Viking Air expects to decide in the first quarter of 2019 whether to move forward with development and production of its proposed CL-515, an upgraded version of the CL-215 and CL-415 water bombers.

Sidney, British Columbia-based Viking also envisions the CL-515 as a multi-mission aircraft capable of performing firefighting, surveillance, medevac and other missions, says executive vice-president of sales and marketing Robert Mauracher.

"We expect board approval for go or no go by the end of the first quarter next year," Mauracher tells FlightGlobal.

If the project gets the go-ahead, Viking anticipates the first CL-515 will fly in 2024, and envisions production of four to five aircraft annually for 10 years, Mauracher says.

The CL-515 would have twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF turboprop engines, modern avionics and situational awareness technology. Landing weight may also be increased over the current CL models, and water capacity would rise to 7,000 litres (1,850USgal), up from the current standard of about 6,000 litres on the CL-415, Mauracher says.

Viking, which acquired Bombardier's CL programme in 2016, anticipates the CL-515 will deliver a 12-15% fuel-efficiency improvement over the previous-generation aircraft.

In addition to the firefighting derivative, Viking might offer CL-515s with advanced sensors for use in search and rescue and maritime surveillance roles. Viking is also considering a boom system for spraying insect repellent or oil suppressant, and a large cargo door for medevac work.

"We are moving into the multi-role, multi-mission capability," Mauracher says.

A recent spate of forest fires, and the fact that many in-service CLs are nearing retirement, sparked Viking's interest in an upgraded derivative.

"This is the only factory-built aerial firefighter in the world," he says. "We see the market developing quite nicely."

The CL-515 would be based on the CL-415EAF - or enhanced aerial firefighter - a derivative being developed by Viking affiliate Longview Aviation Asset Management.

Longview is updating 11 CL-215s with PW123AFs, winglets and other improvements to create CL-415EAFs, says Mauracher, who is also Longview's chief operating officer.

Longview expects to deliver the first CL-415EAF in 2020 to launch customer Bridger Aerospace, a firefighting company based in Montana. Shipments of that variant will run until 2024, at which point CL-515 production could commence, he says.