A concept for sharing firefighting air tankers between the northern and southern hemispheres proposed in 2016 has resurfaced. The wildfire seasons in opposite times of the year could provide windows for the same aircraft to travel back and forth annually between North America and Australia or South America.
In 2016 Quebec-based Davie Shipyard suggested that the water scooping air tankers in Canada could be transported on a custom designed or converted ship and delivered to Australia at the end of the northern hemisphere fire season. Then the aircraft could be shipped back north before the Canadian fire season began.
For decades Canada has had success with CL-215/415 water-scooping air tankers first made by Bombardier. British Columbia based Viking Air Ltd presently owns the rights to Bombardier’s CL-415 air tanker. The company is now taking orders and deposits for its new-production CL-515 “First Responder” air tanker.
Below are excerpts from a January 14 article at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
“I think when we initially proposed the idea, it was too soon,” said Spencer Fraser, chief executive officer of Federal Fleet Service, the Davie Shipyard’s sister company. “There were still people within Canada and society that were denying extreme weather events and climate change. What’s important today is — look, it’s real. So let’s do something about it.”
No one from the Liberal government was willing to comment Monday — but there was word last week that officials in two federal departments had dusted off the proposal and had asked questions of Viking Air Ltd., the B.C. company which now owns the rights to Bombardier’s CL-415 water bomber.
Greg Mullins, the former fire commissioner of the state of New South Wales, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Jan. 3 that the country should tap into Canadian expertise and assets.
“Our prime minister should be on the phone with Justin Trudeau from Canada, right now, saying, ‘Justin, we need 20 or more of your water-scooping, purpose-built water bombers that are in mothballs during your winter,'” he said.
Fraser said the companies originally involved in the pitch in 2016 studied the logistics of flying water bombers between Canada and Australia and concluded it would be complicated, even perilous, to refuel the aircraft along the way in less-than-friendly nations.
In November, 2019 a group of 23 former fire and emergency services leaders and other former fire chiefs said they were concerned that with longer fire seasons now being experienced the current air tanker fleet in Australia is not adequate for keeping up with the increasing bushfire activity.
The acquisition and contracting of large air tankers in Australia is coordinated by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC). They recently purchased a Boeing 737 air tanker, but like the federal government in the United States, the country depends on contractors to supply most of their large air tankers.
NAFC had planned on having five large air tankers available during the 2019/2020 bushfire season (including the government-owned 737), but as wildfire activity grew exponentially the agency kept adding more. By the end of next week they will have 10 large air tankers on contract plus the government-owned 737.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
Today, October 11, 2019, Robert Schwemmer shot this video of two Canadair CL-415 Super Scoopers from Quebec that are under contract with Los Angeles County, refilling their water tanks at Castaic Lake to fight the Saddle Ridge fire on the north side of Los Angeles.
The fire has burned over 7,000 acres and destroyed 25 structures. More information about the fire is at Wildfire Today.
Tru Simulation and Training has developed a flight simulator for the CL-415 water scooping air tanker. The description of the video below explains that it covers “water take-offs, taxiing, landing and water collection”, but does not mention dropping water on a fire. However it does display “shifting wildfire conditions; even flames that change in shape and intensity.”
Description from YouTube: “Introducing the CL-415 full flight simulator, developed in partnership with Ansett Aviation. The first training device of its kind in the world, the CL415 is the result of TRU’s proven expertise in training for aquatic-capable aircraft. Until now, no other simulator existed for this essential wildfire training need. Leveraging insights gained from developing the Viking Twin Otter simulator, TRU designed the CL415 trainer to deliver the ultimate high-fidelity experience—complete with vivid simulations of real pilot challenges.
“Safely inside the simulator, trainees build their skills while performing foundational tasks, such as water take-offs, taxiing, landing and water collection. All while experiencing the most true-to-life environment inside the cockpit—down to the strength of the waves when working near water. Completely unique in its capabilities, the CL415 simulator recreates what no other simulator can. Trainees are faced Three-dimensional, dynamic wind streaks gust above 15 knots to give pilots an incredibly realistic experience.
