With Modern Airtanker Fleet, Neptune Aviation Services Pursues International Markets

Washington, DC… June 24, 2013….Neptune Aviation Services is responding to opportunities to provide aerial firefighting services outside the US for the first time, thanks to its growing fleet of BAe 146 jetliners, reconfigured by the operator as modern airtankers.

According to Ronald Hooper, Chief Executive Officer of the Missoula, Montana-based company, Neptune Aviation Services submitted a formal bid last January to provide one BAe 146 to the Australian National Fire Agency.  If the bid is successful, the tanker would be deployed to Australia to assist in firefighting activity, along with a pilot, copilot, two mechanics, and a corporate liaison who would function as the interface between the company and the fire agency.  The contract, said Hooper, would coincide with the length of Australia’s fire season, which runs from November through January.  “We expect to find out in August or September, if our bid is successful,” he noted.

Hooper also reported that over the past few months, the company has fielded inquiries from the national firefighting agencies of Spain and Brazil.  “They know about our capabilities and approached us to ask about our interest in future contracts,” he explained.  “We are now waiting for those governments to issue formal solicitations for firefighting contracts.”

Currently, Neptune Aviation Services has two BAe 146 tankers flying under US Forest Service (USFS) legacy contracts, along with its remaining fleet of six Korean War-era  P2V Neptunes.  The twin-piston, former Navy patrol aircraft, are slated for retirement within five years.  Those eight tankers have been working the wildland fires which have swept through Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Southern California this year.

Two more BAe 146s, undergoing installation of the 3,000 gallon capacity fire retardant tank system, are to be mission-ready by August of this year, while a fifth BAe 146 is being delivered for tank installation in July, with service entry planned for September.

As Hooper pointed out, unlike the P2V, the BAe 146 has a ferrying range of 1500 nautical miles, and can be easily repositioned to almost anywhere in the world.  Along with this, there are no restrictions on where it can go.

“Since the P2V is not a long range aircraft, it would require additional bladder tanks to fly it to many places outside of the US where it would be needed,” he said.  “Also, since the P2V is still registered on the Department of Defense Munitions Control list, it cannot leave the United States. Those are the reasons why our aerial firefighting operations were strictly limited to the US—up to now,” said Hooper.

He added that, along with off-shore opportunities, Neptune Aviation Services is seeing potential business from State government firefighting agencies within the US.  “That, too, would be a new market for us,” he said.

Tom Eversole, Executive Director of the American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA), praised Neptune Aviation’s decision to establish an international presence.  “With the BAe 146, they have successfully developed a modern air tanker that could be in demand worldwide as a fire suppression asset,” said Eversole.

Neptune Aviation Services a member of AHSAFA, the Washington-based trade association representing the commercial operators of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft engaged in aerial wildland firefighting.

Power House Fire Marks Neptune Aviations Three Years Of New Generation Tanker Operations

Neptune Aviation Services has marked three years of successful operations of its emerging fleet of BAe 146 new generation, large airtankers, as one of its reconfigured, one-time regional jet airliners works the Power House fire in Southern California.  The fire, north of Los Angeles, has destroyed some 50 square miles, to date, and forced thousands of evacuations.

With a tank capacity of 3,000 gallons of retardant, the BAe 146 is being deployed on the Power House fire from a base at Santa Maria, California, under a US Forest Service (USFS) contract, along with two of the operator’s P2V legacy tankers, which are flying from Lancaster, California.  Each of the three aircraft is being supported in the field by two flight crews, and an equal number of maintenance staff.

“All three aircraft are flying about 10 to 12 missions, per day on the fire,” said Dan Snyder, Chief Operating Officer of the Missoula-based company.  “However, the BAe 146 is covering a larger area, and has greater response times than the P2Vs, because it flies faster.  In addition, its turn-time on the ground is a 50 percent improvement over the P2Vs.”

Snyder reported that deployment of the BAe 146 on the Power House fire comes three years after Neptune Aviation Services received the first aircraft in the spring of 2010 for modification and testing as an airtanker.  He reported the company has been more than satisfied with the aircrafts  performance.

“Due to the operational efficiencies of the BAe 146, which we’ve been able to exploit over the past two years, it has proven to be far more efficient in the delivery of fire retardant,” Snyder pointed out.  “We can honestly say the aircraft has done everything it has been asked to do, and was expected to do.”

Currently, Neptune Aviation Services is the world’s first, and only approved operator of the BAe 146 as an airtanker, with two on contract with the US Forest Service, and two more in its hangar at Missoula, undergoing modification and installation of the fire retardant tanking and delivery system.  Those two aircraft, Snyder reported, are slated to be mission ready by the height of this year’s fire season, which is during July and August.  A fifth aircraft is expected to be delivered in the late summer of this year for modification.

The two modified airtankers now under contract—Tanker T40 and T41—have flown on approximately 230 wildland fires since October 2011, when the first one went into firefighting service.  Neptune Aviation Services, which funded development internally of the BAe 146 as an airtanker, expects to phase out its aging P2V Neptunes with the more modern aircraft within the next few years.

“Neptune Aviation Services is an example of what private enterprise can accomplish in the demanding aerial firefighting business, as it moves toward a modern airtanker fleet,” said Tom Eversole, Executive Director of the American Helicopter Services And Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA).  “The emerging, successful track record of the BAe 146 in the airtanker role has validated it as an important asset in wildland firefighting.”

AHSAFA is the Washington-based trade association representing the commercial operators of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft engaged in aerial wildland firefighting.  Neptune Aviation Services is an AHSAFA member.