The Forest Service will double the number of next generation air tankers it uses against wildfires. The aircraft can fly faster and carry more retardant than older firefighting aircraft that are still in use. Neptune Aviation in Missoula was selected for a five-year contract to supply four of the air tankers.
Neptune has been in the business of flying air tankers for 23 years. Each summer they fly air tankers to fight forest fires under temporary contracts.
Neptune officials said being selected for a five-year contract for four air tankers is a big deal. It means stability for the company to grow and build.
“We’re excited about it. We’ve been working four years to get these five-year contracts, so it’s been a long effort. It’s been very satisfying and rewarding to get them. So we’re excited about going forward,” said Neptune Aviation CEO Ron Hooper.
Neptune Aviation works with the Forest Service during fire season. They have an exclusive-use contract, which means the Forest Service decides where the aircraft go and what fires they are assigned. Neptune Aviation provides the flight crews and all the maintenance on the aircraft.
Over the summer, Neptune had 12 aircraft fighting fires. Currently, workers are adjusting the planes and doing winter maintenance on all the aircraft after a busy summer.
“(It’s been a) very busy year. We flew primarily in California, Oregon, Washington, but we flew over 2,160 hours with that fleet of 12 aircrafts, so it’s been a very busy year,” said Hooper.
Hooper said the company is grateful for the contracts. It means they can watch the business grow for many years to come.
The new addition of the four air tankers means Neptune Aviation will now have 11 air tankers under contract with the Forest Service.