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Oregon Companies To Build 'Next Generation' Of Forest Service Air Tankers


The U.S. Forest Service says it plans to award contracts to two Oregon companies to help build its “next generation” of air tankers for fighting wildfires.

One of those companies, Hillsboro-based Aero Air, will build and operate two modified commercial jets. Each is capable of dropping 4000 gallons of water or retardant from the air.

The other is Portland-based Coulson Aviation USA. It will build and operate a modified C-130 Hercules, a plane originally used by the U.S. Navy.

The announcement is a triumph for Coulson, which was passed over for a contract last summer.

CEO Wayne Coulson appealed that decision to the Government Accountability Office.

“What was pointed out is there was a calculation missed that was a significant factor in determining best value.  So what happened is the scoreboard changed,” Coulson said.

In all, five companies are expected to bring seven new planes into operation by the end of the year.  Once that happens, the Forest Service says it will have up to 26 air tankers that could be used for firefighting.