USA: MISSOULA – Since its founding in 1993, Neptune Aviation’s P-2 V tankers have flown missions over thousands of wildfires, providing safety not only in the Northern Rockies but all over North America.
The planes were originally designed for the U.S. Navy to be used for maritime patrols and anti-submarine missions. but since their creation, they have been used for dozens of different jobs.
According to the company, of the 12 used nationwide, seven of the aircraft are owned by Neptune Aviation. The Missoula-based company has managed to keep the planes operational by getting the parts they need to maintain them
“Right here in Missoula. we can make the wheels for the aircraft. we can make wing flaps. We deal with the avionics. So anything the airplane needs we make,” Neptune Aviation CEO Ron Hooper said.
For many of the pilots who flew these aircraft, Saturday was an emotional day, “there’s a lot of history with it and a lot of fond memories, so it’s an emotional time.,” pilot Robert Minter.
The process of switching over to a more modern aircraft has been in the works since 2009 and although the time has finally come to bring in newer aircraft, the P-2 Vs have been praised by pilots and engineers for their durability and strength.
Neptune Aviation CEO Ron Hooper says that retiring the planes is bittersweet, but he looks forward to the future.
“i think that what’s been important is our commitment to the community and the community support that we get. And then our resiliency and our ability to successfully to go from a P2 fleet to the 146 fleet.”
Neptune currently has nine of the newer more modern aircraft meant to take over now that the P-2 Vs have been retired.