Saturday, September 30, 2017

Neptune Aviation retires firefighting planes

MISSOULA - Since its founding in 1993, Neptune Aviation's P-2 V tankers have flown missions over thousands of wildfires, providing safety not only in the Northern Rockies but all over North America.

The planes were originally designed for the U.S. Navy to be used for maritime patrols and anti-submarine missions. but since their creation, they have been used for dozens of different jobs.

According to the company, of the 12 used nationwide, seven of the aircraft are owned by Neptune Aviation. The Missoula-based company has managed to keep the planes operational by getting the parts they need to maintain them

"Right here in Missoula. we can make the wheels for the aircraft. we can make wing flaps. We deal with the avionics. So anything the airplane needs we make," Neptune Aviation CEO Ron Hooper said.

For many of the pilots who flew these aircraft, Saturday was an emotional day, "there's a lot of history with it and a lot of fond memories, so it's an emotional time.," pilot Robert Minter.

The process of switching over to a more modern aircraft has been in the works since 2009 and although the time has finally come to bring in newer aircraft, the P-2 Vs have been praised by pilots and engineers for their durability and strength.

Neptune Aviation CEO Ron Hooper says that retiring the planes is bittersweet, but he looks forward to the future.

"i think that what's been important is our commitment to the community and the community support that we get. And then our resiliency and our ability to successfully to go from a P2 fleet to the 146 fleet."

Neptune currently has nine of the newer more modern aircraft meant to take over now that the P-2 Vs have been retired.

Story and video ➤

MISSOULA, Montana - Neptune Aviation is retiring seven Lockheed P2V air tankers Saturday September 30th.

This is a historic day for these aircraft that have been around since the cold war. Sam Wagner traveled all the way from Coeur d'alene to see the planes he grew up watching. 

"When we heard they were decommissioning these planes we decided to come check them out and close the chapter on our childhood kind, because our whole family is coming up and we grew up around them," said Wagner.

The P2V planes began firefighting during the 1970's, Greg Jones, Program Manager for Neptune Aviation  says these historic planes will be taken to museums across America. 

"The planes are going to be stored short term in Alma Gorda New Mexico.We will ferry them down the next couple weeks and then they will be dispersed throughout museums across the United States. 

Among the days festivities, the food and plane tours were a huge hit, but the multiple water drops is what Wagner wanted to see. 

"I think it's going to be great. The airdrops are going to be cool. I think it's going to be fun for everybody," said Wagner. 

With the retirement of the P2V Neptune BAe 146 jets, Neptune is receiving nine aircrafts. These jets are bigger and were previously in the commercial airline service. Greg thinks this will help greatly with fighting fires. 

"It's a newer modern platform that's capable of crossing the U.S. a little faster than the P2," said Jones.

Neptune has been the largest remaining civil or military operator of the aircraft, and has had as many as 10 Forest contracts in one-year.

Original article can be found here ➤

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