Yesterday we wrote about the Bureau of Land Management’s fleet of lead planes and Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS) aircraft. The BLM recently awarded a contract for the first jet-powered lead plane, one that has a better chance of keeping up with the “next-generation” air tankers, including the DC-10s, BAe-146s, and MD-87s. They will have a total of three lead/Air Supervision Module aircraft and nine ATGS platforms on exclusive use contracts.
Jennifer Jones of the U.S. Forest Service tells us their agency will have 14 lead planes and 16 ATGS platforms on exclusive use contracts in 2014. An additional 9 ATGS aircraft will be on call when needed contracts. The lead planes are Beechcraft King Air 90GTs, all supplied by the Greenwood Corporation, while the ATGS aircraft are Cessna 337 Skymasters and reciprocal and turbine engine twin Commanders. The contractors for the ATGS platforms include North Cascade Air Transport, Spur Aviation, Van Arsdale, Baker Aircraft, Ponderosa Aviation, Rogers Helicopters, and Mountain Aviation.
All of the USFS lead planes will be able to produce smoke to mark the targets for the air tankers.
The next opportunity for the USFS to acquire jet-powered lead planes will be in 2015 when the contracts are re-issued.