Missoula's Neptune Aviation heard bad news this week when the U.S. Forest Service announced the winners of lucrative contracts for developing the next generation of firefighting air tankers.

"We were notified by the forest service that the next generation contracts had been awarded and that Neptune was not awarded any of the line items of that contract," said General operations Manager for Neptune Aviation Dan Snyder. "We were not anticipating this news at all. Last year, in June, the forest service had issued the same contract and give us two line items under that contract."

The bids awarded to Neptune Aviation and two other companies were protested by yet another two companies who argued that they were unfairly passed over during the  bidding process. The U.S. Forest Service then redid the bidding awarding contracts to all of the companies except for Neptune Aviation. Needless to say, the news was unexpected.

"Anticipating an award, Neptune purchased an additional two airframes," Snyder said. "We spent a significant amount of money converting those aircraft into air tankers and making modifications to our tanking system to improve on the system regarding its shortfalls and its strengths during the 2013 season. A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes here, our 150 employees have been working really hard getting us to this point. We anticipated having the contracts but, of course, at this point of we have to reevaluate

Snyder says “multiple millions of dollars” were spent in expectation of the contracts. Each of the planes alone is valued at six million dollars, not counting all of the research, development, and personnel costs that went into the planes.

When asked if there would be layoffs Snyder said that Neptune Aviation was "looking at everything as possibilities." However, Snyder also said that "for the immediate future, we don't see any change in Neptune's current approach to things."

Dan Snyder


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