First Former Flybe touches down at Conair
Conair Group Inc., is pleased to announce the safe arrival of the first of eleven Dash 8 Q400 aircraft for conversion to airtankers, engineered specifically for aerial firefighting.
After more than a decade of development, Conair’s answer to the future of aerial firefighting is the Q400AT, the most advanced airtanker in the world today. The aircraft will be modified from Conair’s hangars in Abbotsford by their team of aerospace specialists. The modification process will begin this quarter and is scheduled to be completed in time for North America’s wildfire season, taking approximately 75 calendar days to convert.
“The first step in the conversion process is an interior de-mod, or stripping down the cabin to the bare frame in order to reduce the aircraft’s weight.” says Dustin Littler, Aircraft Conversion Manager at Conair. “The cockpit is then opened up to allow for access to install specialized avionics.” The flight deck is equipped with a Conair developed and Transport Canada certified Flight Envelope Awareness System, which provide pilots with enhanced safety awareness information such as instantaneous G-Loading, slow speed awareness, and angle of attack information. Conair’s priority is the safety of their crew, proactively adopting innovative technologies that go beyond minimum standards.
The airtanker will be outfitted with an external tank, enabling the interior of the fuselage to remain pressurized and climate controlled, creating a safer environment for pilots by reducing fatigue. “It takes a solid 8 weeks to install the tank, fairings and perform avionics modifications, plus another 2 weeks to reassemble the cockpit, and perform operational tests, ground runs and test flights.” adds Dustin. “The tank is manufactured, tested and calibrated prior to the install on the Dash 8.” The Q400AT is painted in Conair’s signature white, red and black colours to complete the process.
Conair has been modifying the Q400 into airtankers since 2005, operating the first Q400AT in Australia this past bushfire season and providing a multi-role variant, the Q400MR, to France for the past 15 years. “This is the most versatile airtanker of its size available for aerial firefighting.” says Jeff Berry, Director of Business Development at Conair. “The converted aircraft has the capacity to drop 10,000 litres of water, retardant or gel/foam over diverse geography, operable on most 5,000 ft runways. This means the large airtanker can respond to a multitude of fires, including those in more remote settings not located near large airports or tanker bases. It offers greater flexibility, response and support for our wildfire agency customers.”