On May 15, the U.S. Forest Service added three more aircraft to its firefighting fleet from Missoula's Neptune Aviation.

Neptune CEO Ron Hooper said the increased need for state-of-the-art firefighting aircraft around the country led to the increase in Neptune's contract.

"Last Thursday, the Forest Service awarded Neptune three additional aircraft under our legacy aircraft for this fire season," Hooper said. "As a result, Neptune now has six of our P2V aircraft, for four of our BA-146 aircraft under contract with the forest service this year. We have now gone from six aircraft to 10 aircraft now under contract."

Hooper said the increase in the contract has enabled Neptune to expand its operations and plans for the future.

"The contract allows us to keep moving forward with development of additional aircraft moving into next year," Hooper said. "As a matter of fact, we have two aircraft in the hangar now that we're installing tanking systems in that will be available in late July. So, this new development just allows us to maintain our production rate on additional aircraft, and of course, maintain our work force."

Neptune employs over 150 people in Missoula, and they also employ four additional people at their facility in New Mexico. The contract enables the company to develop additional aircraft here in Missoula.

Neptune Aviation CEO Ron Hooper