Neptune Aviation and the National Museum of Forest Service History in Missoula have announced a partnership to provide Tanker 12 a new permanent home. Neptune Aviation retired its Lockheed P2V airtankers in September of 2017, closing the final chapter on the world’s last active fleet of former maritime patrol aircraft, dating back to the Cold War era, which served for years as national aerial firefighting assets.
“The Museum is a perfect home for Neptune’s T-12,” said Jennifer Draughon, president of Neptune Aviation Services. “The Forest Service has a long history of aerial firefighting operations and Neptune’s T12 will help the museum tell the story of how aircraft play a role in protecting our communities.”
Before Tanker 12 began its history as an aerial firefighting aircraft, the P2V served the U.S. Navy in anti-submarine warfare missions.
NewsTalk KGVO reported that from 1993 Neptune operated a fleet of Lockheed Martin P2V aircraft, and its ships put in about 47,000 firefighting missions, dropping a total of 97 million gallons of retardant.
Moving Tanker 12 from Neptune’s ops base at the Missoula airport to the museum facilities is a project that’s been in the works for some time. “Our mechanics have been hard at work getting the aircraft ready for display,” said Draughon.
While T-12’s final “flight” will be just under a couple of miles, the work behind the scenes has been intense, according to Lisa Tate, the museum’s executive director. She said the P2V will be parked along the museum’s Forest Discovery Trail near the planned National Conservation Legacy Center, a new interactive and participatory part of the museum. She said the cooperation of the Missoula International Airport will help in moving T-12 to the museum.
“Moving the aircraft is no simple task,” she said. “We need to remove fences, shore up bridges, and make sure the soil is dry enough to handle the weight of a 49,500-pound plane.” She said the airport team is making sure that the historic airtanker’s journey is safe. Tate added that Knife River and Morrison- Maierle have also helped in preparations for this project.
The National Museum of Forest Service History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission of sharing the history of America’s conservation legacy. Neptune Aviation Services is based in Missoula, Montana.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The NEW Tanker 12 — also a Neptune ship — is an MD-87 currently in service, and Bill Gabbert posted photos and news about the aircraft [HERE].