A De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q400AT is on contract in Queensland, Australia during the 2020/2021 summer bushfire season. This is the first time the state has had regular access to a large air tanker, rather than borrowing from New South Wales or Victoria. Provided by Conair, Tanker 141/Bomber 141 (C-FFQE) arrived in Bundaberg in August after departing from Abbotsford British Columbia and making fuel stops at Oakland, Honolulu, Majuro (Marshall Islands), Honiara (Solomon Islands), and Brisbane where it cleared customs. There is a possibility the contract which started September 1 could be extended for an additional four years during the bushfire seasons.
Conair, working with the Australian company Field Air, will have two other large air tankers on contract in Australia, both RJ 85s, beginning October 1 in New South Wales and early December in Victoria.
In 2017 the Conair Group secured a deal to sell six Q400 Multi-Role aircraft converted to air tankers to France’s Securite Civile (Department of Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness), two of which have been delivered. These are new aircraft that Conair purchased from Bombardier which can be converted in a few hours to carry passengers.
Besides the six that will be going to France, Conair has two Q400s, including the one in Australia. The company is working with North American agencies to hopefully see at least two of the Q400AT’s begin contracts next year. The aircraft were previously owned and are not the Multi-Role models.
Jeff Berry, Manager of Business Development at Conair, said the aircraft, “[A]re pure air tanker STC [supplemental type certificate], so we don’t have any of the residual plumbing, wiring, attachment points inside, or heavy duty flooring that you need for an MR, so it’s stripped down to be a pure tanker. And it gives us the maximum fuel load and the maximum retardant tank capacity. You get the full 10,000 liters [2,642 gallons]. The Q400AT is truly a ‘Green’ airtanker — it is incredibly fuel efficient burning only 58 percent of the fuel per hour while carrying 85 percent of the load of a typical type 1 airtanker.”
“It can operate off a 5,000-foot runway,” Mr. Berry said. “It gives them a lot of flexibility to utilize more of the existing tanker base infrastructure that is in place that may or may not be available for some of the large or very large air tankers.”
Queensland had an extraordinarily busy 2018/2019 bushfire season. Wildfire Today covered some of the fires that year.