Tanker 40 (T-40) is a BAe-146. It is owned by Neptune Aviation Services, Inc. of Missoula, Montana.
The BAe-146 was originally manufactured by BAe Systems (British Aerospace). This aircraft, which is considered a prototype next generation airtanker, is turbine powered; can carry approximately 3,000 gallons of retardant; and has a cruising speed in excess of 330 knots. It is comparable in size to the P2Vs in the existing commercial Large Airtanker fleet, so it can be used at existing Airtanker bases.
T-40 has been brought into service to fly wildfire suppression missions from May 26 to October 5, 2012 through Neptune Aviation Services, Inc.’s Exclusive Use contract with the U.S. Forest Service. T-40 is the first of the “next generation” Large Airtankers (LAT) to be granted interim approval by the Interagency Airtanker Board (IAB) and to be brought into service through an existing Exclusive Use contract.
In September 2011, the IAB granted interim approval to Neptune Aviation Services, Inc. for Operational Field Evaluation of T-40 through Dec 15, 2012. Using the BAe-146 to drop retardant on wildfires provides an opportunity to gain field experience needed to make any necessary improvements in design and to bring the system into compliance with IAB criteria prior to consideration for full approval.