By Martin Kidston

A retired air tanker bearing one of Neptune Aviation's most legendary tail numbers will find its place as a static display outside the Missoula International Airport in the coming months.

The Missoula County Airport Authority last week awarded a $7,000 contract to Morrison-Maierle to design the platform upon which the storied P2V-7 will be mounted.

Dan Snyder, chief operating officer with Neptune Aviation, said Tanker 10 was retired several years ago, ending the aircraft's long flying service. The P2V-7 began its career as a scout plane for the U.S. Navy before Neptune converted it into an aerial tanker.

“It has some history with us – it's been with us for quite a while,” said Snyder. “That tail number lives on on one our BAe-146s - our next generation tankers. It came from a B-17 that used to be a tanker.”

Snyder said the P2V-7 was no longer flyable, giving Neptune one of two choices. The firm could either chop the plane up for recycling or refurbish it as a static display.

Neptune chose the later – a decision also based on history.

“The company Johnson Flying Service used to fly out of Missoula years ago,” said Snyder. “We thought it would be a good way to pay homage to Johnson Flying Service. We've been here for almost 25 years, and we thought it would be a way to take a nice aircraft with a lot of history and place it out for the community to see.”

Neptune has already begun preparing Tanker 10 for display. Snyder said the working avionics have been removed for use in Neptune's remaining fleet of aircraft.

It's also getting a new paint job.

“We've done a quite a bit of work to it,” Snyder said. “We're trying to restore it as close to the condition it was in while in operation. We're really trying to make it as weather- and animal-proof as possible.”

Brian Ellestad, deputy director of Missoula International Airport, said the static display will be a nice addition to the airport as it undergoes its own transformation, starting with a new $43 million passenger terminal.

Taker 10 will sit at the entrance to the airport.

“This engineering contract will figure out what it's going to take to securely fasten that thing so we don't have any issues in a wind event,” Ellestad said. “It'll fit in with the terminal project going forward.”

Snyder said weather will likely dictate when the tanker is installed. Once it's in place, he expects to host a community unveiling.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at