B-180969(2), JAN 28, 1975

B-180969(2): Jan 28, 1975

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WAS ISSUED ON NOVEMBER 14. THESE SERVICES WERE REQUIRED PRIMARILY TO DELIVER FIRE FIGHTERS. REQUIRED THAT THE TYPE HELICOPTER (TYPE 'D' - MEDIUM SIZE) PROVIDED HAVE A NORMAL CRUISING SPEED OF 115 MILES PER HOUR (MPH). THIS PROVISION WAS SUBSEQUENTLY AMENDED TO REQUIRE THAT THE HELICOPTER FURNISHED HAVE INSTEAD A MAXIMUM AIR SPEED (VNE) AT SEA LEVEL OF NOT LESS THAN 130 MPH.". THE IFB ALSO REQUIRED THAT THE TYPE "D" HELICOPTER HAVE A MAIN ROTOR DIAMETER OF NOT GREATER THAN 37 FEET. THERE ARE ONLY TWO HELICOPTERS OF ROUGHLY THE SIZE REQUIRED BY THE FOREST SERVICE (A FACT WITH WHICH THE FOREST SERVICE AGREES) BUT THE PROTESTER CONTENDS THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS HAVE BEEN DRAFTED TO ALLOW BIDDERS TO USE ONLY THE ALLOUETTE III HELICOPTER.

B-180969(2), JAN 28, 1975

WHERE EARLIER DECISION ON QUESTION OF RESTRICTIVE HELICOPTER SPECIFICATIONS SUGGESTED EITHER (1) CONDUCT OF SPECIFIC TESTING OR (2) REEXAMINATION OF AGENCY POSITION IN LIGHT OF OTHER SUCCESSFUL TESTS AND AGENCY DECLINED TO CONDUCT SUCH TESTS AND IN ABSENCE OF OTHER SUPPORT, DECISION TO SPECIFY MAXIMUM ROTOR DIAMETER OF 37 FEET APPEARS UNDULY RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION. IN ABSENCE OF SUCH SUPPORT WE REPEAT OUR RECOMMENDATION THAT NO OPTION UNDER PERTINENT PORTION OF SUBJECT CONTRACT BE EXERCISED.

GLOBE AIR, INC.:

ON JUNE 4, 1974, OUR OFFICE ISSUED MATTER OF GLOBE AIR, INC., B 180969 (GLOBE I), DIRECTLY PERTAINING TO ALLEGEDLY RESTRICTIVE HELICOPTER SPECIFICATIONS. ANOTHER DECISION, MATTER OF GLOBE AIR, INC., B-180969, 54 COMP. GEN. (GLOBE II), WAS ISSUED ON NOVEMBER 14, 1974, AND DEALT ONLY PERIPHERALLY WITH THE SPECIFICATIONS. THE CASE AT HAND HAS EVOLVED FROM OUR RECOMMENDATIONS IN GLOBE I AND THE FACT THAT THE FOREST SERVICE HAS CHOSEN TO NOT FOLLOW THEM.

AS WE STATED IN GLOBE I:

"ON MARCH 6, 1974, THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FOREST SERVICE (FOREST SERVICE), ISSUED INVITATION FOR BIDS (IFB) R4-74-17 FOR HELICOPTER SERVICES IN THE CHALLIS, PAYETTE AND SALMON NATIONAL FORESTS OF IDAHO. THESE SERVICES WERE REQUIRED PRIMARILY TO DELIVER FIRE FIGHTERS, EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES TO FOREST FIRE LOCATIONS.

"THE IFB, AS ISSUED, REQUIRED THAT THE TYPE HELICOPTER (TYPE 'D' - MEDIUM SIZE) PROVIDED HAVE A NORMAL CRUISING SPEED OF 115 MILES PER HOUR (MPH). HOWEVER, THIS PROVISION WAS SUBSEQUENTLY AMENDED TO REQUIRE THAT THE HELICOPTER FURNISHED HAVE INSTEAD A MAXIMUM AIR SPEED (VNE) AT SEA LEVEL OF NOT LESS THAN 130 MPH."

THE IFB ALSO REQUIRED THAT THE TYPE "D" HELICOPTER HAVE A MAIN ROTOR DIAMETER OF NOT GREATER THAN 37 FEET.

