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Conair Group Inc. recently announced that its first Q400AT, engineered specifically for aerial firefighting, has touched down at Bundaberg Airport, Australia. The specialized airtanker is on contract with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Its mission is aerial dispersion of retardant, suppressant, or gel products, supporting agency objectives and firefighters on the ground, with the unified goal of containing wildfires to protect communities and the environment.
While its mission is fire suppression, it is the Q400’s environmental performance that is setting the standard for future NexGen aircraft.
Conair continues to lead the industry, investing in aircraft that promotes sustainable aviation into the future while providing advanced aerial firefighting capabilities. The latest generation of turboprop offers composite propulsion with advanced swept blade propeller design, efficient lift systems, effective aerodynamics, and a light but robust frame, all contributing to lower emissions, fuel burn and noise, reducing its environmental impact compared to airtankers of similar capacity.
Fast, fuel efficient and flexible, the specialized Q400 airtanker produces 30 per cent less emissions than aircraft of similar size, exceeding current environmental standards for carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrocarbon, nitrous oxide and smoke emissions. With results that are below levels mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the aircraft also offers the lowest fuel burn per litre hauled. The Q400AT uses only 58 per cent of the fuel while carrying 88 per cent of the load of a typical Type I airtanker, resulting in less CO2 emissions into our atmosphere.
Its sustainable features do not come at a cost to aerial firefighting performance. The high capacity de Havilland fixed-wing, twin turbo prop aircraft is outfitted with a custom, purpose-built tank. The team of engineers at Conair designed the tank to deliver a 10,000 litre payload at any Interagency Airtanker Board coverage level, using an advanced, proprietary constant flow retardant delivery system (RDS). The tank is equipped with a standard single point filling receptacle on both sides of the tank allowing for a 2,250 litre per minute fill rate from either side of the aircraft.
With quick response on initial dispatches and a loaded cruise speed of 360 knots at up to 18,000 feet, the Q400 is holder of three ‘Climb to Time” turbo-prop records. The fast climb to cruise time means reduced block time from base to fire and return. The aircraft is designed for both initial attack as well as support actions, offering tactical flexibility, with a take-off run requirement of 1396 metres when loaded, regardless of density altitude. With its superior turbo-prop speed control, it is capable of consistent drop speeds even in steep, rugged terrain and diverse geography.
To enhance its superior aerial firefighting performance, the Q400AT flight deck is equipped with a Conair developed and Transport Canada certified Flight Envelope Awareness System, which provides the pilots with enhanced safety awareness information, such as instantaneous G-Loading, slow speed awareness and angle of attack detail, along with flap configuration over-speed awareness. Conair places safety of crew first and foremost, proactively improving management systems with innovative technologies that go beyond regulatory compliance.
“We evaluated 29 aircraft before selecting the Q400 for modification into an aerial firefighting tool. The unanimous opinion of our flight operations experts is that the Q400 is an ‘airtanker pilot’s airplane’, exceeding all the next generation performance criteria within a maneuverable and stable platform,” said Jeff Berry, director of business development at Conair. “The Q400AT is the most advanced, ‘Green’ aerial firefighting airtanker available.”
Currently, Conair is producing both Q400AT aircraft dedicated to aerial firefighting, as well as the versatile Q400MR, featuring a multi-role ability to quickly be reconfigured between airtanker, cargo, passenger, combi-transport, or medical evacuation missions.