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.