8 of the 19 heavy air tankers grounded

Eight of the nineteen heavy air tankers in the United States have been grounded indefinitely from the national fleet. A memo sent by the Southwest Coordination Center on April 14 stated that all P-3 Orions are grounded due to “issues found during aircraft inspection on one of the P-3s last week”.

This leaves 11 heavy air tankers, nine P2Vs operated by Neptune Aviation out of Missoula, MT and two P2Vs operated by Minden Air, Inc. out of Minden, NV.

One might assume, then, that the MAFFS and the very large air tankers, the 2 DC-10s and the 747, might see more use this year, if we have at least an average fire season.

We expect to have more on this story as the details emerge.


Thanks Ken


UPDATE 11:00 p.m. PT, April 15, 2011

A story in the Lubbock Avalance-Journal says all of the P-3s belonged to Aero Union who voluntarily grounded the planes due to a disagreement or misunderstanding between their company and the U. S. Forest Service and the FAA over inspections of the aircraft. The article said the company hopes to resolve the issue at a meeting on Tuesday of next week.

UPDATE at 3:32 p.m., April 21, 2011:

The disagreement about the P-3 air tankers has been resolved.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

6 thoughts on “8 of the 19 heavy air tankers grounded”

  1. Bill,

    I have a slight correction for you. The 2 Neptunes out of Menden, NV are owned and operated by Menden Air. They are tankers 48 and 55. The rest are owned and operated by Neptune Aviation

  2. With the fleet aging, and this latest hit, shouldn’t it be time to look at the Dash Eight as replacements? {The French have done it}
    From what I read about it, the plane can haul 2,600 gallons of slurry, foam, or water. Add in the DeHaviland’s famous short field capabilities {Especially in the 100 and 200 series} and a low stall speed and you have a very effective aircraft, and a very modern one depending on version of the family one would convert, but they have items in them that the FAA requires in airliner aircraft such as GPWS {Ground Proximity Warning System}, TCAS. Even a twenty year old Dash 8-100 packing a 1,500 gallon carrying capacity would be a breath of fresh air. And the best part is, you can find them for cheap in the Deserts in airline boneyards, Alot cheaper then the plan that was around last summer of Uncle Sam spending 2.5 Billion on NEW C-130’s especially for the Forest Service. As anybody heard about Neptune and their modification of a Dash 8 Q-300, I know everybody is in love with that jet, but it just seems to me that the Dash 8 or even a SAAB 340 outfitted would be a pair of good medium to light heavy tankers.

  3. Ken is correct.
    Cant be the same thought that grounded the Douglass’ because Lockheed was the manufacturer of both the P2 & P3 and both airframes were cleared up to an operational limit.

    The Douglass’? Get this…the FEDS admitted they made a mistake when confronted about the BT67 still being airworthy, while the 4s, 6s, and 7s, although newer, were not considered because no one can curently speak for Douglass,(ostensibly, Bassler spoke for the 67s). When directly asked what they were going to do to remedy the problem was a quick straightforward and glib, “nothing.”

    The current issue is exactly what Ken says, a pissing match between the children that wear the uniforms of the FAA and USFS. Bureaucratic brats who will take their ball and go home if you dont modify the rules to give them an advantage.

    Makes you kinda proud to be a taxpayer doesnt it?

  4. Aero Union P-3’s are the only remaining “Type 1” airtankers in the fleet. P2Vs are “type 2” airtankers.

    The two remaining airtanker providers (Neptune and Minden) are BOTH working on BAe-146 platforms to supplement their aging P2V fleet.

    Since neither the P-3 or P2V fleet have experienced in-flight structural failures, I wonder where this “USFS” and “FAA” stuff is coming from?… Same thoughts that grounded the DC-4, DC-6, and DC-7 platforms?

    Behind the scenes… It’s not so much about the aerial contract providers, but MORE OF A PISSING match between the USFS and FAA… neither of which want to accept accountability or responsibility for an aging fleet.


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