Neptune Aviation Services Inc. dropped its bid protest of the award of four next generation firefighting airtanker contracts last Friday, but the aircraft may not be ready for use until the tail-end of the 2013 fire season.
Thomas Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, said “this will help modernize our fleet in the quickest manner possible as we face the prospect of a challenging wildfire season.”
Jennifer Jones, a Forest Service spokeswoman at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said it could take companies awarded the airtanker contracts between 60 to 90 days to get ready to fly wildfire suppression missions. This includes outfitting aircraft with tanks that carry water or chemical retardant, approval of a field trial by an Interagency Tanker Board and FAA certification.
“Since the contracts were awarded in early June, we would expect all of the aircraft to be flying by August-September, although it could be sooner if all of the requirements are met before then,” Jones said.