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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Western Wildfires Keep Missoula Air Tanker Company Busy

Neptune Aviation air tanker drops retardant on a fire.
Steve Whitby/Neptune Aviation
Neptune Aviation air tanker drops retardant on a fire.

Summer’s barely a month old, but a Missoula aviation and air tanker company is already running at full tilt.

“Neptune Aviation is incredibly busy right now,” says Neptune Aviation spokesman Kevin Condit. “We’re really flying a lot of fires in a lot of different states. We’re everywhere from Colorado to California and in between. It’s been a busy fire season so far.”

Neptune’s airtanker fleet is now made up of 9 “next-generation” firefighting jets.

The last of the so-called “legacy,” or propeller-driven, air tankers were taken out of service last year. Condit says the replacement next-gen jet tankers are doing a great job.

“The benefit for Neptune of retiring the P2's is that we’re working on one platform,” he says. “That’s easier on the pilots, easier on the mechanical crews, though we certainly miss the P2’s.”

However, Condit says the unique sound of the old vintage air tankers will soon be heard above Montana once again.

In just a few weeks they’ll be flying to their final destinations at museums and airports across the country.

One of them will be on permanent display at Glendive’s airport in eastern Montana.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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