Neptune Aviation Works to Secure Forest Service Contract - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Neptune Aviation Works to Secure Forest Service Contract

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MISSOULA -

Missoula's Neptune Aviation Services is in the final stages of securing a contract with the U.S. Forest Service.

In May, the company lost the bid for the multimillion dollar contract to deliver fire retardant all over the country.

The contract is for the use of two of Neptune's "Next Generation" air tankers to help fight wildfires in 2014.

Senator Tester said he worked closely with Neptune and federal leaders to ensure the aviation company had a fair shot at the contract.

Tester is a member of the Interior Appropriations Committee, which oversees the Forest Service's budget.

He said he spent the past seven months urging federal leaders to reexamine the fire fighting contract because of Neptune's history with the Forest Service.

"They're a very good company that employs a lot of good Montanans, but more importantly provide a service that the Forest Service has used for two decades," he said.

After Neptune lost the bid for the Next Generation contract in May, company officials filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office.

Three months later, the GAO released a report that showed concerns about the Forest Service's strategy for updating its tanker fleet.

"It was particularly interesting to me when we were looking at the fires right south of Missoula last August and Neptune was sitting there with airplanes that couldn't fight those fires because those contracts weren't made with Neptune," Tester said.

Senator Tester urged the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service Chief to reconsider Neptune as an aerial firefighting partner.

He added, "To keep these folks at the table negotiating because Neptune was such a good, quality contractor."

Ultimately, Tester said they were successful with renegotiations, and the contract will be finalized within the next 10 days.

"They are vital to Montana as far as fighting fires on forest service land and they're vital to the west," he said.

Neptune officials said they can't make any official comments until the contract is finalized, but they appreciate Senator Tester's work on the deal.

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