Number of large air tankers on USFS contracts drops

There are 13 exclusive use, and 8 call when needed. Three fewer than last year on CWN list.

(This article first appeared on Fire Aviation)

The list of large and very large air tankers has changed since 2018. The number on the very coveted exclusive use (EU) contracts is the same, 13, but there are three fewer on call when needed contracts (CWN), 8. This could change later in the year but today there are a total of 21 air tankers on both types of contracts, down from 24 last year.

Aero Flite, Aero Air, and Neptune all swapped out some EU aircraft but each still has the same number of allocated slots.

Air Tanker List
Air tankers under U.S. Forest Service Contract, August 12, 2019. Source: USFS.

On the CWN list, Aero Flite went from four to one aircraft and Coulson dropped their L-382G and substituted a B-737 which began working in North America for the first time last week. Neptune swapped some of their BAe-146s but 10 tanker did not make any changes on either list.

Today when we asked Kaari Carpenter, a Public Affairs Specialist for the Forest Service, when the agency was going to offer air tanker contracts based on the call when needed solicitation issued May 30, 2018, she said, “We expect an award on this contract very soon.”

The 2019 wildfire season has been much slower than average so far this year, which is fortunate considering the small number of air tankers available on Forest Service contracts — from 44 in 2002 on EU contracts down to 13.

So far this year a total of 3.6M acres have burned in the U.S., compared with 4.6M for the average to date. It has been far busier than usual in Alaska accounting for 2.4M acres, two-thirds of the U.S. total. Only 1.2M acres have burned in the other 49 states — which I estimate is approximately one-third of the average.

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. Google+

3 thoughts on “Number of large air tankers on USFS contracts drops”

  1. I know the state of Alaska has tankers on contract, and California has there own tankers, are there any other states that have CWN/EU contracts? What would be the total nationwide for inter-agency?

  2. How does a person get one of those crystal balls that the Feds use to determine air tanker availability? Lots of people hanging around (CWN) waiting for work, like the parking lot of Home Depot. Is that any way to support air tanker companies that have tens of millions of dollars invested, waiting? CWN, defined, close the gate after the horse has left the area. What every happened to I.A. on OUR national forest.

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