Viking Air of North Saanich buys rights to Bombardier’s waterbombers

North Saanich-based Viking Air Ltd. has bought the manufacturing rights for Bombardier’s waterbombers.

This deal sees Viking take over product support, parts and services for the planes, which includes the Bombardier 415, dubbed the “Superscooper.”

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The aircraft is able to scoop up a 6,137-litre load of water in 12 seconds as it skims over water.

“This acquisition expands Viking’s capabilities in product support and parts into another vital niche aviation segment, and ensures that a unique and important Canadian innovation stays in Canada,” David Curtis, president and chief executive officer of Viking, said in a statement Monday.

“We are proud to add another iconic Canadian aircraft program to Viking’s stable. Our aim is to take the 415 to its highest potential and keep these aircraft in service for decades to come.”

The agreement will see Viking add another 40 people to its workforce in Victoria and Calgary.

Viking currently has 330 staff at its North Saanich operation and 88 people in Calgary.

Viking has bought and upgraded a 50,000-square foot facility near Calgary airport for the Bombardier venture.

Sale details are not being released.

The Bombardier sale follows Viking’s successful reintroduction of the popular Twin Otter plane, manufactured in Victoria and Calgary.

Viking sells the rugged and versatile Twin Otter around the globe. The company delivered its first next-generation Twin Otter in 2010.

Bombardier amphibious aircraft are used by 21 operators in 11 countries, Viking said. A total of 170 of its planes are in service, including earlier CL-215 and CL-215T.

“This transaction builds on our presence in British Columbia and Alberta and expands on the existing strengths of the western Canadian aerospace industry. At the same time, we will continue to rely on an extensive supply chain in Quebec and Ontario to support both the amphibious aircraft and Twin Otter programs,” Curtis said.

The 415 was designed and is built in Canada. It is the only western aircraft purpose-built for firefighting, Viking said.

Meanwhile, Bombardier and its union have agreed on a plan for cutting 200 positions at the company’s Q400 manufacturing operation in Toronto so some work can be outsourced to other countries.

Some of the Bombardier employees currently in those positions will be offered training and transfer opportunities within the company. Others will be offered retirement packages under the agreement with Unifor.

A Bombardier spokeswoman says the agreement is part of a five-year plan, announced in November, to make the company’s products more profitable and competitive in the long term.

Bombardier plans to make the Q400 wings in Mexico and cockpits in China, for final assembly in Toronto.

The Toronto operation currently has about 3,500 employees — including 1,400 working on the Q400, a turboprop used by commercial airlines around the world. Toronto-based Porter Airlines and WestJet’s Encore service are among the Q400’s customers.

Besides the Q400s, Bombardier does final assembly of the Global Express 5000 and 6000 business jets in Toronto. The Downsview plant is also scheduled to work on the longer-range 7000 and 8000 Global Express jets.

Bombardier spokeswoman Marianella de la Barrera said it’s too soon to say how many of the Q400 positions will be eliminated through retirements and how many will be dealt with through retraining and other mitigation measures.

“We can’t speculate until we’ve done the exercise with the union,” de la Barrera said Monday.

Scott McIlmoyle, president of Unifor local 112, was unavailable for comment.

— With files from Canadian Press

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