MISSOULA, Mont. - The U.S. Forest Service is busy working on contracts for the summer firefighting season and that includes air support, like air tankers.
Monday afternoon NBC Montana learned local air tanker company Neptune Aviation is losing out on a five-year $158-million contract.
That's because the Forest Service is working with five new vendors which they say can provide bigger and better air tankers. As the contract stands the five vendors will provide seven new air tankers – called ‘Next Generation Aircrafts.'
Tom Harbour, fire and aviation management director for the Forest Service, told NBC Montana their legacy contract with Neptune Aviation includes older planes like the P2V.
"We had more aircrafts in the past but they were smaller, slower and older," said Harbour. "We think we can make do with fewer numbers in the future as long as they're bigger, faster and quicker -- and that's the direction we're headed now."
Harbour says right now the Forest Service has up to 26 aircrafts at its disposal. That includes all contracted aircrafts along with eight air tankers provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.
He tells us the current legacy contract with Neptune Aviation includes six P2Vs and one BAE-146 air tanker.
We tried calling Neptune Aviation Monday afternoon but have received no word from them about the contract agreements.