Today the U.S. Forest Service announced contract awards for five large exclusive (EU) use air tankers. Three companies received contracts — Erickson Aero Air for two tankers, Aero Flite for two, and Coulson for one.
The tankers operated by the companies include MD-87s by Erickson Aero Air and RJ85s by Aero Flite. Coulson flies C-130s and 737s. The estimated total value of the contracts are, Erickson Aero Air $70.5 M, Aero Flite $80.4 M, and Coulson $41.5 M.
The solicitation for the Next Generation 3.0 air tankers was first posted 494 days ago on November 19, 2018. There are approximately three seasons left for the six aircraft on the Next Gen 1.0 contract, so the Forest Service should begin today working on Next Gen 4.0.
These 5 large EU air tankers will be added to the existing fleet of 13 (see the chart below published March 11), to bring the total up to 18. Earlier the Forest Service said they would have “up to 18” on EU contract this year. There are an additional 17 large air tankers on call when needed (CWN) contracts that can be activated, but at hourly and daily rates much higher than those on EU.
Since 2013 the number of large air tankers on Forest Service EU contracts at the beginning of each fire season varied from 9 in 2013 to 21 in 2016 and 2017. From 2000 to 2002 there were 40 to 44.