Tester statement on new Forest Service airtanker contract with Missoula’s Neptune Aviation

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after news that the U.S. Forest Service contracted with Neptune Aviation in Missoula to acquire two new airtankers to fight wildfires:

“Fire season is here and we must do everything we can to protect Montanans from the threat of wildfires – as long as human safety comes first.  I’m pleased that the Forest Service is working with Neptune to add to its fleet of airtankers and boost its firefighting capabilities.  I’ll keep pushing the Forest Service to develop a long-term plan that ensures that Montana and the country are prepared to safely fight wildfires.”

The Forest Service will contract two BAe-146 planes from Neptune.  The announcement comes less than two weeks after two Forest Service airtanker accidents that reduced the agency’s ability to fight fires.

In the wake of the accidents, Tester pushed the Forest Service to modernize its fleet of airtankers and backed legislation allowing the Forest Service to expedite the purchase of new aircraft.  The Forest Service will acquire seven airtankers overall, but Neptune’s will be delivered first.

Airtankers are effective tools for fighting wildfires.  Aerial attack at the onset of a fire can keep wildfires small and less costly, saving the Forest Service $300 million to $450 million per year.