A CL-415EAF was used for the first time on a fire near Elko, Nevada

Tanker 281 Cedar Fire Nevada
Air Tanker 281 completed over 60 water drops in support of firefighters at the Cedar Fire on its first ever mission. Photo July 21, 2020 by K Mita, Bridger Aerospace.

A CL-415EAF was used for the first time on a fire Sunday, July 19.

The first CL-415EAF was delivered to Bridger Arospace’s facility in Bozeman, Montana in April, 2020 as part of a contract that with all options exercised is valued at $204 million covering the purchase of six of the amphibious scooping air tankers.

The first use of one on a wildfire was Tanker 281 on the Cedar Fire 15 miles south of Elko, Nevada Sunday where it completed over 60 water drops in support of firefighters. The fire has burned 6,000 acres and is being fought by 8 hand crews, 10 fire engines, 2 helicopters, and various air tankers for a total of 258 personnel.

The CL-415EAF modification program consists of converting CL-215 airframes to turbines using Viking-supplied conversion kits and replacing all obsolete components. It features a new Collins Pro Line Fusion® integrated digital avionics suite, Pratt & Whitney PW123AF turbine engines, and increased water tank capacity with a higher delivery two-door water drop system. The work is done in Canada by Longview Aviation Services in collaboration with Cascade Aerospace.

Bridger Aerospace receives the first Viking CL-415EAF

This is the first of six ordered by Bridger

first Viking CL-415EAF “Enhanced Aerial Firefighter” was delivered
The first production Viking CL-415EAF “Enhanced Aerial Firefighter” was photographed in the central Rocky Mountains en route to Bridger Aerospace’s facility in Bozeman, Montana. Longview photo.

The first Viking CL-415EAF “Enhanced Aerial Firefighter” was delivered to Bridger Aerospace’s facility in Bozeman, Montana as part of a contract that with all options exercised is valued at $204 million covering the purchase of six of the amphibious scooping air tankers.

Manufacturer’s serial number (MSN) 1081, the first Canadair CL-215 to undergo the major modification to the EAF “Enhanced Aerial Firefighter” configuration, took its inaugural flight on March 9, 2020 outside of program-collaborator Cascade Aerospace’s facility in Abbotsford, B.C.

Tim Sheehy, founder and CEO of Bridger Aerospace Group stated, “Aggressive initial attack and advanced technology in support of the wildland firefighter are the core of Bridger’s ethos. The Viking CL-415EAF is the most capable initial attack asset on the planet and we are proud to be the launch customer for this incredible capability.”

CL-415EAF Bridger Aerospace
CL-415EAF. Bridger Aerospace photo.

Robert Mauracher, executive vice-president of Sales and Marketing for Viking, commented, “The delivery of our first Enhanced Aerial Firefighter is the culmination of a multi-faceted collaborative project originally launched in 2018 and represents the partnership that has developed between Viking, Longview Aviation Capital (LAS), and Bridger over the past 24 months. We are now looking forward to adding a second aircraft to their fleet in the coming months.”

The Viking CL-415EAF modification program forms part of a staged approach to utilize the advancements made with the LAS converted aircraft as the basis for the proposed next-generation Viking CL-515 new-production aerial firefighting and multi-purpose amphibious aircraft.

The Viking CL-415EAF “Enhanced Aerial Firefighter” is a specially selected CL-215 airframe converted to turbine configuration using Viking-supplied conversion kits. It features a new Collins Pro Line Fusion integrated digital avionics suite, Pratt & Whitney PW123AF turbine engines, increased fire-retardant capacity, and improvements to numerous aircraft systems.

The Viking CL-415EAF represents the evolution of the type, utilizing the higher delivery two-door water drop system combined with a zero-timed maintenance program and a “new aircraft” factory-supported warranty program. All obsolete components impacting the worldwide fleet of CL-215 & CL-415 aircraft are replaced in the CL- 415EAF, and the upgraded aircraft is designed to failsafe FAR 25 certification criteria with no preset life limit.

Bridger Aerospace and Ascent Vision Technologies join forces to deliver COVID-19 PPE

Delivery face masks Bridger Aerospace
Members of Bridger Aerospace and Frenchtown District Rural Fire Department. Minuteman Aviation photo by Mel Holtz in Missoula.

What started as a modest campaign to provide a couple of hundred face shields to Bozeman Health, has opened doors to assist other first responders in staying safe. In an effort to fight against COVID-19, Ascent Vision Technologies (AVT), a military defense contractor, adapted its production know-how to rapid prototyping and production of the shields. After an outpouring of gratitude and requests for more units, the AVT team is now working to produce up to an additional 5,000 units.

