With all the climate change around the world, wildfires are becoming more frequent, more intense and more widespread than a few decades ago. There is therefore a strong demand for techniques and technology to combat them. Airplanes and helicopters can help fight forest fires quickly and effectively by bombarding them with massive blasts of water and fire retardants.
De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited (De Havilland Canada) announced the launch of the De Havilland DHC-515 Firefighter program. Designed to fight forests and wildfires, the amphibious firefighting aircraft, formerly known as the CL-515, features a number of improvements, including the ability to take a full load of fresh or salt water in 12 seconds.
The DHC-515 Firefighter turboprop twin-engine jet is based on the Canadair CL-215 and CL-415 aircraft, which have been a staple of European and North American firefighting aircraft fleets for more than 50 years. The next-generation firefighting aircraft will feature upgrades to increase the functionality and effectiveness of this legendaryly rugged firefighting aircraft. It will be capable of transporting nearly 700,000 liters of water to a fire zone per day. The plane can refill in 12 seconds from nearby sources such as rivers and lakes instead of having to return to an airport for additional water.
The DHC-415 firefighter aircraft features a straight-wing design with a large wingspan and top-placed turboprops for instant thrust and safer maneuvering in mountainous areas. Thanks to its robust construction, it can also operate in very difficult conditions such as winds generated by megafires and rough seas up to 6 feet (2 meters).
Other features include state-of-the-art electronic equipment and navigation systems, which would help aircraft fight fire more effectively.
The manufacturer already has 22 letters of intent to purchase from European customers for the fire plane, with the first to be delivered by the middle of the decade. Deliveries beyond the initial 22 would begin at the end of the decade.
Final assembly of the aircraft will take place at DHC’s facility in Calgary, Alberta, where there is currently a support center for the CL-214 and CL-415 models. The company says it intends to hire about 500 employees to manage the new project.
“Putting the DHC-515 into production is important not only for our company, but also for the countries around the world that rely on our aircraft to protect their people and their forests,” said Brian Chafe, CEO of De Havilland Canada. “We understand the important role that previous aircraft have played in protecting people and property, and as our climate continues to change and the temperature and length of summers increase, the DHC-515 will be an important tool for countries around the world to use in Putting Out the Fires.”