Minden Air’s Tanker No. 48 will be battling forest fires around the country after the Carson Valley company received a five-year contract from the U.S. Forest Service.
The contract was announced on Wednesday by U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
Minden Air Director of Maintenance Matt Graham said the company found out on Wednesday.
“It’s a good deal,” Graham said. “We’re happy to provide the service.”
Firefighting jobs have been slow during the winter, and Tanker 48 is in Porterville, Calif., Graham said.
“It’s been a slow year so far, but it’s dry out so that will change,” he said. “We provide the pilots, the fuel and everything. We contract with the Forest Service and they tell us where to go.”
Called legacy air tankers by the Forest Service, Minden Air will be providing one of the seven big tankers to be used this fire season.
Neptune Aviation Services, Inc. of Missoula, Mont., will provide six P2Vs and one BAe-146. Both Neptune and Minden Air hold exclusive-use contracts with the Forest Service to provide large air tankers for wildfire suppression. The P2V large air tankers are piston powered, can carry more than 2,000 gallons of retardant and have a cruise speed of 185 knots when fully loaded with retardant. The BAe-146 large air tanker is turbine powered, can carry about 3,000 gallons of retardant and has a cruising speed in excess of 330 knots.
“These legacy air tankers will continue to be part of our overall strategy as we prepare for another busy season of wildfires,” Tidwell said. “These large air tankers play an important role in wildfire suppression by helping slow the progress of wildfires, allowing firefighters on the ground to safely contain them.”
During this summer’s fire season, the Forest Service expects to supplement the large air tanker fleet acquired through legacy exclusive-use contracts with additional large air tankers available through cooperators and the military as well as with very large air tankers, single engine air tankers, water scoopers and helicopters, the announcement said.
The Forest Service expects to announce contracts for the next generation of air tankers. Those tankers are newer aircraft that are turbine-powered, can carry a minimum of 2,400 gallons of retardant and have a cruise speed of at least 300 knots when fully loaded.
Fire activity during the 2012 wildfire season resulted in about 9.3 million acres of private, state and federal land burned nationwide, the third highest amount since at least 1960, the earliest date with reliable records.
One of Minden Air’s other P2V tanker was damaged in a hard landing last year and won’t be coming back, Graham said.