Bombardier closes CL-415 air tanker plant in Ontario, Canada

Alberta air tanker 202
Alberta air tanker 202. Photo by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

Bombardier has shut down their plant in North Bay, Ontario where they have been finishing the work of building CL-415 air tankers after the aircraft have been assembled in Montreal. The CL-415 and its predecessor, the CL-215, are among the very few purpose-built air tankers, designed from the wheels up to very specifically drop water on fires. Most air tankers used today have been converted after being discarded by the military and passenger airlines.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Bay Today:

…Isabelle Gauthier, the Director of Communications for Bombardier Commercial Aircraft confirmed to BayToday that, “We will not be renewing our lease going forward” at North Bay’s Jack Garland Airport.
The lease ends in April 2016, but Bombardier was required to give at least 90 days notice Gauthier said.

“There are currently no aircraft in production,” explained Gauthier,”It didn’t make any business sense to continue.”

North Bay’s facility was for finishing the aircraft after assembly in Montreal, and three had been completed this year but no more were on the horizon.

“We need sales,” said Gauthier. “We need commitment to continue production.”

She said if sales are made, they may attempt to reopen the North Bay facility but “it’s not like turning on a light switch”.

“Activities are continuing for more sales”, she said, and Bombardier is “keeping the door open” to further involvement in North Bay if there are significant sales of the aircraft in future.

The video below was shot at Santa Fe Dam in January, 2014 where two CL-415s under contract with Los Angeles County were scooping water while working the Colby Fire at Glendora, California, east of Los Angeles.

7 thoughts on “Bombardier closes CL-415 air tanker plant in Ontario, Canada”

  1. “We need commitment to continue production”

    Isabelle tells the truth

    Now….get on down to Lockheed and see what answer one would get for the proverbial dream of 25 plus C130’s

    I seriously think the word commitment is the word….the folks in the aerospace industry do have to make a buck……to think otherwise …..

    The things to worry about now is airframes specific parts and needs for support for current sjips

  2. Bill,
    All the major components of the CL-415 are made at Bombardier’s plants in the Montreal area (Dorval or St. Laurent) in the province of Quebec and were trucked to North Bay Airport in Ontario for final assembly in half of a former RCAF hangar shared with Voyageur Airways, a local charter and MRO company now owned by Chorus Aviation (parent company of Jazz, Air Canada’s largest regional airline). Voyageur provided some of the local contract labour.

    The final assembly of the CL-415 moved from Montreal’s Dorval (Trudeau) airport to North Bay, Ontario in 1997-1998 after the Government of Ontario ordered a fleet of nine new CL-415s.

    At the time, this transfer freed up floor space at Bombardier’s Dorval factory to help increase the production rate of the high demand CRJ regional jet in the late 1990s.

    Sales of the CL-215 and CL-415 have always been “clumpy” since they are usually government sales subject to the unpredictable rise and fall of government budgets.

    The biggest CL-215 and CL-415 customers have been the Canadian provinces (most recently Newfoundland and Manitoba) and southern Mediterranean countries, many of which now have very weak economies and massive government debt (i.e. Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Morocco etc.).

    Today, Bombardier Aerospace is under tremendous pressure to cut costs as a result of slow commercial aircraft sales.

    CL-215 and CL-415 production was always done in batches with the purchase of long lead parts in batches of 20 or so units. Not sure if the company’s decision to exit North Bay is the middle or at the end of one of these batch production cycles.

    I expect any resumption of CL-415 production to probably take place in Ontario or Quebec at a Bombardier facility (Downsview, Dorval and Mirabel) using unionized labour or perhaps the CL-414 final assembly line will be offered to a new customer for aircraft or the entire CL-415 program.

  3. Can anyone tell us how many CL415’s were built? Were any on the CL215’s converted with turbo’s or was the airframe not compatible for specific reasons? Would it even be a cost effective mod?

    Other than the Russia’s 2 and new Chinese one, is there any other purpose built air tanker being made?
    Lockheed is to busy with all the military C130 programs to produce a purpose built 130 Air Tanker and the cost doesn’t make sense for using the “J” model on an aircraft that might fly 2 to 300 hundred hours a year. Which brings us back to the POLITICS of he current “H” model ordeal, or the sale of some of the H’s in storage to private contractors.

    There are still a few options, but politics and $$$ might prevent future investments into such a program. Who really knows what direction the industry will go?

    I’m sure there are people out there with a lot of ideas and concepts that would work, but usually no funds prevents this option. If I had the $$$ there would be a new tanker in the air, had the design and concept for years, since I meet Dale Newton at Aero Union. Yes, I know there are others saying the same thing. The concepts are out there, some make sense, some don’t. Time will tell.

    1. The CL-215T conversion program was launched in the early 1990s after Bombardier bought de Havilland Canada and could utilize the Pratt & Whitney PW120 turboprop engine installation used on the Dash 8 airliner. The government of Spain was the launch customer for the CL-215T conversion.

      The only CL-215T conversions in North America have been completed for the Governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta using later model CL-215s.

      This work was done by Cascade Aerospace which purchased about nine or ten kits several years ago. In addition to the engine change from R-2800 radial to PW123 turboprop, a lot of airframe and cockpit modifications have been made on the most recent CL-215T conversions.

  4. Duke you are correct, Quebec has 2 of the original Series 5’s that were converted to T’s.

    Ken, France also has a large fleet of 415’s. They are also operated by Croatia and Malaysia.

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