Photo by Herve Dormoune
Aerial firefighting pioneer Conair, of Abbotsford, B.C. is looking to the future and has chosen the De Havilland Q400 as its large platform for the future. The company, which formed in the 1950s using war surplus attack aircraft and piston airliners, has constantly modernized its fleet over the years and has purchased 11 former Flybe Q400s for conversion to air tankers. “After more than a decade of research and development, Conair’s answer to the future of aerial firefighting is the Q400AT, the most advanced air tanker in the world today,” the company said in a news release. Q400s will eventually replace all the Lockheed Electra and Convair 580 turboprops in the company’s fleet. It also uses Air Tractor single engine air tankers (SEAT) and has a total of 70 firefighting aircraft.
One of the appeals of the Q400 is that it’s still in production and therefore parts and updates are readily available. Some of the legacy aircraft are difficult to maintain and rely on outdated technology. The company has been converting Q400s for other operators for 15 years and their performance in 8,000 hours of real-world use sold Conair on its future with the company. “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,” said CEO Barry Marsden. “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.”