Its sister company, Bridger Aerospace (BA), an Aerial Firefighting company based in Belgrade, Montana, with its fleet of 14 airplanes (mix of Aero Commanders, Kodiak 100’s, and a CL-415EAF), can bypass commercial shipping channels to deliver equipment and personnel on-demand. An opportunity to fulfill a request made by the Frenchtown FD presented such an occasion. The Bridger team used their newly acquired Daher Kodiak 100 to hand-deliver 30 units to a Fire Department crew based in Frenchtown, Montana.

Tim Sheehy, CEO, has pledged to assist any other first responders in need. So far, BA and AVT have delivered over 300 shields to Bozeman Health and first responders and will be delivering masks to other fire departments and healthcare professionals across Montana.

Bridger Aerospace was in the news last month when it was announced they would be acquiring six CL-415EAF scooping air tankers. Longview Aviation in collaboration with Cascade Aerospace, is upgrading Canadair CL-215 air tankers to become CL-415EAFs.

First flight of a CL-415EAF

CL-215s are being upgraded to the CL-415EAF “Enhanced Aerial Firefighter” configuration

CL-415EAF First Flight
First flight of a CL-415EAF March 10, 2020. Photo by Longview Aviation.

A Viking CL-415EAF took its inaugural flight in Abbotsford, British Columbia March 9. It is the first Canadair CL-215 to undergo the major modification to CL-415EAF “Enhanced Aerial Firefighter” configuration by Longview Aviation Services in collaboration with Cascade Aerospace. Cascade was awarded a contract to assist with the CL-415EAF modification program in 2018 that included carrying out the first aircraft modification using Viking-supplied conversion kits.

This initial CL-415EAF is the first of six amphibious air tankers ordered by launch customer Bridger Aerospace of Bozeman, Montana and is scheduled for delivery in April in advance of the start of the 2020 North American wildfire season.

The CL-415EAF modification program was announced in 2018 as a collaboration between the two subsidiaries of Longview Aviation Capital. In the program CL-215 airframes are converted to turbines using Viking-supplied conversion kits and all obsolete components are replaced. It features a new Collins Pro Line Fusion® integrated digital avionics suite, Pratt & Whitney PW123AF turbine engines, increased water tank capacity, and improvements to numerous aircraft systems.

The CL-415EAF utilizes a higher delivery 2-door water drop system combined with a zero-timed maintenance program and a “new aircraft” factory-supported warranty program.

CL-415EAF First Flight
First flight of a CL-415EAF March 10, 2020. Photo by Longview Aviation.

Germany looks at acquiring more firefighting aircraft

CH-53G Germany

Above: German Army Sikorsky CH-53G Super Stallion (reg. 84+99, sn V65-97) at ILA Berlin Air Show 2016. By Julian Herzog.

There is discussion underway in Germany about the need for additional aircraft for battling vegetation fires. Their military presently has access to numerous CH-53G Sea Stallion helicopters after having purchased 110 in the early 1970s. The huge aircraft can carry water in an external bucket but not all of the military pilots are trained in dropping water on wildfires.

Below are excerpts from a very rough automatic computer translation of an article at the Cockpit website in Germany.


“…According to the European Commission, in 2016 it burned 777 times in Greece, 608 times in Germany. Portugal had 13,261 fires in most European fires, with 8,717 fires behind Spain. According to the German Fire Brigade Association (DFV) was a situation, such as in Greece, but hardly possible. This is because of the different type of vegetation and the preventive measures such as fire cutting. In international comparison, Germany also has a very strong fire brigade with over one million firefighters. There are also more access roads and hydrants in the forest than in Greece, for example. That’s right. But Harald Ebner, Greens Bundestag spokesman for forest policy, nevertheless pleads for extinguishing aircraft, although they may not be needed as often as in other states. “For the possible case of large forest fires it needs sufficient specialists and good equipment, for example with airplanes,” he said.

“Harald Ebner is pushing for a speedy deployment of a squadron with multiple surface aircraft, not only to protect German forests and agricultural areas, but also to provide other countries with the necessary support if needed. Experts even assume that countries like Sweden and Poland could share the costs of a permanent task force with Germany. A service water airport in Brandenburg or Mecklenburg-Vorpommern seems to be the most suitable. The only current handicap: amphibious aircraft may only take off and land in a few German waters. Here, the legislature would first be obliged to make special arrangements, even if it is a matter for the Länder.

“Soon CL-515 in use?

“An airfield in British Columbia is home to eleven used but under-used CL-215 aircraft, which will now receive new Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines and new avionics. The first so-called CL-415EAF Enhanced Aerial Firefighter is to be delivered before the forest fire season 2020 to Bridger Aerospace in US state of Montana. The aviation service provider Viking Air, which specializes in fighting forest fires, has ordered five aircraft. But since most of the CL-415’s, which have been in operation for a long time, are also used in the Mediterranean countries, Viking Air now wants to decide on possibly introducing a new edition of the Canadair firefighting aircraft at the end of this year to be named CL-515.”

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

CL-215T

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.
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