The two-day Aerial Firefighting North America conference just wrapped up at Sacramento McClellan Airport in Sacramento. It began Tuesday with a series of keynote and welcoming addresses delivered by Chief Thom Porter, Director of CAL FIRE, Brian S. Marshal, State Fire and Rescue Chief and Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, followed by Jeffrey Rupert, Director of the Office of Wildland Fire in the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Conair confirmed at the conference that they expect to open the world’s first Aerial Firefighting Training and Tactics Centre early this spring. It will have five fully Networked Flight Training Devices that are reconfigurable to simulate the cockpit and flight dynamics for eight aircraft platforms performing different roles during an aerial firefighting mission.
Viking Air Limited introduced the Canadair CL-515 First Responder, a new production multi-mission scooping amphibian and purpose-built aerial firefighting aircraft.
Coulson Aviation announced they have installed a large capacity internal helicopter tank in a CH47 Chinook. It will be able to carry up to 3,000 gallons.
Columbia Helicopters introduced a Type 1 multi-mission Standard Transport Category helicopter – the Columbia Model 234 LR Chinook. It can be configured to carry up to 19 passengers, a 2,800 gallon internal tank, a 2,600 gallon bucket, or internal and external cargo.
Trotter Controls recorded a video tour of some of the exhibits at the conference.
On December 20, Viking Air released a video that describes in detail a new model of the scooping air tanker that could succeed the CL-415. The new CL-515, if it is ever built, is supposed to have a 15 percent larger tank holding up to 1,850 gallons (7,000 liters), and the ability to be outfitted with agriculture spraying equipment or carry up to 12 passengers or three stretchers. Other optional equipment could include a larger cargo door, video cameras, and search radar.
We asked a spokesperson for Viking if the description of the CL-515 in the video meant it would be produced, and if so when, we were told, “No official announcement made yet. The 515 video is a promotional tool for the time being to generate interest in the potential production aircraft.” The spokesperson declined to give us a date.
In March, 2018 at the Aerial Firefighting Conference at McClellan Sacramento Airport, Viking’s director of Special Projects, Sales, and Marketing, Christian Bergeron, told us the company was currently gathering information from potential customers about what they would like to see on a new version of the CL-415. Mr. Bergeron said they expected to decide by the third quarter of 2018 if they would proceed with the project, which would be named CL-515.
Executive vice-president of sales and marketing for Viking, Robert Mauracher, told Flight Global in October, “We expect board approval for go or no-go [about building the CL-515] by the end of the first quarter next year”.
Bombardier stopped production of the CL-415 in 2015. The next year Viking acquired the worldwide amphibious aircraft program from Bombardier including the Type Certificates (manufacturing rights) for all variants of Bombardier’s amphibious aircraft, and assumed responsibility for product support, parts and service for the fleet of 170 water bombers in service with 21 operators in 11 countries around the world.
In a similar transaction in 2006 Viking acquired from de Havilland Canada the rights for the Twin Otter and re-launched production in 2007 after a 22 year hiatus, delivering over 140 aircraft in 30 countries. Viking also produces the DHC-7 Dash 7, the DHC-3 Otter, DHC-5 Buffalo, and the DHC-2 Beaver.
And, in November, 2018 Longview Aviation Capital Corp., parent company to Viking, agreed to acquire, through an affiliate, the entire Dash 8 program including the 100, 200 and 300 series and the in-production Q400 program from Bombardier Inc. Also included as part of the transaction are rights to the de Havilland name and trademark. Once completed, Longview will become North America’s largest commercial turbo-prop aircraft manufacturer.
Earlier in 2018 the Conair Group purchased six Q400 MR aircraft from Bombardier which it will convert into multirole air tankers for France’s Securite Civile (Department of Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness).
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.
Earlier we posted Part One of a few notes that I scribbled in a notebook at the Aerial Firefighting conference in Sacramento this week. Here is Part Two.
Neptune Aviation Ron Hooper, CEO of Neptune Aviation, said their air tankers in 2016 averaged 180 hours while working on wildfires. In 2017, a very busy year, that number increased to 276. Their P2V’s have retired from firefighting, leaving the company with nine air tankers, all BAe-146’s.
