Viking Air delays rollout of CL-515 water-scooping air tanker

Effects of the pandemic are blamed

CL-515. Viking Air photo.

Viking Air has delaying manufacturing its water scooping CL-515 air tanker which was scheduled to become available earlier in 2020.

“Unfortunately, due to the effect of Covid-19 on Viking’s operations and the pandemic’s impact on governments, their citizens and budgets globally, we have elected to slide the formal launch of the CL-515 until we see a stabilization in the global economic situation and a return to normal daily activities,” Viking executive vice-president of sales and marketing Robert Mauracher told FlightGlobal.

The British Columbia company designed the CL-515 to incorporate new technology and materials that expand the operating envelope compared to the CL-415 water scooper. Enhancements include increasing the water tank from 1,600 to 1,850 gallons, higher landing weights, and the ability to refill in 14 seconds. A modernized flight deck addresses current and future regulatory requirements and will include dual GPS, TCAS II, TAWS, ADS-B out, Synthetic Vision Technology, FMS, and Flight Director.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Isaac.

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16 thoughts on “Viking Air delays rollout of CL-515 water-scooping air tanker”

      1. When they announced it at the AFF show in Sacramento a few years ago the price was mentioned as $45-$50M….CL-415s ran $35-$40m new, with the new technology and R&D recapture necessary, would be hard to do it for less…given the lack of longer term EU contracts from the USDA/DOI (no state could afford to offer a EU contract that would cover a CL-415, let alone a CL-515), there will be no operator that could make the purchase…maybe CalFire….

  1. Great concept for use by an international land emergency agency that is shared by regions. Fires nor polution have no boundaries .
    . Missions would be similar to that of maritime-coastal resources similar to the the Coast Guard.

  2. Viking isn’t a manufacturer , it’s look like an assembler , the expertise from Canadair has gone probably.
    It’s more difficult to restart the production chain than an enhancement with the current fleet , COVID-19 couldn’t be responsible of the major delay.

  3. Not disagreeing by any means but isn’t it daft for all the funds spent and lost in the last nine months and none can afford a new bushfire aircraft? Not even in the States. The govs probably haven’t realized that the fires COME EVERY BLOODY YEAR. No, no, just go get some worn out thing. Save a buck, do it on the cheap. Why solve the problem.

  4. The US isn’t flying “worn out things,” but also isn’t moving to large numbers of scooping aircraft. Far more retardant is dropped than water by fixed wing tankers, and there are environmental issues with scooping with cross-contamination if moving from one fire to another, or dropping water from one body, into or over another (such as a river). For capacity, one can move that much water or material with a SEAT for a lot less money (using multiple aircraft), including a new SEAT, with more flexibility.

    Back to the concept of different tools in the tool box. The CL variants are effective aircraft that are capable and do an exceptional job when a ready water source is nearby, and of course, they’re retardant-capable, too. They are not the fastest, nor highest capacity, but they offer advantages that no other platform does.

    Conversely, there are other platforms operating effectively which are not “worn out,” but well maintained, capable aircraft, among which a new CL model will be a welcome edition. I hope to see the CL-515 production proceed.

    1. Doug – can you elaborate on what you see the as the advantages of the CL that no other platform has?

      1. Scoop 1,600 gallons of water, for one thing, with full flexibility to haul retardant, as well as the interior capacity to conduct other operations, should an operator, government, agency, etc, choose.

        As I stated previously, several SEATs can haul the same capacity for considerably less investment. A fireboss, however, has a smaller gallon capacity, given the amount of thrust required to overcome floats. Therefore, while 2 to 2.5 802’s will match the capacity of a CL-415, they won’t do it scooping. The amount of work and the speed with which the CL series can attack a fire when the water source is near, is impressive. Helicopters can draft, but helicopters approaching the same load are much more expensive to operate

  5. Curious how for firefighting aircraft the old worn out is fine but very few fire departments have a vehicle from the 70s as a daily driver? I’m sure the fire engines from the 70s would be just fine too. Or perhaps the cell phones and radios from the 80s. No such thing as obsolescence for firefighting aircraft. Exempt from the laws of physics they are. There is a reason things progress and the old are retired. Investment in new aircraft of sufficient number is a reasonable expectation.

    1. Mike,

      It’s all “return on investment” driven. As long as firefighting with fixed wing aircraft is a “commercial business” there is a better ROI for new aircraft if they are utilized in passenger service than in firefighting missions. As a result, aircraft for firefighting conversion are generally not available until they are no longer economic to employ in the cargo and passenger business.

