Viking Air, Cascade partner in waterbomber conversions

Viking Air’s parent company has tapped a Lower Mainland aerospace firm to offer guidance and expertise to the North Saanich manufacturer as it embarks on the conversion of older aircraft into new waterbombers.

Longview Aviation Capital, Viking’s parent, has partnered with Cascade Aerospace to provide training and resources for Viking’s CL-415EAF Enhanced Aerial Firefighter conversion program. That program will see 11 CL-215 firebomber aircraft converted to the CL-415EAF, which Viking bills as the world’s only purpose-built aerial firefighter and multi-mission amphibious platform.

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Viking is also investigating if there is a business case to be made for manufacturing new waterbombers. New aircraft would likely sell in the $40-million range while converted aircraft sell for about $30 million.

Cascade was chosen because it has already converted nine Canadair CL-215 firefighting aircraft to CL-215T turbine configurations for Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“Cascade is both well-respected and well-established in the aerial firefighting community. We’re confident their track record will contribute to the on-time delivery of the initial CL-415EAF Enhanced Aerial Firefighter,” said Longview chairman David Curtis.

The first conversion of the aircraft will be done at Cascade’s facilities at the Abbotsford International Airport. That is expected to start in September.

Cascade will provide training to Longview observers during that initial conversion and will send support staff to provide on-site training at Longview’s facilities in Calgary, where the rest of the conversions are to be done.

The conversion includes installing new Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines, a new digital avionics suite, six new aircraft structures including winglets and finlets, upgrading power-assist flight controls, a new power distribution system and complete rewiring.

Longview is hiring 150 technical and support staff members at its Calgary facilities for the project. The turbine conversion kits will be developed and produced at Viking’s facilities at the Victoria International Airport, where Viking has already hired 50 in support of the program.

Viking already has confirmed orders for three converted waterbombers. Bridger Aerospace Group of Bozeman, Montana signed a contract to buy three Viking CL-415EAF enhanced aerial firefighter aircraft. The first two are to be delivered in 2020 and the third plane will be delivered in 2021.

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