The U.S. Forest Service is still struggling to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for “next generation” air tankers. As we reported on December 1, 2011, the agency issued a RFP on November 30 for turbine-powered air tankers that can carry 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of retardant and cruise at 300 knots. At that time the required response date was January 10, 2012 and the award date was January 31. Since then there have been three amendments to the RFP, 80 questions from potential bidders have been formally submitted, and the RFP has been re-issued with a new response date of February 15. The revised award date is “to be determined”.
The RFP still indicates that the USFS “intends to award” contracts for seven next-gen air tankers, three in 2012 and four in 2013, with the option to add more. And they retain the option to contract for no next-gen air tankers at all.
All of this uncertainty is not very confidence-inspiring for current and potential vendors who are required to invest millions, or tens of millions, in a venture that may or may not come to fruition, turn a profit, or last more than five years, if that.
This RFP is in addition to the 11 large fully certified “legacy” air tankers that are currently on exclusive use multi-year contracts. Here is the text from the RFP:
It is the intent of this solicitation to secure a Firm Fixed Price Multi-Year contract(s) not to exceed 10-years (5 year base with 5 one year options) for the daily availability rate. The U.S. Forest Service intends to award seven (7) line items for next generation turbine powered airtankers. Line items 1-3 will begin service in calendar year 2012 and will have a base period of five (5) years with five (5) one year options. Line items 4-7 will begin service in calendar year 2013 and will have a base period of five (5) years with four (4) one year options. For each line item awarded the Government will have the option to add an additional four (4) airtankers (two (2) in year two and two (2) in year 3) to the contract for a total potential of 5 airtankers starting in year three of the base contract period.
The web site Random Ramblings: Aerial Wildland Firefighting has an article about the large air tankers that are on U.S. Forest Service contract for 2012. Here is the new list that is posted at the NIFC web site:
It’s a rather pitiful looking list, when compared to those from previous years that had 19 to 44 air tankers.
Tanker 40, the BAe-146 that Neptune is leasing from Tronos, arrived at the Tronos facility on Prince Edward Island December 24 to begin a major scheduled maintenance, a C-check, which is required every 5,000 cycles or every 2.5 years. The C-check for a BAe-146 usually takes about 21 work days and the aircraft has not returned to Missoula yet. Last fall the Interagency Air Tanker Board gave “interim approval” to Tanker 40 which will be valid until December, 2012.