Nine days after their retirement party in Missoula, Neptune Aviation’s P2V retardant bombers were called back into action for northern California’s wildfire rampage.
“Typically the fire season would be over now in northern California,” Neptune marketing manager Kevin Condit said on Tuesday. “It just exploded in the last few days. We’re moving assets all over the map right now.”
The Missoula-based aerial firefighting company celebrated the Korean War-era airplanes’ end of service on Sept. 30 with an air show and community gathering at its Missoula International Airport hanger. The next day, tankers 5 and 14 ferried south to Neptune’s auxiliary base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, to prepare for long-term storage.
“They weren’t by any stretch of the imagination put to bed yet,” Condit said. “Both are still on call-when-needed contracts, so they’re basically there until the incident is under control.”
Neptune had four Lockheed P2V planes in service through 2017. Next year, the company will fly only its newer BAe-146 jets for aerial firefighting.
Condit said two Neptune planes are stationed in Chico while two more are based at San Bernardino. A greater-than-usual Santa Ana wind has accelerated massive fire runs through Napa Valley and Santa Rosa neighborhoods.