"THE PROTESTER, A POTENTIAL SUPPLIER OF THESE SERVICES, UTILIZES THE SIKORSKY S-55T HELICOPTER. THERE ARE ONLY TWO HELICOPTERS OF ROUGHLY THE SIZE REQUIRED BY THE FOREST SERVICE (A FACT WITH WHICH THE FOREST SERVICE AGREES) BUT THE PROTESTER CONTENDS THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS HAVE BEEN DRAFTED TO ALLOW BIDDERS TO USE ONLY THE ALLOUETTE III HELICOPTER.

"A COMPARISON OF THE TWO CRAFT IS AS FOLLOWS:

S-55T ALOUETTE III

ROTOR DIAMETER 53 FEET 36 FEET 2 INCHES

AFTER CONCLUDING THAT THE 130-MPH VNE SPEED REQUIREMENT WAS INCLUDED IN THE SOLICITATION WITHOUT A REASONABLE BASIS FOR DOING SO, WE HELD THAT:

"IN B-178158, MAY 23, 1973, WE STATED THAT WHERE SPECIFICATIONS APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN UNREASONABLY DERIVED, OUR OFFICE WOULD FIND THOSE SPECIFICATIONS UNDULY RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION. HERE, THE FOREST SERVICE INITIALLY STATED THAT A NUMBER OF ITS MANMADE HELISPOTS IN THE REGION HAVE 60-FOOT APPROACH DIMENSIONS (BEING BUILT AT A TIME WHEN SMALL HELICOPTERS WERE USED TO PERFORM THE TASKS IN QUESTION) WHILE THE S-55T HAS A ROTOR DIAMETER OF 53 FEET. THE 7-FOOT MARGIN BETWEEN THE ROTOR AND THE EDGES OF THE HELISPOTS WAS CONSIDERED TOO SMALL FOR SAFE OPERATION OF THE S-55T. THE ALOUETTE WITH ITS 37-FOOT ROTOR DOES, HOWEVER, HAVE A SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER SAFETY MARGIN RELATIVE TO THESE HELISPOTS.

"COUNSEL FOR GLOBE CITES THE INTERAGENCY HELICOPTER MANAGEMENT TRAINING GUIDE (FEBRUARY 1973 EDITION) (INTERAGENCY GUIDE) WHICH STATES THAT: 'FOR MEDIUM SIZE HELICOPTERS (ALOUETTE III, BELL 204-B AND 205 A) (APPROACH AND DEPARTURE) CLEARANCE SHOULD BE 75 FT. ***.' THE FOREST SERVICE'S POSITION IS THAT THE 75-FOOT HELISPOTS REFERENCED IN THE HELICOPTER HANDBOOK ARE MERELY A GUIDELINE FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF NEW HELISPOTS.

"THE FOREST SERVICE STATES THAT THERE ARE IN EXCESS OF 450 CONSTRUCTED HELISPOTS IN THE PAYETTE FOREST AND MANY MORE NATURAL LANDING SPOTS. ALSO INDICATES THAT OUT OF 237 INVENTORIED HELISPOTS, 31 (13 PERCENT) HAVE A ROTOR CLEARANCE OF 75 FEET OR LESS. (WE NOTE THAT AT LEAST FOUR OF THESE SPOTS HAVE ONE OR MORE DIMENSIONS THAT WOULD PRECLUDE USE OF EITHER THE ALOUETTE III OR THE S-55T.) MOREOVER, THE AGENCY SETS OUT THAT:

"'IN ADDITION TO LANDING THAT MIGHT BE REQUIRED AT THE ABOVE IMPROVED HELISPOTS, IT IS OUR PRACTICE TO LAND FIRE FIGHTERS AS CLOSE TO A FIRE AS PRACTICAL, USUALLY WITHIN 1/2 MILE. NATURAL OPENINGS, RIDGE TOPS, ETC. ARE USED FOR LANDING SPOTS. ALTHOUGH AN ACTUAL COUNT OF THESE LANDINGS IN 1973 IS NOT AVAILABLE, IT IS ESTIMATED, THROUGH ACTUAL OBSERVATION BY FOREST SERVICE PERSONNEL OR HELICOPTER CONTRACTORS THAT ABOUT 43% WERE IN SPOTS OF 75 FEET OR LESS ROTOR CLEARANCE.'

