Conair Group Inc., operating the largest, privately-owned fixed wing fleet of firefighting aircraft in the world, announced the purchase of eleven Dash 8 Q400 aircraft for conversion to airtankers, engineered specifically for aerial firefighting.
After more than a decade of research and development, Conair’s answer to the future of aerial firefighting is the Q400AT, the most advanced airtanker in the world today. The purchase marks the most significant investment Conair has made to date towards developing a fleet of Next Generation aircraft designed to better fight wildfires for years to come.
For over 50 years Conair has made strides to lead the industry, supporting government agencies using their versatile fleet of 70 aircraft. The company continues their proactive approach with the recent purchase, making a committed step towards creating an inventory of superior aerial firefighters. The expansion provides customers with the security of knowing the Conair fleet will always be ready when called to respond to emergency situations.
Planes used to fight wildfires as airtankers are often older models and are flown into demanding environments, inevitably resulting in metal fatigue over time. In addition, aircraft designed to obsolete standards leads to increased risk of incidents, costly repairs, limited replacement parts, and ultimately time grounded from fighting fires. Conair’s strategic move towards a long-term vision includes replacing the company’s fleet of heavy legacy airtankers with the new Q400ATs.
“We evaluated 29 aircraft before selecting the Q400 for modification into an aerial firefighting tool. The unanimous opinion of our flight operations experts was that the Q400 exceeds all the Next Generation performance criteria within a maneuverable and stable platform.” says Jeff Berry, director of Business Development at Conair. “The Q400AT is fast, fuel efficient, and tactically flexible, operating both initial attack as well as sustained support actions. The Q400 has strong Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) support from De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited (De Havilland Canada), guaranteeing availability of parts and servicing for years.”
“We are delighted that Conair is acquiring another eleven Dash 8 aircraft to support the growth of the company’s specialized airtanker fleet,” said Philippe Poutissou,vice president Marketing and Sales, De Havilland Canada. “In addition to being the most advanced and efficient turboprops deployed in regional airline and air transport roles around the world, De Havilland Canada’s versatile Dash 8 Series aircraft continue to be an ideal platform for special mission operations such as aerial firefighting, search and rescue and medical evacuation and we congratulate Conair on the excellent work they are doing supporting diverse communities with their Dash 8 multi-role and airtanker aircraft.”
Conair has been modifying the Q400 into airtankers since 2005, with a proven record of success having been flown more than 8,000 hours with a fleet availability for dispatch rate of 98.5%. The Conair Q400MR multi-role and Q400AT airtanker are similar in design, with both featuring an external 10,000-litre tank. Four Q400MR aircraft are in operation in France, with four more on order, and the company’s first Q400AT airtanker was placed in operation in Queensland, Australia in September of 2020. In total, the company has purchased 6 new and 13 used Q400 aircraft within the last 2 years.
“We look forward to manufacturing the Q400 aircraft into airtankers out of our hangars in Abbotsford, British Columbia, employing a group of specialists during a particularly tough time for the aviation industry,” shares Barry Marsden, CEO. “It makes us proud that this Canadian-made, De Havilland Canada airframe, powered with Canadian-made Pratt & Whitney engines, will be modified by our team in Canada, and then put into operation around the world to help our partners suppress wildfires for what could be decades.”
The Q400 aircraft were purchased from HEH Hamburger EmissionsHaus, through Skyworld Aviation. The eleven aircraft, originally Flybe commuter planes, are based in Europe and will be delivered to Conair starting this month.