Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tanker Notes - updates on status for the 2014 season

With many thanks to Bill Gabbert of Fire Aviation, I can provide a somewhat overdue article on the status of heavy tankers as we move towards Spring 2014. Bill does a fine job of keeping up with and reporting on the current status of aviation resources used in aerial firefighting in  Fire Aviation, and other wildland firefighting news in Wildfire Today. Some of you may already follow Bill's blogs and are already up to speed. With the exception of a couple of articles from Missoulian, all the articles that I link to are from Bill Gabbert's Fire Aviation.

Neptune Aviation Legacy contract
On February 12, Fire Aviation reported on the status of Neptune Aviation's Legacy contract under which Neptune Aviation will supply six Lockheed P-2V tankers and one BAe-146 jet tanker this coming fire season.

US Forest Service to acquire C-130's
Bill Gabbert of Fire Aviation has written many articles reporting on the transfer of seven C-130H aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for conversion to air tankers (Fire Aviation 12/20/13).  See for example Bill's article on the passage of the Defense Bill clearing the way for these transfers and the transfer of up to 15 C-23B +S Sherpas to the Smoke Jumping Division. You might also want to read his article on January 4 that two of the C-130's may not need major maintenance an article on January 11 about wing box replacement, and an article on January 14 about the management of the C-130 tankers.

The Missoulian reports on USFS's acquisition of the seven C-130s in an article by Rob Chaney on January 7.

A history of the Sole Source Air Tanker Award 
I reported on January 8, 2014 that The Sole Source Contract awarded Neptune Aviation is under protest. I understand that a decision by the GAO is still due by March 28, 2014. Yesterday, March 11, Bill Gabbert wrote an excellent article reviewing the history and developments behind the sole source air tanker award to Neptune Aviation. I commend this fine piece of reporting to you.

I had been wondering about the status of the Next Generation Tanker Contract and was glad to see that Bill provides an update in his March 11th article on the Sole Source Tanker Award. Recall that only two of the seven tankers under the Next Generation Contract flew in 2013, the DC-10 tanker and Coulson's C-130Q tanker. 

The other five missed their contractual start dates and in September the USFS issued “cure notices” to the three companies. The USFS contracting officer established new mandatory availability period (MAP) dates of March 30, 2014 (Minden), May 3 and 7, 2014 (Aero Air), and May 20 and 28, 2014 (Aero Flite). Fire Aviation, March 11, 2014, A sole source air tanker award, and how it developed.

You might also want to read this January 7th article by Rob Chaney in the Missoulian about the protest of the sole source contract.

Lead Planes
Speaking of jets, on February 27, Bill reported that the Bureau of Land Management has awarded the first contract for a jet-powered lead plane (A Citation CJ) in 2014. Bill reports on the USFS lead planes and ATGS platforms in an article he posted on February 28.

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