Jonathan Ross, the Ramp Manager today at Phoenix Mesa Gateway Tanker Base, sent us this photo of three air tankers and … it looks like a couple of air attack or lead plane ships. Thanks Jonathan!
Above: Air Tanker 66, a DC-7
These photos were taken by Bob Martinez, a Volunteer in Prevention Photographer with CAL FIRE. They were taken on the Goose Fire near Prather, California, about 18 miles northeast of Fresno. Thanks Bob!
The Goose Fire has burned 2,241 acres and 4 homes and is approaching containment.
An air tanker operated by a United States firm was dispatched to Canada on Sunday. Today Neptune Aviation’s Tanker 02, a BAe-146, is in Grand Praire, Alberta (map).
Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, said there are no plans to send any additional air tankers to Canada at this time.
Tanker 02 does not have an exclusive use contract with the U.S. Forest Service, but received one of the 22 recently awarded Call When Needed contracts.
It is not common to send U.S. air tankers north across the border. But in recent years CV-580 air tankers have spent quite a bit of time in the United States after making the trip south.
Three more of Neptune’s BAe-146 air tankers are being brought into the current fleet. Tom Harbour, Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service, confirmed today at the Large Fire Conference in Missoula that two BAe-146s came on in the last few days and a third will be on board by June 1.
The three aircraft are being added to Neptune’s “legacy” air tanker contract using the “additional equipment” provision.
These three air tankers are being added to the fleet along with the two additional DC-10s that were announced last week. 10 Tanker Air Carrier had one DC-10 already working on a next-gen contract and a second was converted last week from a call when needed contract to exclusive use, using the additional equipment provision on their contract. 10 Tanker is converting a third DC-10 that will also be on the next gen exclusive use contract when it is complete this summer.
Neptune Aviation assembled their five BAe-146 air tankers on the tarmac at Missoula for picture day. It is a pretty remarkable photo — five jet-powered air tankers that meet the basic U.S. Forest Service criteria to qualify as “next-generation” air tankers, which require the aircraft to be turbine or turbofan (jet) powered, be able to cruise at 300 knots (345 mph), and have a retardant capacity of at least 3,000 gallons.
Only one of these five air tankers has a confirmed contract with the federal government, the USFS. It is on a “legacy” contract. Neptune Aviation has three additional BAe-146s that are ready to fly now, and one more will be complete sometime this summer. The USFS is still dithering about what to do after the Government Accountability Office upheld the protest of a contract that was given to Neptune without competition for two BAe-146s. About the only options available now for the USFS are to add some of the BAe-146s to the legacy contract as additional equipment, ignore the GAO decision and honor the no-competition contract, or cancel the no-competition contract and do nothing about the other four Neptune BAe-146s that are sitting on the ramp at Missoula.
A very unlikely option would be for the USFS to allow competitive bidding on an additional contract. All of the existing valid legacy and next-gen contracts allow for up to four additional aircraft to be added as “additional equipment” to each line item. The vendors that won the awards for those contracts are all hoping to add more aircraft down the road, and would most likely be very distressed if another company came in that lost competitive bidding previously, and basically took away their opportunity to supply more air tankers.
But, it is painful to see four recently retrofitted, freshly painted, jet air tankers sitting on the tarmac — with a rather bleak future.