Merkley Applauds Forest Service Action on “Next Generation” Airtankers

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after the U.S. Forest Service announced it would award operating contracts for “Next Generation” airtankers to be used in wildfire suppression: 

“I am pleased that the Forest Service is moving forward to get these planes into service. Last year, we saw the devastating effects of historic wildfires in Oregon. With another historic wildfire season potentially looming, we must act quickly to ensure that we have the safest and most effective possible equipment in place for firefighting.” 

The Next Generation airtankers will replace aging “Legacy” aircraft that have been used as part of the Forest Service aviation program for years, and in some cases, decades. All of the Next Generation airtankers are turbine powered, can carry a minimum of 3,000 gallons of retardant and have a cruise speed of at least 300 knots when fully loaded.

Two of the contracts will go to Oregon-based companies: Aero Air in Hillsboro, and Coulson Aircrane in Portland. 

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that it intends to award exclusive use contracts for Next Generation airtankers to:

  • Minden Air Corporation; Minden, Nev., for 1 BAe-146
  • Aero Air, LLC; Hillsboro, Ore., for 2 MD87s
  • Aero Flite, Inc.; Kingman, Ariz., for 2 Avro RJ85s
  • Coulson Aircrane (USA), Inc.; Portland, Ore., for 1 C130Q
  • 10 Tanker Air Carrier, LLC; Adelanto, Calif., for 1 DC-10