Neptune’s official statement

Neptune Aviation has released an official statement about Sunday’s crash of their air tanker:


Date: June 4, 2012


Missoula, Montana — On June 3, 2012, Neptune Aviation Services of Missoula, Montana experienced a fatal aircraft accident while performing aerial firefighting activities in western Utah.

Captain Todd Tompkins and First Officer Ron Chambless were flying Tanker 11, a Lockheed P2V-7, when the aircraft made contact with the ground while flying in the active fire drop zone. The aircraft was dispatched from the Cedar City, Utah airtanker base to the White Rock Fire near the Utah-Nevada state line. Neither crewmember survived the accident.

Captain Tompkins had 20 years of aviation experience with 14 years as an airtanker pilot. He faithfully served Neptune Aviation since 2006. First Officer Chambless had 8 years of aviation experience with many years in wildland firefighting. This was his first fire season with Neptune Aviation.

In accordance with company policy, Neptune Aviation implemented a voluntary stand-down of its fleet in order for the Director of Flight Operations and Director of Maintenance to debrief all crewmembers and mechanics before releasing the fleet back to active duty. At the time of this press release, Neptune’s fleet of airtankers has been released back to active duty.

We want to take this opportunity to send our thoughts to Minden Air and the crewmembers of Tanker 55. We are so grateful that those involved did not sustain injuries.

For more information, please contact Mike Pfau. At this time, Neptune Aviation is unable to comment as to any accident specifics. The investigation has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board. Neptune continues to work closely with the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of Interior, Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and local authorities.

Neptune Aviation Services was incorporated in May 1993 after purchasing the assets of Black Hills Aviation of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Upon acquiring its fleet and personnel, Neptune relocated its main base of operation to Missoula, Montana, substantially increasing in size and capabilities. Currently, Neptune has a mixed fleet of Lockheed P2V and British Aerospace BAe-146 aircraft.

“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with all the family and friends of those impacted by this event. Todd and Ronnie were truly considered a part of our family and they will be deeply missed.” – Kristen Nicolarsen, CEO of Neptune Aviation.


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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.