“TRU’s one-of-a-kind CL415 simulator provides pilots a safe environment to test the limits and build their confidence. Because when the stakes are this high, it takes courage and mastery to pull off a successful mission. And the journey to feeling ready for the challenge…begins here.”
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Cal. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
The Canadian Province of Manitoba has decided to turn over the operation of its air tankers to a private company. The process began in June of this year when the province issued a request for proposals (RFP) which has resulted in a 10-year contract with Babcock who will work with Air Spray to operate the aircraft.
The deployment of the tankers will remain under the direction of Manitoba Wildfire Program staff.
The Wildfire Suppression Services contract includes the management, maintenance, and operation of Manitoba’s fleet of seven Canadair water-scooping amphibious aircraft (four CL-415s and three CL-215s), supported by three Twin Commander “bird-dog” aircraft. Manitoba will retain ownership of the air tankers, parts, inventory, special tools, and equipment but will transfer care and custody to the contractors.
In 2017, Babcock aircraft and crews carried out over 5,500 firefighting missions, dropped 174 million liters of water and logged over 20,000 hours in support of wildfire suppression.
Based on operations in prior years, the Wildfire Suppression Service will provide approximately 1,400 flying hours and 3,750 water drops per year. Operations will cover the entire Province of Manitoba and will help to protect communities in a population of 1.3 million people.
“Our government is committed to protecting Manitobans from wildfires and that’s what this agreement delivers,” said Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler. “It will ensure faster response times, enhanced safety and a superior aircraft maintenance program. It will make Manitoba’s wildfire suppression system even better.”
Lynn Hamilton, owner and President of Air Spray Ltd., said “the Province of Manitoba can be assured that our years as a leader in the air tanker industry and experience fighting wildfires throughout Western Canada can be relied on to provide outstanding service to the Province.”
Representatives of Babcock will be meeting with affected government employees in the very near future to discuss employment opportunities under the new operating structure, Mr. Schuler said.
A government employee’s union issued a statement in July a month after the RFP was announced.
“Our skilled members at Manitoba Government Air Services provide an essential, life-saving public service to Manitobans, getting critically ill patients to hospitals and protecting communities from forest fires,” said Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Michelle Gawronsky at a press conference Friday. “These essential services should not be auctioned off as profit opportunities for private airline corporations.”
Manitoba still has a RFP out for both general transportation air services and for air ambulance services.
To initiate the program, LAAM will be hiring up to 150 technical and support staff members at its Calgary facilities, where eleven specially selected CL-215 aerial firefighting aircraft owned by LAAM will undergo the modification process utilizing Viking-supplied conversion kits.
To support development of the conversion kits, Viking has hired 50 employees to date and has launched a recruitment campaign to hire an additional 50 staff at its Victoria, BC location. Viking will also be reinstating its “Viking Academy” paid-training program to provide successful applicants with the targeted technical training required for these positions.
After acquiring the CL-215, CL-215T and CL-415 Type Certificates in late 2016, and based on feedback from the operator group, Viking elected to introduce an “Enhanced Aerial Firefighter” (EAF), mirroring the CL-215T conversion program and updating it with the addition of operator requested enhancements.
Both the CL-215T and CL-415EAF include the winglets, finlets, higher operating weights, increased capacity firebombing system, and foam injection system of the CL-415. In addition to these standards, other improvements introduced with the Viking CL-415EAF conversion upgrade include:
Full modern Avionics package,
Component modernization improvements to address all fleet obsolescence issues,
Corrosion protection enhancements based on operator feedback,
Flight deck air-conditioning system,
Customized external paint scheme, and
Humanitarian relief and special mission options (e.g. stretcher rack, large cargo door, spray boom system)
The Viking CL-415EAF Conversion Program forms part of a staged approach to utilize the advancements made with the LAAM converted aircraft as the basis for the proposed Viking CL-515 new-production amphibious aerial firefighting aircraft.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Roman. Typos or errors, report them HERE.