Horrific California Fires Pull Missoula-Based Planes and Pilots Out of Retirement
During the last weekend of September, the skies over Missoula were buzzing as Neptune Aviation said farewell to its P2V tanker fleet with what was supposed to be one last flight. These P2V tankers are designed to fight fire, which is exactly what they are doing now in California according to Neptune Aviation Marketing Manager Kevin Condit.
"Basically, the state of California called up Neptune and said 'Hey, we'll take any tanker you can send us. It doesn't matter if it's a P2V or one of your jets, please send it. We did have a couple of pilots that were ready to retire when the P2Vs went off-line, and now, both the aircraft and the pilots are back on duty."
Condit says changes in tanker requirements by the Forest Service were the main factor leading to the retirement of the P-2-V, but the horrific blazes in California require all the help possible.
"Some of those aircraft are just reaching the useful end of their flight-life, so the needs of the Forest Service have changed and it's just makes sense to retire them," Condit said. "I hate to use a sports analogy, but I will, it's like it's the bottom of the ninth and they've asked the aging pitcher to come out and get them out of trouble, and that's what we're doing with the P2V fleet."
California is certainly in trouble as the fires have killed at least 13 people with reports of 150 missing in Sonoma County alone. Thousands of structures have been destroyed by the fires, many of which still have unknown causes.