Flight simulator developed for CL-415 air tanker

CL-415 simulator
Screengrab from Tru Simulation and Training’s video.

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.

Manitoba converts to contractors for operating the Province’s air tankers

A contract was awarded to Babcock and Air Spray

Manitoba CL-415 air tanker
An employee polishes one of the Manitoba CL-415 air tankers in Manitoba that was delivered around 2012. (screen grab from ChrisD204 video)

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.

The Manitoba government purchased four CL-415 scooping air tankers for $126 million that were delivered between 2010 and 2012, replacing some of the much older CL-215 tankers built between 1969 and 1990.

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.

Eleven CL-215’s to be converted to CL-415EAF

Above: Viking Air photo

Longview Aviation Asset Management (LAAM) of Calgary, Alberta, in cooperation with Viking Air Limited of Victoria, British Columbia, has launched the Viking CL-415EAF (“Enhanced Aerial Firefighter”) Conversion Program.

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.

2017 was a busy year for air tankers

In spite of that, the numbers of air tankers and helicopters are being slashed

Above: A water-scooping air tanker, a CL-415, at Sacramento, March 12, 2018.

In our notes from the Aerial Firefighting conference HERE and HERE, we included information about how some air tankers were busier than usual in 2017:

  • Ron Hooper, CEO of Neptune Aviation, said their air tankers in 2016 averaged 180 hours while working on wildfires. In 2017 that increased to 276 hours each.
  • Rick Hatton of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said each of their three DC-10s averaged about 300 hours on fires in 2017, which is more than usual.
  • Shawna Legarza, the USFS Director of Fire and Aviation, said the two Aero-Flite CL-415 scooping air tankers that were on exclusive use (EU) USFS contracts in 2017 each had over 400 hours of fire flight time.

After we reported the information above, Jason Robinson, the Chief CL-415 pilot for Aero-Flite contacted us to supply more details. He generally  confirmed the numbers reported  by Ms. Legarza and said their two EU and two CWN CL-415’s averaged 410 hours each. In July and August alone the four scoopers flew 1,036 hours. The company brought in extra staffing to provide seven-day coverage and manage pilot fatigue. He said that in 2017, 12 Canadian CL-415’s and CL-215’s worked in California and Montana.

Mr. Robinson said they have operated CL-415’s in Alaska for up to 12 hours a day by double-crewing the aircraft.

Due to a reduction in the federal firefighting budget by the Administration and Congress, there will be no scoopers on the EU list this year. Some are still on a CWN contract, but they may or may not be available if the USFS Calls them When Needed. The large air tankers are being cut from 20 to 13 while the large Type 1 helicopters have been reduced from 34 to 28.

Building Twin Otters, in time-lapse

The production facility for Viking’s Twin Otter Series 400 is seen in time-lapse in this video. Twin Otters have transported many smokejumpers over the last few decades.

I looked, but didn’t see any CL-415’s in the background being built. Viking  bought the rights from Bombardier in 2016 for the scoopers, but to date have not publicly committed to manufacturing more.

CL-415’s scooping water at Castaic Lake

Above:  Air Tanker 260 scoops water at Castaic Lake December 6, 2017 . Photo by Robert Schwemmer.

(Originally published at 7:25 p.m. MST December 7, 2017)

Robert Schwemmer shot this video and the photos of water-scooping air tankers as they refilled at Castaic Lake as they were working the Creek Fire in Los Angeles, California. Thanks Robert!

Air Tanker 247
Air Tanker 247 scooping water at Castaic Lake December 6, 2017 . Photo by Robert Schwemmer.

T-247 and one other Quebec government scooper are under contract to Los Angeles County, while T-260 and two other Aero-Flite CL-415’s are working on a contract with the U.S. Forest Service.