More details are trickling out about the 36 Type 1 and Type 2 helicopters that were awarded 90-day Exclusive Use (EU) contracts by the U.S. Forest Service in May, 2020. The agency is not releasing any information about the contracting of firefighting aircraft this Spring, but Fire Aviation has acquired documents that shed some light on the issue. Forest Service fire aviation contracts spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
Below is the list that contains all 36 helicopter awards in one place.
The EU contracts for 24 Type 1 helicopters and 12 Type 2 helicopters are guaranteed for 90 days. These aircraft, based on the national Call When Needed agreement, are considered national aviation resources to be used for initial attack and large fire support. It will be possible to extend the contract period beyond 90 days depending on the national situation. The plan was for the helicopters to begin their Mandatory Availability Periods on June 1 or June 15.
In an internal memo, the Forest Service said the reason for the 90-day guaranteed contracts “…is part of an enhanced national response due to COVID-19 for the 2020 fire season.” But no doubt another reason has to be the fact that the previous four-year contract for Type 1 helicopters expired April 30, 2020. The new contract has been protested and it may not be adjudicated by the Government Accountability Office until September 8, 2020.
When the multi-year EU contracts for Type 1 helicopters were awarded earlier this month neither Erickson or Coulson appeared on the list. But on this 90-day contract, Coulson has six ships and Erickson has two. This could lead a person to believe that the Forest Service considers them to be officially classified as small businesses.