Conair’s Dash 8-400AT Assists Firefighters in Alberta, British Columbia, and Beyond
A fleet of 70 aerial firefighting aircraft has deployed for the fire season from British Columbia (BC) based Conair, a mix of fixed-wing aircraft including Bird Dog lead planes, amphibious waterbombers, and airtankers. Included in this group is the Dash 8-400AT, the newest airtanker available in the world today, converted by Conair. Four of these new large airtankers worked the month of May in Alberta, a first for the province, responding to a challenging and early fire season, supporting firefighter partners. The Dash 8-400 airtanker, while new to Canada, has been operating since 2005.
The multi-role version of this aircraft is owned and operated by the Government of France, a fleet of eight built by Conair, with each aircraft offering a variety of emergency response roles, including medevac, passenger, cargo, combi, plus airtanker capability. Conair adapted this aircraft into an air tanker-only version, the Dash 8-400AT, and introduced it to Australia in 2020, Alaska in 2021, and BC in 2022.
The fleet has grown steadily over the last several years as new airtankers are certified by Transport Canada, the only regulating authority in the world recognizing aerial firefighting as its own air operation classification, with stringent guidelines in place to ensure airtankers operating in Canada do so safely. This year in Canada, BC welcomes three Dash 8-400ATs, with one positioned in Fort St. John and two based in Penticton, taking the place of the now-retired Convair CV580 fleet.
“Retiring our legacy fleet of Electra L188 and Convair CV580 aircraft was necessary as the supply of parts was dwindling globally. We reached a point where we could not guarantee the serviceability needed for an emergency response aircraft so we proactively replaced our fleet with a modern airtanker,” shares Jeff Berry, Vice President of Business Development with Conair. “The Dash is fully supported by De Havilland Canada, the Original Equipment Manufacturer, ensuring an abundant supply of parts is readily available to keep the airtanker flying for decades.
This provides the level of reliability we require.” And Conair’s fleet of Dash 8-400AT is expanding, with two more currently in production this year, with more on the horizon as demand grows. But Canada isn’t limited to just these three Dash 8-400 airtankers for wildfire response. Through long-standing interagency agreements, aerial firefighting airtankers on contract with Canadian jurisdictions and US states can be shared if the need arises. An example, utilizing the Northwest Wildland Fire Protection Agreement, Alaska has on loan to Alberta two of its contracted Dash 8-400AT airtankers. If provinces or territories across Canada need additional airtanker support, Transport Canada certified tankers are ready to assist through established compacts. Two Dash 8-400AT airtankers, for instance, are currently on contract through Washington state, ready to support Canada if conditions permit and the need arises.
The Dash 8-400AT fits the bill for all regions across Canada, filling a growing niche in the aerial firefighting industry. It offers large airtanker payload capacity, capable of dropping up to 10,000 litres of retardant, foam or water, while still being able to operate out of smaller airtanker bases with 5,000’ runways at higher elevations, positioned closer to where wildfires occur. “As an aerial firefighting pilot operating in mountainous terrain, I have greater confidence in the Dash over other airtankers I have flown. The sheer power and efficiency of the PW150A engines is a wonderful thing. It takes off fast and gets to the fire as fast as a jet” shares Captain Chris Bingham. “The tanker also burns far less fuel than other large airtankers. In some instances, the tanker can drop more than double the payload for fuel burned. This means we can continue more reloads and returns to the fire before requiring a refueling stop. That’s 10,000 litres per drop, drop after drop.”
For over 50 years Conair has partnered with governments around the globe, providing the largest fixed-wing, privately owned fleet of aerial firefighting aircraft in the world to protect people, communities and resources from wildfires. The Dash 8-400AT continues this mission, offering a modern airtanker solution to jurisdictions faced with increasing wildfire threats.
Picture: Conair’s Dash 8-400AT, identified by its unique external tank, a design preserving the integrity of the airframe, keeping the cabin pressurized to reduce pilot fatigue.
About Conair Group Inc.
Headquartered in Canada, Conair is the world leader in specialty aircraft operations, delivering a comprehensive range of purpose-engineered, aerial firefighting and multi-role aircraft and services globally. With over 70 aircraft, Conair operates the largest, privately owned, dedicated fleet of fixed wing firefighting aircraft in the world. Founded in Canada over 50 years ago, Conair’s operations are global, supporting missions in North America, Europe, Australia and beyond. Conair has modified more than 175 individual aircraft across 15 aircraft types for conversion to aerial firefighting. Conair’s engineering team has developed a number of proprietary aerial firefighting products and the company holds hundreds of Supplemental Type Certificates. Conair’s capacity and expertise in aerial firefighting, combined with ongoing Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) support, ensures supply and continuous operational service life of Conair’s aerial firefighting aircraft for many years to come. Conair can provide aircraft for purchase, lease or under contract and offers specialized services including aeronautical engineering design, flight operations and aircraft maintenance related to aerial firefighting missions. Learn out more at www.conair.ca