A Q400 air tanker will be based in Australia this summer

Air Tanker 141, C-FFQEQ, Q400
T-141 (C-FFQEQ) Q400AT. At Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia. Photo Credit Brendon Sutton

A De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q400AT is on contract in Queensland, Australia during the 2020/2021 summer bushfire season. This is the first time the state has had regular access to a large air tanker, rather than borrowing from New South Wales or Victoria. Provided by Conair, Tanker 141 (C-FFQE) arrived in Bundaberg in August after departing from Abbotsford British Columbia and making fuel stops at Oakland, Honolulu, Majuro (Marshall Islands), Honiara (Solomon Islands), and Brisbane where it cleared customs. There is a possibility the contract which started September 1 could be extended for an additional four years during the bushfire seasons.

Air Tanker 141, C-FFQEQ, Q400 refuel Marshall Islands
Air Tanker 141, (C-FFQEQ) Q400AT – Landing in Marshall Islands en route to Queensland – Photo Credit Brendon Sutton.

Conair, working with the Australian company Field Air, will have two other large air tankers on contract in Australia, both RJ 85s, beginning October 1 in New South Wales and early December in Victoria.

In 2017 the Conair Group secured a deal to sell six Q400 Multi-Role aircraft converted to air tankers to France’s Securite Civile (Department of Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness), two of which have been delivered. These are new aircraft that Conair purchased from Bombardier which can be converted in a few hours to carry passengers.

Besides the six that will be going to France, Conair has two Q400s, including the one in Australia. The company is working with North American agencies to hopefully see at least two of the  Q400AT’s begin contracts next year. The aircraft were previously owned and are not the Multi-Role models.

Jeff Berry, Manager of Business Development at Conair, said the aircraft, “[A]re pure air tanker STC [supplemental type certificate], so we don’t have any of the residual plumbing, wiring, attachment points inside, or heavy duty flooring that you need for an MR, so it’s stripped down to be a pure tanker. And it gives us the maximum fuel load and the maximum retardant tank capacity. You get the full 10,000 liters [2,642 gallons]. The Q400AT is truly a ‘Green’ airtanker — it is incredibly fuel efficient burning only 58 percent of the fuel per hour while carrying 85 percent of the load of a typical type 1 airtanker.”

“It can operate off a 5,000-foot runway,” Mr. Berry said. “It gives them a lot of flexibility to utilize more of the existing tanker base infrastructure that is in place that may or may not be available for some of the large or very large air tankers.”

Air Tanker 141, C-FFQEQ, Q400
T-141 (C-FFQEQ) Q400AT – Refueling at Majuro, Marshall Islands. Photo Credit Brendon Sutton.

Queensland had an extraordinarily busy 2018/2019 bushfire season. Wildfire Today covered some of the fires that year.

map wildfires in Queensland, Australia
Satellite photo showing smoke from wildfires in Queensland, Australia November 29, 2018. NASA
Map Bundaberg, Queensland
Map showing location of Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia
Air Tanker 141, C-FFQEQ, Q400
T-141 (C-FFQEQ) Q400AT – Photo Credit Jeff Bough.

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6 thoughts on “A Q400 air tanker will be based in Australia this summer”

    1. Wuddaaahyaah say? Could this firebird be the replacement for Cal Fire’s S2T’s? A couple now, a couple later and so on and so forth.

  1. I really wonder why the Australian Government has no plans for large airtankers of their own.
    Second best would be to buy a number of MAFSS equipment for their C-130s

    1. They would be better off contracting Coulson to install their tank system on some RAAF C-130s if that is the way they wanted to go. After the fire season the tanks can be rolled right off and the 130s can go back to hauling troops and equipment. The Coulson system is 100 times better than the MAFFS.

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