The Aero Union Corporation has listed their eight P-3 air tankers to be sold by auction. Plant and Machinery auction company is advertising the aircraft and other items totaling “$50,000,000 of aircraft, parts, and intellectual property” to be sold in a sealed bid auction. The auction site lists the following items for sale:
- Eight Lockhead P-3 Orion Aerial Firefighting Aircraft
- Engines, APUs, propellers, parts
- Intellectual property, including the MAFFS II 3,000-gallon slide-in air tanker system for C-130J aircraft, and the FIREHAWK Aerial Firefighting System for Blackhawk helicopters
Aero Union began in Redding, California in 1960 as Western Air Industries, changed the name to Aero Union, and moved to Chico in 1964. They began acquiring military surplus P-3 Orion aircraft in 1990, beginning with two and later increasing the total to eight. In 2005 a group of investors in the Seattle area bought the company and moved it to the former McClellan Air Force Base at Sacramento in 2010. The base is now a joint civil-military airfield with various mixed-use tenants.
The U.S. Forest Service cancelled their air tanker contract with Aero Union in July of 2011, saying safety inspections were not being completed, and shortly after that the company laid off most of their employees. At the time of the cancellation six of the P-3s were still under contract and being used regularly on wildfires. Unless the condition of the aircraft has deteriorated significantly in the last six months, which is possible, they may still be very viable as air tankers. It appears that they will qualify for the U.S. Forest Service’s “new generation” air tanker contract which requires aircraft that can cruise at 300 knots, have turbine engines, and have a “target” capacity of 3,000 to 5,000 gallons.
The sealed bids will be opened February 28, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. local time at the Lions Gate Hotel at McClellan, California.
Thanks go out to Ken