In 2017 Europe was hit by a series of wildfires , the Canadair CL-415 could be seen in the skies, deploying its scoop filled 6,000-litre water tanks on fires in Portugal, Italy, Croatia and France.
David Curtis, CEO of Viking Air says they have recently acquired manufacturing rights for the CL-415, from Bombardier. Curtis claims there is now renewed interest in replacing some of the earlier CL-415 aircraft which are "revered" for their highly effective aerial water bombing firefighting role in Europe.
"The President of France is publicly encouraging the European Union to get together and assemble an order that we can sink our teeth into and restart the production line," said Curtis, who returned from meetings in Europe last week.
"Clearly their fleets need to be renewed as some of the aircraft are getting a little elderly, however we would need some kind of minimum order, in order to restart the production line."
Viking acquired the rights from Bombardier Inc. in 2016 to build, support and service the existing fleet of about 170 CL-415s which have been in use since the mid-1990s in 11 countries.
Bombardier stopped production in 2015 and laid off 33 workers at its North Bay plant in Ontario, blaming a lack of orders for the amphibious aircraft which is known in the U.S. as the SuperScooper 415.
"These aircraft are critical infrastructure firefighting assets," Curtis said. "I can tell you when we first arrived as the new OEM (original equipment manufacturer), there was a lot of nervousness in the fleet."
He said despite problems with outdated equipment and supply-line delays, the company was able to ensure parts and technical and engineering support for the aircraft in the field.
"This isn't meant as a critique of Bombardier but we're a smaller company, we're able to be a little bit more nimble," Curtis said.
When Viking acquired the rights to the CL-415 in 2016 it also announced newly acquired and specially repurposed 50,000 square foot facility in Calgary, and the hiring of 40 new staff.
The CL-415 business follows Viking Air's acquisition of rights in 2006 to the Twin Otter which had ended production in 1988.
Bombardier lays off 33 in North Bay water-bomber production
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