The Missoulian has a good article about the present state and the future of the air tanker program. The author, Rob Chaney, interviewed U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Director Tom Harbour, and here are a couple of quotes from the article:
More than half a billion dollars worth of new firefighting airplane contracts should come through later this month, as the U.S. Forest Service heads into one of the hottest summers on record.
Although the names of contract winners won’t be announced before June 25, the news can’t come soon enough for Missoula-based Neptune Aviation. The company hopes to boost its new BAe-146 jet fleet from one plane to three, just weeks after a fatal crash in Utah reduced its Korean War-era P2V tanker fleet from eight to seven.
The five-year contracts to four vendors would bring on seven modern retardant bombers to the national firefighting air force. Three companies would provide two new planes apiece at a cost between $125.7 million and $178 million over five years. The fourth vendor would add one plane for $66.8 million.
“There’s been a lot of talk going around how there used to be over 40 large air tankers and now we have less than 10,” Snyder said. “But we know the aircraft we have today compared to the aircraft of yesteryear are a night-and-day difference. It’s just a guess, but I think you won’t need to see the number of aircraft you used to see in yesteryear.“
Thanks go out to Dick