Followup on crack found on P2V air tanker

P2V air tanker on the Whoopup fire
P2V air tanker on the Whoopup fire, 7-18-2011. Photo by Bill Gabbert

Neptune Aviation has provided more information about the 24-inch crack they found on a wing spar and skin on one of their 50+ year old P2V air tankers, which prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive. The EAD required that all P2V airplanes be inspected within 24 hours of receiving the directive. Neptune and Minden, who operate all 11 of the large air tankers on U.S. Forest Service contracts, which are all P2Vs, did not find any similar cracks on the other aircraft during the FAA required inspections.

Here are some excerpts from a news release provided by the American Helicopter Services and Aerial Firefighting Association:


Missoula, MT…Neptune Aviation, the country’s biggest operator of large airtankers, reports that its fleet of ex-Navy P2V Neptunes remains wildfire mission-ready, following the discovery of a crack in the left wing of one of its tankers during a routine scheduled inspection in late January of this year. Although that one airtanker remains out of service pending an engineering evaluation, the remaining nine P2Vs were never grounded–thanks to quick action by the operator.

“We were the ones who discovered the problem and notified the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) in Helena, MT, and at the same time filed a Service Difficulty Report through the FAA’s electronic reporting system,” said Dan Snyder, President of the Missoula-based company. “We then developed inspection criteria, which we took to the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) in Denver after we had inspected our entire fleet. The ACO asked us to provide the details of our inspection criteria, and then used that as the basis for the emergency airworthiness directive (AD), which was issued for all P2V operators in the US.”


Snyder pointed out that Neptune’s maintenance and inspection criteria are in full compliance with the approved Continuous Airworthiness Program (CAP), implemented by Neptune, and mandated by the US Forest Service (USFS) in 2004. “Neptune Aviation has always been at the forefront of dealing with the aging aircraft issues involved with the current tanker fleet. The fact that we detected this problem before it led to a catastrophic failure indicates that the CAP is doing its job,” he said.

In fact, Neptune Aviation is in the forefront of efforts to replace its Post-World War II tankers. Last year, it secured interim approval from the USFS for deployment of a modified BAE 146 jet, formerly in air carrier service, and is proposing that aircraft for the air tanker role. “We will be responding to the US Forest Service’s Next Generation Tanker Solicitation by the February 15, 2012 deadline,” Snyder reported. “Our intention is to add more aircraft to the US Forest Service airtanker fleet under this solicitation, while continuing to maintain our current P2V tanker fleet.”

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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.

4 thoughts on “Followup on crack found on P2V air tanker”

  1. Neptune may have a plane on a substandard approval but they are not at the “forefront.” There are others out there operating that have the biggest steamroller. The P2 should have been history years ago…oh…it was.

    1. I must disagree with you. Neptune is at the “forefront” of the tanker industry. They were right up there with Aero Union when they were still around. Currently I rate the last to major airtanker operators at the “forefront” of the industry. Both Neptune and Minden are dedicated to the job of aerial firefighting, and are working to bring newer updated aircraft online.

  2. Way to be proactive Neptune.

    Too bad some other company couldnt have done the same a few years back.

    The land mgt agancies are stuck in that bureacratic paralysis that ultimately affects all entrenched bureacracies.
    Its called the Peter Principle and it works like this…an individual, who may very well be competant at his job, is promoted through the ranks right up to the point where he is incapable of performing the function to which he has been promoted. Here he remains for the rest of his career, incompetant in his duties and unable to be demoted or fired.

    Just look across the upper management of ANY government agency and you can see the Peter Principle in action.

    It can only be solved with a thorough house cleaning.

  3. As stated, Mr Snyder and Nepune/ Minden discovered the issue and worked with the FSDO andd was open enough and had the intestinal fortitude to let everyone know.

    I am sure the issues with AUC could have been handled equally as professionally if the issues were addressed and the USFS did not go into knee jerk mode.

    What is lacking…the intestinal fortitude of of a “professional land mgmt agency” to cough up a “RAND report” at the cost of the taxpayer which indicates the USFS is not a steward of the taxpayers money and that a company such as Neptune has ALOT more INTEGRITY, HUMBLENESS, PROFESSIONALISM, and OPENESS to the nation with what is going on

    Transparency in the USFS??? Transparency like mission creep ….a mere BUZZWORD!!


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