SOME OF Australia's major fire fighting authorities are to recommend that their state governments approve and fund a three-month operational evaluation of Canadair's CL-415 fire bomber during the country's next fire season, which usually starts in December and extends to March.

The decision follows a series of trials of the aircraft at various sites throughout Australia, as part of Canadair's world demonstration tour of the CL-415.

Firefighters say that the trials cleared several long-standing reservations about the aircraft's usefulness in Australia. These include rapid-response time in relation to Australian distances, the ability to integrate with existing services, ability to scoop water from the sea and narrow waterways, and its on-site suitability and accuracy.

Canadair and its Australian agent National Jet Systems have been asked by the Australian Fire Authorities Council to provide a pricing submission for the evaluation, to allow its inclusion in 1996-7 budgeting. The companies are likely to propose two CL-415s sourced from Canadian or European operators during the northern-hemisphere winter.

The company will next display the CL-415 at Asian Aerospace '96, which starts on 6 February, followed by presentations to demonstrate the aircraft's military and paramilitary capabilities in several Asian countries, including Japan.

Meanwhile, Canadair has embarked on a programme to certificate the aircraft at take-off weights higher than those required for fire fighting, to improve the aircraft's attractiveness to military and other utility users.

A rival agent to National Jet is also proposing that Australian state governments test the Ilyushin Il-76, claiming that a single aircraft could be used to service the entire fire fighting needs of Australia and New Zealand.

Source: Flight International