Northern Air adds to firefighting fleet

Northern Air adds to firefighting fleet

09 March 2012

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Canada — Saskatchewan’s forest firefighting fleet got a boost with the arrival of a converted CL-215T water bomber aircraft April 20. The aircraft is the first of four of the fleet’s piston-engine CL-215s, which are being converted to turboprop aircraft. The changes mean the converted aircraft has more speed, more horsepower and can scoop water over a 5,400 ft. rather than 4,100 ft.

“In theory that means we can get into smaller lakes,” said Dennis Renaud, manager of Northern Air Operations (NAO), in an interview with The Northerner.

“Fighting a fire is usually a four-hour mission. Within that four hours this aircraft will put 25 per cent more water on that fire.” The conversion enhancements involved adding or changing various parts of the aircraft, using a Turboprop Conversion Kit designed by Bombardier, which includes the addition of twin turbine engines, each with 2,380 horsepower and capable of 333 km/h or 180 knots.

“Associating the speed, going at 180 knots compared to 160 knots (the capability of the CL- 215 before conversion) was at best going downhill with a weak wind behind you.”

The changes, along with the change in engines, includes: a oil cooler air ejection system, enhanced propeller action, improved cockpit instrumentation, powered wing fl aps, bullet on the tail, which works to deflect the airflow around the aircraft, powered elevator, finlets on the tail for and a powered rudder, which adds “lateral stabilization and improved direction stability.” There’s an improved fuel system added to the aircraft.

The wings have been structurally re-enforced with powered flaps, wiring re-designed harness, and wing end plates. The changes include the addition of a new pressurized hydraulic system.

While the changes will quicken the response time of the aircraft’s capability, it will also enhance the fuel economy in low level fl ying situations.

Manual flight controls have been replaced by powered systems to “add engine power and reduce pilot workload.” The structural components of the converted aircraft have been analyzed with the new performance attributes and reinforced to maintain the highest level of safety and reliability,” quoted from the Executive Summary of the conversion plan.

The new CL215Ts are capable of carrying 600 imperial gallons (US) of water in each of the two holding tanks and 123 (US) gallons of foam. The aircrafts systems also allow for the scooping of 1,200 gallons in seconds.

The cockpit of the aircraft is also air conditioned to help alleviate fatigue.

Another three CL 215 aircraft will be converted over the next two years. “Tankers were delivered to Abbotsford last week and we picked up this one.”

The conversion process means the fleet has one less aircraft in the fleet over the summer months, during the restoration process, but (NAO) is compensated with the tracker aircraft, which are still in use.

The conversion of the CL215 is the beginning of Phase Two of the fleet renewal process.

YXX Aerospace, a Canadian company equally owned by Conair Group Inc. and Aero Flite Inc, of Arizona, and was established to provide the “capability and resources to undertake the turboprop conversions of the CL-215 aircraft to the CL-215T amphibious firefighting aircraft,” quoted from background material.

The average cost for the conversion of the aircraft is under $20 million. The purchase of a new aircraft, the 415, would be approximately $32 million, resulting in a saving of just over $12 million per aircraft, or approximately $48 million for the four aircraft.

NAO will have four of its six CL-215s converted; two of the aircraft are older versions of the 215 and are not suitable for conversion. The conversions are part of the multi-phase fleet enhancement program approved in 2006.

Valerie G. Barnes- Connell

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