"WHILE WE FEEL THAT OUR OFFICE IS NOT IN A POSITION TO REFUTE THE ABOVE- NOTED FIGURES, WE DO NOTE WITH INTEREST A SOMEWHAT SIMILAR SITUATION WITH RESPECT TO THE FOREST SERVICE'S REGION 5. FOREST SERVICE OFFICIALS IN THAT REGION, WHICH ENCOMPASSES THE SIERRA-NEVADA MOUNTAIN FORESTS, HAD ALSO EXPRESSED DOUBT AS TO THE FEASIBILITY OF USING THE S-55T. THEY PRECISELY QUESTIONED THE S-55T'S ABILITY TO LAND IN SEEMINGLY SMALL LANDING SPOTS.

"IN RESPONSE TO THESE DOUBTS, GLOBE PROPOSED AND AGREED TO PAY FOR ONSITE TESTING OF THE S-55T'S LANDING CAPABILITIES AND LIMITATIONS. GLOBE INVITED OFFICIALS FROM REGION 4 TO ATTEND THESE TESTS AND ALSO PROPOSED SIMILAR TESTING IN REGION 4 ITSELF. BOTH PROPOSALS WERE APPARENTLY REJECTED BY REGION 4 OFFICIALS.

"THE REGION 5 TESTING ESSENTIALLY INVOLVED THE S-55T ATTEMPTING TO LAND AT A NUMBER OF LANDING SPOTS DESIGNATED BY FOREST SERVICE OFFICIALS. HAVE BEEN IN INFORMAL CONTACT WITH OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE FOR THESE TESTS AND CAN REPORT THAT THE S-55T HAS APPARENTLY BEEN FOUND QUITE ACCEPTABLE FOR USE SINCE IT WAS ABLE TO LAND IN ALMOST EVERY SPOT DESIGNATED. THEREFORE, THE SOLICITATION IN REGION 5 WILL CONTAIN NO ROTOR BLADE LIMITATION SIMILAR TO THE 37-FOOT ROTOR LIMIT IN THE INSTANT SOLICITATION, EVEN THOUGH PRIOR TO THE TESTS SUCH A LIMITATION WAS BEING CONSIDERED BY REGION 5.

"ACCORDINGLY, WE WOULD SUGGEST THAT OFFICIALS OF REGION 4 REVIEW THE NEED FOR THE IFB'S 37-FOOT ROTOR LIMITATION IN LIGHT OF THE REGION 5 TESTS AND FURTHER SUGGEST THESE OFFICIALS MIGHT CONSIDER CONDUCTING SIMILAR TESTS TO DETERMINE THE PRECISE REQUIREMENTS FOR HELICOPTERS IN THEIR REGION. SEE 53 COMP. GEN. (B-178740, JANUARY 18, 1974). SHOULD IT BE DETERMINED THEREAFTER THAT THE S-55T IS ADEQUATE FOR USE IN REGION 4, WE WOULD ASSUME THAT THE FOREST SERVICE WOULD TAKE THE STEPS NECESSARY TO REFLECT THIS FACT IN THE SPECIFICATIONS."

TO DATE, NO TESTING OF THE S-55T HAS OCCURRED IN REGION 4. PRESENTLY SUCH TESTING IS IMPOSSIBLE DUE TO THE HEAVY SNOW COVER EXISTING IN THE AREA IN QUESTION. WE DO NOTE THAT GLOBE MADE SEVERAL OFFERS TO PROVIDE AN S-55T FOR REGION 4 TESTING BUT THAT EACH OF THESE OFFERS WAS REFUSED.

COUNSEL FOR GLOBE THEREFORE ASKS US TO FIND THAT THE SUCCESSFUL TESTING OF THE S-55T IN REGION 5 IS CONCLUSIVE AND BINDING ON REGION 4 AS WELL.

