Manitoba adds 4 air tankers to their fleet

Polishing one of the new CL-415 air tankers in Manitoba. (screen grab from ChrisD204 video)

The Canadian province of Manitoba is adding four new scooper air tankers to their fleet. The Bombardier CL-415 tankers can carry about 1,620 gallons of water and cruises at 207 mph. According to the Canadians, a typical mission for a CL-415 on a large fire in Manitoba would last four hours and includes 80 drops, totaling 129,000 gallons.

During an announcement about the new aircraft, Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said:

With the new planes they are faster, the carry more water, and they drop double the number of bombs in an hour, in other words, they drop about 20 water bombs in an hour versus 12 with the old planes.

Gotta love the repeated references to the “bombs”.

The “old planes” Minister Mackintosh is referring to are the older CL-215s, which according to an article at the Winnipeg Free Press can make 12 drops per hour, flies at 160 mph, carries 1,412 gallons, totaling 67,776 gallons on a typical 4-hour mission.

For comparison, the large air tankers working the¬†Fourmile Canyon fire west of Boulder, Colorado in September, 2010, where the retardant reload base was unusually close — 15 miles away — were dropping approximately 4,000 gallons per hour. The U.S. Forest Service’s fleet of 10 air tankers does not have any water scoopers or CL-215/415s on exclusive use contracts. The Department of Interior has had two for the last few years. The USFS currently has a Request for Proposal out for scooper air tankers, and may contract for some later this year. While water sources in the United States may not be as prolific as in much of Canada, it’s hard to continue to ignore an air tanker option that can deliver 32 times the number of gallons per hour onto a fire (4,000 vs. 32,000 gallons), comparing the best case scenarios for both scoopers and conventional large air tankers, such as a P2-V.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “Manitoba adds 4 air tankers to their fleet”

  1. Looks like they got those plane in the nick of time.

    State of emergency, travel ban, in southeastern Manitoba due to fire

    PINEY, MAN. – Officials in southeastern Manitoba are meeting this morning to consider evacuating residents due to a fast-growing wildfire.

    The RM of Piney declared a state of emergency Sunday, giving it the power to close roads in the wake of two days of wildfires that consumed 30 square kilometres of forest over the weekend in the Sandilands Provincial Park–state-of-emergency-travel-ban-in-southeastern-manitoba-due-to-fire

  2. Johnny, you make some good points.
    However, the CL-415’s have never (to my knowledge) caused “water resource pollution”.

    In addition to the CL-415’s amazing abilities at ‘scooping water’ it can also perform tight STOL performance on short and negligable runways, something few of the current U.S. Forest Service contracted/modified planes can do.

    Also don’t forget, the CL-415 has the optional ability of being loaded with fire retardent from ground stations, just like the current fleet of contracted/modified planes. It can be used and adapted to both ‘worlds’ !

  3. Pull back on those reins partner, bring your firecoach to a near stop. ” Very few fixed wing aircraft have been successfully used”. Fire aviation isn’t rocket science. With a few exceptions (B-25) with its lack of elevator authority was the only aircraft removed from contracting early in its career. One issue that water scooping aircraft users (fire agencies) have to be careful of, if an accident occurs where water is polluted the “knee jerk” reaction by controlling water resource managers (the ologist again) will most certainly put a damper on scooping.

  4. Aerial fire-attack is a unique business. Very few (fixed-wing) aircraft have been successfully used for this purpose. Most have been modified from original designs, in an attempt to turn them into air tankers/water bombers.

    The U.S. Forest Service wants to replace their contracted fleet of very old and modified air tankers , with something better.

    Six seperate studies have been completed, to address the issue and come to a definative conclusion. Yet the answer continues to bog down in ‘objections and debate’ over what type of aircraft is ‘the best’ !

    The Bombardier CL-415 is the only aircraft that was purposely designed to be an air tanker/water bomber ! The success rate of this aircraft has spanned 40+ years, with users praising its abilities !

    The citizens of Los Angeles love the CL-415’s that have been under contract for the last decade, cause they put out fires and save their homes. Actions speak louder than words !

    We can only hope that the U.S. Forest Service can come to ‘any conclusion’ soon !!!

  5. Got to love the Canuks or Frenchys… But you can’t use that fire or any other fire as a comparison, Mr Mac is referring to a best case scenario for those airplanes and he is most likely right, they work well when accessible water is near. The reason you need so much water is because is sucks in comparison to retardant hence the 129000 gal needed. The way I see it a P2 kicks its ass in that comparison, only 4000 gal a hour the FS got off cheap and a lot less risk to the crew. Picture this, its 100 plus degrees in Sierra Vista wind 25 knots you have a couple P2s and a couple CL 415s. Then the unthinkable happens, a fire… with homes threatened 40 miles away. Which one do you think there going to ask for. All fires are different i.e. fire behavior, terrain, water sources, distance to a tanker base, this list can go on for ever. The CL 215 and 415 I think would make a great addition to the FS if they are used correctly. Also the four mile fire was a mess, scoopers would’ve been appreciated but it would not have made the outcome any better.


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