USA — An independent aviation company based in Atlantic Canada has developed the first new 3,000-gallon capacity fire-fighting airtanker to enter service with the U.S. Forestry Service since the early 1980s. “We are excited by this breakthrough,” said Mark Coffin, who manages Tronos’ conversion maintenance facilities at Summerside, Prince Edward Island. “This is a triumph for our leading design and production teams.”
A converted British Aerospace BAe 146 known as the “whisper jet” from the Tronos fleet was released into service following extensive United States Forest Service field tests this summer at Missoula, Montana. Now located in Longview, Texas, the airtanker is scheduled to be dispatched to fight fires as early as today (Friday, Sept. 30.) “We have leased this jet to Neptune Aviation Services and plan to convert additional aircraft for Neptune, which will use them to combat forest fires in the United States. Our airtankers provide the Forestry Service with an effective and reliable means of combatting forest fires.”
Tronos is an innovative company which tailors aircraft for specialty uses. In this instance, the firm refitted the BAe-146 by removing the 90-passenger interior and installing a 3,000-gallon tank system that disperses fire retardant on fires. In rigorous testing at Missoula, the BAe-146 demonstrated that it could meet widely varying requirements for fighting fires in eight different environments – from grassy areas to dense forests.
The Forestry Service last approved a new large airtanker (capable of carrying 3,000 gallons of retardant) in the mid-1980s, when the P-3 Orion (PS) was first used in firefighting operations. Demand for new aircraft is expected to be strong, in the face of the increased incidence of major fires, as the aging fleet of airtankers is retired.
The Tronos airtanker design is versatile for other uses, including delivering supplies in relief efforts. “We have done pioneering work in aviation that can also do a little good,” said Coffin. The BAe-146 could also be adapted for emergency response in other sectors, including offshore oil and gas.
Tronos is a privately-held aircraft-leasing company, based in PEI, which operates a fleet of 20 BAe-146 aircraft. Founded in 2000, Tronos’ aircraft have flown with Air France, British Airways, Atlantic Airways, United Airlines, Star Peru, the Bolivian Air Force as well as many other specialty air services.