      The CL series is an exception because it was purpose built as a firefighting aircraft and if purchased by governments, the conventional ROI profit metric does not apply. Private industry would have to see sufficient ROI from firefighting contracts to justify purchase or lease of a new CL series aircraft. To date, the profit just isn’t there to support any large fleets.

      Unless the government wants to own the aircraft, it is unlikely that we will see many new fixed wing aircraft employed in the firefighting mission.

      1. Bean makes good points in response to Mike’s question….the one thing I would add is that there has been and can be investment in new, right off the line, fixed wing aircraft. Governments (Sweden recently) are demanding it and operators are responding by purchasing Air Tractor Fire Bosses that cost roughly $3.5m. Those investments are being made in Sweden, Greece, Chile and here in the U.S.

        What the entire aerial firefighting industry really needs is a “hard reset” on how the USDA/DOI contract with these operators…if you want private operators to buy planes like a CL-515s, Fire Bosses (both which proved very effective in the recent AFUE Study), or any new platform, that would likely ensure a safer and more technically advanced fleet, stop relying so heavily on CWN contracts and go back to 5 year EU contracts…and give them to everyone!!! There aren’t enough aircraft out there in a normal season anyway, so put every aerial firefighting aircraft (FW and Helo) on 90 day EU contracts with the ability to extend. That would reduce protests completely, while still ensuring competition based on who does a better job of staying safe and hitting targets with the same platform.

        This approach would ultimately save the gov’t money and drive more successful outcomes for the citizens that live in these areas

        1. CWN doesn’t save the government money? Do not 90 day contracts save the government (and taxpayers) money?

          “Successful outcomes. ” Now there is a conceptual can of worms you’ll never get the lid back on.

          1. Tom D….when CWN contracts average 1.3 to 1.5x EU rates and they still get flown as much every season? Yes, the taxpayers are losing! Big time!

            Better outcomes…not measured by how the FS does it, but maybe instead how the people who pay for it measure it…stop letting my neighborhood burn says the average tax payer…

            In both cases the government and the taxpayer wins….the government would spend less not only because they’re not paying the CWN premium, but also because the aircraft can be put on contract before fire season really gets going so aircraft can react more quickly to starts…this leads to less flight time overall and also less devastation. CWN contracts don’t typically get activated until it’s too late. Less $$, less devastation for the taxpayer….why doesn’t that math add up?

            Right I forgot, those years like 2004, 2013 and 2019 when we had “slow” Fire years….that’s when CWN contracts make sense…sure

    2. Which aircraft are you saying are “old” and “worn out?” Are you saying that based on operational experience flying and maintaining them, or based on guesswork.

      Which ones does your company provide?

      There’s a difference between taking shots from a keyboard, and having skin in the game, and operational knowledge. Talk of buying an expensive tanker to get a hundred hours of revenue a year is cheap…acquiring the aircraft and operating them is not.

      Which front line tanker is old and worn out, especially those for which the CL515 is a direct replacement?

      You may have noted that a CL-415 is not a cell phone.

      Are you familiar with airworthiness requirements for aircraft, maintenance programs, and the standards and requirements for air tankers? Your comments would suggest otherwise.

  6. CWN is stop gap for those one in ten years, 9 years of not paying and then hoping on year 10 they’re still available to help out. This makes sense economically but not strategically as 1 in 10 could become 7 in 10 or CWN aren’t there when called because they found greener pastures….often literally in the case of AT802s. CWN is like not having insurance until you get in a car accident and then calling the insurance company and trying to get a deal where the insurance provider now has to “make hay while the sun shines”. Many agencies don’t have call when needed contracts but rather man up for the 9 in 10 seasons then resource share(with agreements in place) with other agencies in which the likelihood of others being equally as busy at the same time is remote although it can happen. If there is dollars to be made in CWN then the reputable providers will have calculated this and likely have spare AC to cover their contractual obligations in the case a contracted aircraft isn’t available and then those spares are available, crewed and maintained, for extra dough on CWN. A double dipping some might say but a financially savvy move that benefits both provider and end user where the” basing” cost of having a spare is built into the existing longterm contract cost and then the hourly rate(CWN) is added during periods of use. So long as short term contracts, and yes 5 year contracts are short term when you are trying to forecast and amortise capital investment of $3-$30 million, are the norm companies will have to gouge the tax payer in order to have some stability or save for the rainy day that’s always just around the corner. Our system is not set top for this here in the good ol’ USA. We are a short term get it while you can and only worry about yourself society and that’s reflective in the fire business as much as anywhere and I am in Florida so days off provide to reprieve!
    Oh and also, CL-215s have been overpriced since day 1 yet here they are still so something must be working.

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