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US Forest Service issues legacy large airtanker contracts

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 -- U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced Wednesday that the U.S. Forest Service has awarded legacy large airtanker exclusive-use contracts to two companies to provide a total of eight large airtankers to support wildland fire suppression through the 2013 fire season.

Airtanker deploying fire retardant Chemicals

(U.S. Forest Service photo)

These airtankers join a host of other ready firefighting equipment, including hundreds of helicopters and some 900 fire engines. “Legacy” aircraft are those that have been used as part of the Forest Service aviation program for years, and in some cases, decades. The agency is transitioning to the next generation of airtankers to replace this aging airtanker fleet.

“These legacy airtankers will continue to be part of our overall strategy as we prepare for another busy season of wildfires,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tidwell. “These large airtankers play an important role in wildfire suppression by helping slow the progress of wildfires, allowing firefighters on the ground to safely contain them.”

The Forest Service issued notices of intent this week to award legacy exclusive-use contracts to Minden Air Corporation of Minden, Nev., for one P2V and to Neptune Aviation Services, Inc. of Missoula, Mont., for six P2Vs and one BAe-146.  Both companies currently hold legacy exclusive-use contracts with the Forest Service to provide large airtankers for wildfire suppression. The contracts are for a five year period.

The P2V large airtankers are piston powered, can carry more than 2,000 gallons of retardant and have a cruise speed of 185 knots when fully loaded with retardant. The BAe-146 large airtanker is turbine powered, can carry about 3,000 gallons of retardant and has a cruising speed in excess of 330 knots.

During this summer’s fire season, the Forest Service expects to supplement the large airtanker fleet acquired through legacy exclusive-use contracts with additional large airtankers available through cooperators and the military as well as with very large airtankers, single engine airtankers, water scoopers and helicopters.

The Forest Service expects to make an announcement on next generation airtanker contracts in the coming weeks.  Next generation airtankers are newer aircraft that are turbine powered, can carry a minimum of 2,400 gallons of retardant and have a cruise speed of at least 300 knots when fully loaded.

Fire activity during the 2012 wildfire season resulted in about 9.3 million acres of private, state and federal land burned nationwide, the third highest amount since at least 1960, the earliest date with reliable records.

The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Forest Service lands contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year.

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US Forest Service
Last modified March 28, 2013
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