Government buys two multirole aircraft after promise following forest fires last year to modernise the service

The French government has acquired two Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s following a pledge made last year after a series of severe forest fires in the country. The aircraft are being modified as multirole air tankers by Cascade Aerospace in Abbotsford, Canada and will replace two smaller modified Fokker F-27s that are over 30 years old.

The aircraft will be delivered in 2005 to the French civil security department, which says the Q400s were chosen because, like the Fokkers, they will be dual-use, used not only for firefighting but also for transporting cargo and passengers. The conversion includes the installation of an externally mounted 10,000 litre (2,640USgal) retardant tank and delivery system.

France's firefighting air fleet, based at Marignane on the Mediterranean coast, is composed of 11 Bombardier 415s, 12 modified Grumman Trackers, the two Fokker F-27s and three Beechcraft King Air 200 surveillance and liaison aircraft. The 25 aircraft were in constant use last year, flying over 9,000h, and delivering 5,000t of retardant.

The Fokker replacement is part of the interior ministry's plans to modernise the airborne firefighting service, which includes purchasing a 12th Bombardier 415, replacing two of the three Beechcraft King Airs and buying or renting three large firefighting helicopters.



Source: Flight International