Another new airtanker will be added to the national fleet next week if a contract disagreement can be resolved.
Neptune Aviation out of Missoula, Montana, will put their second BAe-146 to work early in the week. Neptune maintenance director Gerry Nielsen told the Missoulian that the new airtanker delivered by Tronos Aviation is ready to go.
“It’s an operational tanker,” he said. “Tronos sent it in with its tank already loaded in. We’ll do one or two test flights to check things out and make sure it’s all correct. Then we wait for the Forest Service.”
The contract, though, is under protest, so authorization for “next-generation airtanker” contracts is on hold. According to the Missoulian, the contract affects Neptune and three other aircraft companies, which have planned to bring on seven new airtankers at a multi-year cost of over $500 million. Neptune put its first BAe jet, Tanker 40, into service last year on an interim contract, and was awarded a two-plane contract in June. Tanker 41 will begin work in early August, and Neptune plans to acquire its third jet early next year. That third tanker will take the number “10” from the P2V that Neptune retired from service earlier this year.