Conair is moving swiftly in their efforts to convert the 11 Q400 aircraft recently purchased from Flybe Airlines. One of the ships was recently photographed by Kyle Clarkson as it made a test water drop with the retardant delivery system added to the belly of the aircraft. Notably, it was still sporting Flybe livery, resulting in a very unusual sight.
The first Flybe Q400 was delivered at Conair facilities in Abbotsford, British Columbia, February 21, 2021. After being converted to air tankers, called A400ATs (Air Tanker), they will eventually replace the L-188’s and CV-580’s currently operated by Conair.
The repurposed aircraft are being converted at Conair’s facilities in Abbotsford and will be capable of holding up to 2,640 gallons of retardant.
In 2017 the Conair Group secured a deal to sell six Q400MR (Multi-Role) air tankers to France’s Securite Civile (Department of Civil Defense and Emergency Preparedness). These were new aircraft that Conair purchased from Bombardier which can be reconfigured in a few hours to carry passengers, hence the Multi-Role designation. The new aircraft are replacing France’s old S-2 air tankers.
Before purchasing the 11 Q400’s from Flybe, Conair had two A400ATs operational within their fleet that will be used this year for the first time in the North American fire season. They had one under contract in Australia during the 2020-2021 bushfire season.
Here is ex Flybe G-KKEV now C-FFQG after it’s water bomber conversion. The aircraft still wears the majority of its Flybe livery! An awesome sight
— PlaneMadNews (@PlaneMad_News) May 21, 2021
Dustin Littler, Aircraft Conversion Manager at Conair, said, “It takes a solid eight weeks to install the tank, fairings, and perform avionics modifications, plus another two weeks to reassemble the cockpit, and perform operational tests, ground runs, and test flights.”
It is impressive how quickly companies like Conair and Coulson can convert a C-130 or Q400 into an air tanker. Meanwhile, the Air Force has been dragging their feet for almost eight years after being ordered by Congress to convert seven HC-130H aircraft into air tankers. The last we heard, none of the seven, which will be operated by CAL FIRE, are complete. The aircraft were originally going to the U.S. Forest Service, but the agency lost interest.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rick.