enhancement of helicopter
        daytime visibility through the application of high-intensity lighting. The results indicate that
        the lights provided a very significant increase in sighting distances of aircraft, especially when
        viewed against a ground background. All of the subjects considered the lighting system superior
        under a variety of viewing conditions. ”

        From my own experience, high intensity white strobes get your attention when looking down against a land or sea background. If you are looking down into a forested background keeping track of a lead plane might be easier if the lead plane had a couple of high intensity white strobes.

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