Mission Accomplished, P-2Vs Fly Final Firefighting Flights

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Mission Accomplished, P-2Vs Fly Final Firefighting Flights

Neptune Aviation Services closed out a notable chapter in aviation history--and aerial firefighting--with the retirement of its last two active P-2V Neptune air tankers on October 20.  The aircraft returned to the operator's southern maintenance complex in Alamogordo, New Mexico, following release from operations on the firestorm which swept Northern California's internationally renowned wine country. 

The two tankers, both P-2V-5s and numbered 05 and 14, were built in 1953 and 1954, respectively, by Lockheed as long-range, anti-submarine patrol aircraft for the US Navy at the height of the Cold War Era.  Both had been officially retired on September 30, but were recalled to active duty on October 9, as Northern California reeled under what has been called the worst fire event in the state's history.  The tankers, working under a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) call when needed contract, were among seven P-2Vs which Neptune Aviation Services had maintained in a mechanically flight ready status at the time.

"The fact that those aircraft had been retired, but were ready to go back to work when they did is a testament to how well Neptune Aviation Services has maintained them over the past 24 years," said Dan Snyder, the company's Chief Operating Officer of the Missoula, Montana-headquartered company.  "They were still airworthy and will remain so, right up until their next annual inspection due date.  In fact, both have a considerable amount of service life left, with 524 cycles on Tanker 05, and 2,144 cycles remaining on Tanker 14."

During their 12-day post-retirement duty, each tanker flew 36 retardant dropping missions, primarily out of a main base at Chico.  However, as Snyder pointed out, the aircraft also flew from multiple CALFIRE and US Forest Service (USFS) tanker bases where they took on fuel and retardant.  Each tanker was supported by a flight crew of two, and an equal number of maintenance staff.

Snyder reported that the seven P2-Vs will have a future as static displays at airports and museums, at locations yet to be determined.  Tanker 14, however, may fly again on the air show circuit, primarily to maintain brand awareness by the public for its long-time owner.

"What pushed the P-2Vs into retirement was the decision by our primary customer, the US Forest Service, to contract exclusively for more modern air tankers starting in 2018," Snyder explained.  "We are meeting the needs of our customer with a fleet of BAe 146 regional jets, modified for the air tanker role."  Currently, Neptune Aviation Services has nine.

"The retirement of a still-flight-worthy fleet of legacy aircraft speaks to the expertise of Neptune Aviation Services' technicians, and the company's commitment to do what is required to maintain the P-2Vs as a viable aerial firefighting asset," said George Hill, Executive Director of the American Helicopter Services And Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA).  "It is yet another example of the way the privately operated aerial firefighting industry has met the increasingly challenging wildland fire environment, which has become an increasing threat to populated areas, as shown by the recent fires in California."

Neptune Aviation Services is a member of AHSAFA, the Washington, D.C. headquartered trade association representing the privately operated aerial firefighting industry before government agencies tasked with fire protection and wildland management.  

Media Contact: George Hill, American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association, 8016737324, ghill@ahsafa.org

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SOURCE American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association

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