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All Charged Up

Conair Aerial Firefighting is known for its fleet of custom firefighting aircraft. For over 50 years we have reimagined airframes into aerial firefighting machines, adding proprietary Retardant Delivery Systems (RDS), high tech pilot flight envelope awareness systems, satellite flight decks, tactical radio packages, and scoop modifications – all to improve safety while maximizing performance and value for our clients.

But our innovation doesn’t stop at our aircraft. In each department, from human resources through to facilities, we are always striving to ‘do better.’ And our Component Shop has done just that with the completion of their state-of-the-art Battery Charging Station.

Every component of our 70 aircraft undergoes regular maintenance to ensure safe and reliable operation and that includes our aircraft batteries, which are essential to ensuring our airtankers are never grounded while in operation on firefighting missions. Our expanding Q400AT and Q400MR fleet means more batteries to maintain, so to accommodate the growth, a custom built unit where three batteries can be charged simultaneously using an integrated computerized system was designed. The ability to charge several batteries at one time means that Conair can charge 300 batteries over a six month period, ensuring that all aircraft batteries are ready-to-go when fire season starts and spares are kept maintained through operational season, ready for use at a moment’s notice. The automated system is effective and efficient while offering enhanced safety features.

A specialized hydraulic cart lifts the batteries into the unit, requiring zero lifting due to its push-pull-slide features. For both line and preventative maintenance, each battery is placed on a thermal plate to prevent thermal runaway which can result in damaged cells or even a fire.  An integrated overhead vent system evacuates damaging gases and excessive heat produced during the charging phase to ensure a safe work environment, preventing gas build-up and potential explosion. And an automated clip-off module for each station monitors cell voltage and carries out the clip-off phase without having a team member place resistors or cell clips on individual cells. John Ramone, our AME Component Shop Lead Hand, works at one of these stations featured in the image.

A computerized system connected to the Christie chargers controls the entire maintenance cycle.  The system discharges, clips-off, charges and carries out capacity testing automatically following the preprogrammed recipes built for each battery type. Real-time results are displayed on a large overhead screen, enabling our team to monitor the status of all batteries while working from a distance, with data collected digitally. In addition to the overhead display, a strobe/siren system is utilized to notify the team in the case of an emergency. “The benefits are an extremely safe work environment for our team, greatly reduced labour, faster results, more accurate testing and reporting.” says Colin Halldorson, Component Shop Crew Leader. “We are proud of our system. It is probably one of the most advanced aircraft battery charging systems in the world.”