No one outside the U.S. Forest Service knows when the agency will issue the next round of exclusive use and call when needed next-generation air tanker contracts, affectionately called Next-Gen 3.0. When forced to guess, Mr. Hooper said the aircraft receiving those new contracts may not be activated until 2019. He may know more than most, since his former job was supervising air tanker contracting for the FS.
Phos-Chek One of the major suppliers of fire retardant, Phos-Chek, is changing hands again. In a matter of days its parent company will be Perimeter Solutions. But as in the previous four iterations it will retain the brand name Phos-Chek.
Here is the product’s history of parent companies: 1963-1997: Monsanto 1997-2000: Solutia 2000-2005: Astaris 2005-2018: ICL 2018- ???? : Perimeter
Jim Wheeler, CEO of Global Supertanker Services, said the company currently has CWN contracts with CAL FIRE and two counties in Colorado — Douglas (just south of Denver) and El Paso (Colorado Springs). Other pending contracts that they hope to sign later will be with the states of Colorado, Texas, and Oregon.
Vincent Welbaum, Colorado’s Aviation Unit Chief, said they are talking to vendors and expect to award a call when needed contract to at least one vendor that can supply large or very large air tankers. The state has been operating their own two Pilatus PC-12 Multi-mission aircraft for several years, using it to detect and map wildfires.
Colorado will have two Single Engine Air Tankers on exclusive use contracts supplied by CO Fire Aviation and Aero Seat as well as four other vendors on call when needed contracts. The state will also have two Bell 205’s on exclusive use contracts.
Helimax Aviation is one of two subsidiaries of Heligroup Holdings. The other is CHI at Howell, Michigan which concentrates on heavy lift, while Helimax, at Sacramento McClellan Airport is in involved in aerial firefighting. Helimax recently sold all of their Type 2 helicopters, and now have six Type-1’s, Chinook CH-47D’s.
MAFFS Group Bradford Beck, COO of MAFFS Group said the company recently sold a MAFFS II system to the Tunisia Air Force in Northern Africa. The country has operated two of the original versions of the MAFFS for 10 to 15 years. They will continue to operate the MAFFS I systems on a C-130B and will use a C-130H for the new MAFFS II which will be delivered in the third quarter of this year. The most challenging wildfires in Tunisia occur in the Atlas mountains.
This is the second MAFFS II that the MAFFS Group has sold. The first is now being used in Columbia, South America.
Viking Air director of Special Projects, Sales, and Marketing Christian Bergeron said the company is currently gathering information from potential customers about what they would like to see on a new version of the CL-415 water scooping air tanker. The company expects to decide by the third quarter of this year if they will proceed with the project, which will be named CL-515. At this stage, Mr. Bergeron said, they expect it to have a larger cargo door, glass cockpit, updated avionics, and will be able to land with a full load of water. Available options will include an infrared camera system and night vision compatibility. Viking’s manufacturing facility is in Calgary, Canada.
Bombardier has agreed to sell their air tanker manufacturing business to Viking Air Ltd.
The transaction will see Viking acquire the Type Certificates (manufacturing rights) for all variants of Bombardier’s amphibious aircraft, and assume responsibility for product support, parts and service for the fleet of 170 air tankers in service with 21 operators in 11 countries around the world.
Below is an excerpt from an article at CTV News:
…Victoria-based Viking manufactures the Twin Otter as well as spare parts for several planes originally made by de Havilland. It also has manufacturing rights for all out-of-production de Havilland aircraft, including the DASH-7 regional airliner, a predecessor to Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop.
Viking employs just under 90 people in Calgary and more than 330 at its headquarters and facilities in Victoria. The company said it expects to add up to 40 people to its workforce in Victoria and Calgary with the new program.
Bombardier said Monday it plans to transfer 50 employees from the amphibious aircraft program based in North Bay, Ont., to other parts of its business.
The Montreal-based company hasn’t produced an amphibious plane since December 2015…
Canadair began manufacturing the amphibious CL-215 air tanker in 1967 and in 1986 sold the manufacturing rights for the aircraft to Bombardier. In 1993 Bombardier introduced the upgraded CL-415, replacing the piston engines with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF turboprops as well as introducing an updated cockpit and aerodynamics enhancements.