A New Airtanker to Fight Wildfires in the U.S.

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON (May 2, 2023) – Aero-Flite Inc. is pleased to announce the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) on the Dash 8-400AT airtanker. This approval clears the way for U.S. registered Dash 8-400ATs to fly aerial firefighting missions across all states, operated by Aero-Flite, a U.S. aviation operator with over 60 years of aerial firefighting experience based in Spokane, Washington.

Aero-Flite will be operating two Dash 8-400AT airtankers in the US in 2023, under a long-term, multi-year contract with the state of Washington. In addition, Dash 8-400 airtankers will be available for operation through all U.S. agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and individual state authorities. Aero-Flite crews have performed extensive training in anticipation of this certification, with seven pilots preparing to step into operations as soon as certification was granted. Training incorporates ground school, type training, simulator training and a specialty on-wing training program.

“The Dash offers greater flexibility and responsiveness than larger airtankers, while still providing a comparable payload capacity. It can operate from shorter runways at higher elevations, positioned in smaller airtanker bases located closer to where wildfires occur, meaning a fast response to the fire and back. Plus, they burn significantly less fuel than a Type 1, larger airtanker, resulting in much lower operational costs while delivering a similar punch to the fire” shares Chris Niemann, General Manager at Aero-Flite. “We feel this airtanker type fills a growing need across the country, providing a cost-effective option that can be shared between agencies and states, responding to wildfires in any jurisdiction, no matter the geography or tanker base infrastructure. It is agile, flexible, and powerful, providing advanced avionics, for safer operations, that older model airtankers don’t offer.”

The Dash 8-400 airtanker has been operating since 2005, with seven currently in operation in France as multi-role airtankers, plus nine airtanker-only aircraft in other countries ready to fight fires around the world in 2023. Conair Aerial Firefighting manufactures the aircraft into airtankers, dedicating more than a decade to research and development of this new airtanker type. “We evaluated 29 aircraft before selecting the Dash for modification into an aerial firefighting tool. The unanimous opinion of our flight operations experts was that the Dash exceeds all the Next Generation performance criteria within a maneuverable and stable platform.” says Jeff Berry, Vice President of Business Development at Conair. “An emerging challenge in the global aerial firefighting industry is the aging of airtankers and the long-term outlook of their airworthiness. The Dash addresses that challenge, offering a modern aircraft, with hundreds still in operation commercially today, providing parts and securing support from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) De Havilland Canada for decades to come, ensuring the ‘firetruck in the sky’ is ready to respond when the call comes.”

With this FAA approval, Aero-Flite plans to expand the fleet of Dash 8-400AT airtankers in order to respond to the need for additional air support to fight wildfires.

About Aero-Flite Inc.

Aero-Flite is the largest, and one of the most experienced, aerial firefighting companies in the US, delivering a comprehensive range of purpose-engineered aircraft designed to fight wildfires. Founded in the United States over 60 years ago, Aero-Flite’s operations support missions in North America and beyond, providing an extensive range of Next Generation fire control aircraft. The team of 170 professionals operate over 12 aircraft including Type 1 RJ85 airtankers; Type 2 Dash 8-400AT airtankers; and one of the largest fleets of newer-model CL415 amphibious aircraft in the world. Aero-Flite can provide aircraft under contract across the US, and around the world, providing specialized services including flight operations and aircraft maintenance related to emergency response missions. Learn more at www.aerofliteinc.com

Ryan Mason
Ryan Mason
Ryan is an accomplished writer and aerial photographer that has worked in the aviation industry for over a decade before co-founding AerialFire Magazine. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Ryan is a former police officer that focuses his writing and photography efforts on para-public operations and agricultural aviation.

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