Conair acquires Level 5 flight training device for AT-802 air tankers

It has been installed at their Training & Tactics Center in Abbotsford, British Columbia

Conair AT-802 Flight Training Device. Conair photo.

The Conair Group has installed a Level 5 Flight Training Device (FTD) for AT-802 air tankers at their Training & Tactics Center in Abbotsford, British Columbia. The FTD is convertible, designed to mimic the performance of both the amphibious Fire Boss and wheeled Air Tractor AT-802 single engine air tankers. It can provide pilots with a virtual training platform that offers true-to-life flight scenarios, including firefighting missions.

It has been certified approved by Transport Canada, which specifies that a Level 5 FTD represents a specific cockpit. In the United States an FTC certified by the FAA at Level 5 may represent a family of aircraft rather than only one specific model.

Equipped with real avionics, a KAWAK throttle quadrant, and Retardant Delivery System, the simulator has displays identical to the cockpit of the actual aircraft. Flight control feedback and all instrumentation react to changing environments, with wind speed, visibility, temperature, clouds, and turbulence being controlled on the master Instructor Operating Station. The training device allows the pilot to practice tactics within a variety of situations, while managing the added pressure of simulated radio communications from multiple aircraft on the same mission.

Conair AT-802 Flight Training Device. Conair photo.

The FTD also features a 180-degree high-definition visual display, vibration system, and programable firefighting scenarios which enables pilots to practice a range of fire suppression techniques within immersive and dynamic circumstances. A key advantage of the FTD includes the pilot’s ability to practice drops and scoops in complex, and often unpredictable conditions. In addition, pilots have the opportunity to exercise emergency procedures within a safe setting that significantly reduces the risk to both the pilot and the aircraft. The FTC does not have three-axis motion but does have an Entrol limited motion base plus the ability to produce vibration.

The AT-802 FTD at Conair’s training facility is available to qualifying Air Tractor operators. Conair acquired an FTD for the Avro RJ85 in  2017.

Conair acquire five flight training devices
Conair to acquire five flight training devices from Quantu

In December, 2019 the company awarded a contract to install five fully networked FTDs with reconfigurable cockpits to simulate flight dynamics for eight aircraft platforms performing different roles during aerial firefighting missions. Each of these reconfigurable three-axis motion platforms will be able to perform individual or joint training encompassing different aircraft platforms and scenarios. The goal is to not only simulate the ground fire and effects of the aerial retardant being applied by the trainees but will also simulate the dynamic and dangerous environmental changes created by the fire that pilots may encounter. Shannon De Wit told Fire Aviation, “The project is underway but has been delayed due to COVID and the inability of development teams located around the world to travel to Canada to install the units.”

In addition to Air Tractor 802 SEATs, Conair operates other firefighting aircraft including, air attack aircraft, CL-215T, RJ85, Q400MR, and Convair CV580.

Conair AT-802 Flight Training Device. Conair photo.

Scores of single engine air tankers have seen action in Australia’s bushfire season

Air Tractor AT-802F
Air Tractor AT-802F. Air Tractor photo.

Now that all of the major bushfires in Australia have been knocked down by combined efforts of firefighters and rain, we can look back on one of the busiest fire seasons in Australia’s history.

In September, 2019 before the contracts were awarded, Richard Alder General Manager of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) said he expected that there would be approximately 45 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) on national exclusive use contracts in the 2019/2020 bushfire season, plus another six contracted directly to state government agencies. That was 8 less than in 2018/2019. Others could be activated on what we call in the United States Call When Needed agreements.

The SEATs being used in Australia are manufactured by Air Tractor and other companies. Air Tractor sent us information about how their SEATs played a role in battling the fires. Here are some excerpts:


The firefighting effort was a massive undertaking on the ground and in the air. While large airtankers (LATs) did much of the heavy lifting for the recent fires, it is estimated that 65 of the existing 81 Air Tractor AT-802 airplanes in Australia also saw action over the blazes.

The Australian National Aerial Fire Council (NAFC), which oversees the contracting on behalf of the various states, reported they contracted 54 AT-802’s. Four of seven Australia-based AT- 802F Fire Boss amphibious scooper airtankers were also under NAFC contracts. Additionally, some states engaged AT-802 firefighting airplanes on “as-needed” contracts. Sources estimated this accounted for as many as ten additional AT-802s put into service.

Most of the contracted AT-802F aircraft are equipped with the Pratt & Whitney 1,600 SHP PT6A-67F turboprop engine. It powers the airplane at speeds approaching 200 m.p.h. (174 kts.) while ferrying between the fire and its airtanker base or mobile retardant base. In most cases, NAFC-contracted AT-802 airtankers operate in pairs. This tactic multiplies the amount of retardant or suppressant delivered to the incident and reduces time between deliveries. Once over the fire, the AT-802F and Fire Boss deliver their retardant, gel or water with computer-controlled precision to knock down grass and brush fires or suppress fires in heavier canopies.

Australia’s devastating fires kept Air Tractors and the Australian aerial firefighting community working hard this season. Many Air Tractor operators had a slow agricultural spray season as a consequence of the very dry conditions leading up to the fires. And now that heavy rains have quelled the wildfires, AT-802 airplanes may be put into service for habitat restoration. Their 800-gallon capacity hopper, speed, and maneuverability make quick work of hydromulch application or reseeding for erosion control.

Air Tractor AT-802F Fire Boss. Air Tractor photo.
Air Tractor AT-802F Fire Boss. Air Tractor photo.

Aircraft reseeding burned area crashes in Utah

The pilot walked away with minor injuries

An Air Tractor 802 crashed January 17 in Utah about eight miles west of Vernon while reseeding an area that had previously burned. The pilot, who had minor injuries, told police the aircraft lost power and was unable clear terrain in the Sheeprock Mountains.

It occurred at about 5 p.m. after which the pilot walked for about two and a half hours until he was found by crews flying Utah National Guard Apache helicopters equipped with infrared sensors who happened to be training in the area.

Air Tractors are often used as air tankers, but this one was dropping seeds instead of retardant.

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

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