ON OCTOBER 22, 1974, OUR OFFICE ADVISED THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE:

"WE HAVE BEEN INFORMALLY ADVISED THAT THE RESULTS OF THE REGION 5 TESTS ARE NOT APPLICABLE TO THE REGION 4 SITUATION. IF THIS IS THE CASE, WE WOULD SUGGEST THAT THE FOREST SERVICE SPECIFICALLY DOCUMENT THE REASONS WHICH WOULD PRECLUDE THE PRESENT AND TOTAL ADOPTION OF THE REGION 5 RESULTS ***."

IN RESPONSE OUR OFFICE RECEIVED ON NOVEMBER 25, 1974, A 1-PAGE RESPONSE FROM THE DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES OF THE FOREST SERVICE, WHICH READ IN PERTINENT PART:

"IT IS TRUE THAT REGION 4 HAS DECLINED TO TEST THE S-55T AT THE PRESENT TIME. THIS DECISION WAS REACHED ON THE BASIS OF THE SPECIFICATION AND PERFORMANCE DATA FOR THE AIRCRAFT AVAILABLE IN OUR FILES AND THE SPECIAL SERVICE-WIDE STUDY PRESENTLY BEING CONDUCTED.

"WE ARE UNABLE TO COMMENT ON THE APPLICABILITY OF THE REGION 5 TEST RESULTS AS THEY MAY PERTAIN TO REGION 4. WE HAVE NOT BEEN FURNISHED NOR HAVE WE BEEN ABLE TO OBTAIN A COPY OF THESE RESULTS. AS SUCH, WE HAVE NO INFORMATION AS TO THEIR RELEVANCE TO ELEVATIONS, TEMPERATURES, GUSTING WINDS, DOWNDRAFTS AND OTHER FLIGHT CONDITIONS THAT MAY BE ENCOUNTERED IN THIS REGION. ALSO AVERAGE PILOT CAPABILITIES AND THE FIRE ROLE REQUIRED OF CLASS D HELICOPTERS IN REGION 4 AS COMPARED WITH THAT OF REGION 5 WOULD HAVE TO BE CONSIDERED.

"WE WOULD APPRECIATE A DECISION BASED ON THE DATA SUBMITTED RATHER THAN A TEST FLIGHT CONDUCTED IN ANOTHER REGION."

WITH REGARD TO THIS LAST STATEMENT, OUR OFFICE HAS STATED THAT WE WOULD PREFER THAT THE DECISION BE BASED ON FIRST-HAND TESTING BUT REGION 4 ITSELF HAS DECLINED TO HOLD SUCH TESTING. MOREOVER, REGION 4 OFFICIALS, WE HAVE BEEN ADVISED, EVEN DECLINED AN INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE REGION 5 TESTING.

WITH REGARD TO THE EVENTS WHICH TRANSPIRED AT THE REGION 5 TESTING, WE HAVE BEEN ADVISED THAT NO WRITTEN RECORD WAS EVER MADE OF THE TESTING. HOWEVER, OUR OFFICE HAS BEEN ABLE TO ASCERTAIN THE RESULTS OF THE TESTING THROUGH TELEPHONE CALLS TO REGION 5 OFFICIALS AND THROUGH AN AFFIDAVIT SUBMITTED BY A PERSON ON BOARD THE TEST HELICOPTER. WE SEE NO REASON WHY REGION 4 COULD NOT DO THE SAME.

THE REGION 5 TESTING MAY BE SUMMARIZED AS FOLLOWS: 11 NATURAL HELISPOTS OF A DIAMETER OF 55 FEET OR LESS WERE SELECTED BY THE REGION 5 OFFICIALS. ONE OF THESE SPOTS COULD NOT BE LOCATED BUT OF THE REMAINING 10, THE S-55T LANDED SUCCESSFULLY IN NINE OF THEM.

IN LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING AND IN THE ABSENCE OF OTHER SUPPORT, THE REGION 4 DECISION TO SPECIFY A MAXIMUM ROTOR DIAMETER OF 37 FEET APPEARS UNDULY RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION. IN THE ABSENCE OF SUCH SUPPORT WE REPEAT OUR RECOMMENDATION THAT NO OPTION UNDER THE PERTINENT PORTION OF THE SUBJECT CONTRACT BE EXERCISED.