A member of Conair Aerial Firefighting’s maintenance crew services one of the jet engines on the Avro RJ 85

A member of Conair Aerial Firefighting’s maintenance crew services one of the jet engines on the Avro RJ 85

New generation of water bombers

Conair Aerial Firefighting has acquired two Avro RJ85 AT Jets to attack wildfires in B.C. this year.

Conair Aerial Firefighting has acquired two Avro RJ85 AT Jets to attack wildfires in B.C. this year.

The company, which specializes in aerial fire suppression aircraft, is keeping maintenance crews busy transforming the four engine passenger aircraft into state of the art, next generation air tankers. The aircraft has a quick response time on initial fire dispatches, high rate of climbing and turning ability plus fast turnaround times dumping 11,400 litres of retardant on fires. The retardant delivery system is one of the most advanced in the world. The tail of the aircraft has been redesigned with special flaps to slow the four jet engines down to a drop speed of 120 knots. The Avro RJ85 AT will supplement B.C.’s current aerial firefighting arsenal to protect wildfires in B.C.’s Interior this summer.

Conair has a fleet of 65 aircraft and employs almost three hundred people. When I was at Abbotsford International Airport, Jeff Berry, Conair’s Director of Business Development, gave me a special guided tour of their operations. He is very proud of their next generation of Avro RJ 85. Conair’s maintenance crews were also working on three Canadair CL 215 T amphibious firefighting aircraft from Alberta and another Avro RJ85 firefighting jet from the USA in their huge 100,000 plus square feet of hangar space.

Walking around Conair’s base of operations gave me a little insight to the complexity and expense of aerial firefighting in our province, and the experience people need to fight fires from the air and on the ground. I have worked with B.C. Forest Service’s fire fighting crews on Mount Waddington in the past and realized that attacking the fire from the air contains the wildfire. It is the crews on the ground that actually put the fires out.

To these unsung heroes who have saved historic cattle ranches on the Bayliff-Newton Road in the Chilcotin three times from wildfires, I thank you.

Words cannot describe the appreciation for these courageous men and women who protect the livelihood and family history of our pioneering forefathers that settled here more than a century ago.