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De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited announced on March 31 that it has officially launched the De Havilland DHC-515 Firefighter program.
Formerly known as the CL-515 program, the DHC-515 will build on the capabilities of iconic Canadair CL-215 and CL-415 aircraft, which have a rich history in North America and Europe.
The Canadair CL program was initially acquired by De Havilland Canada back in 2016, and the company has been considering a return to production since 2019.
De Havilland said upgrades were integrated into the DHC-515 to “increase the functionality and effectiveness of this legendarily rugged firefighting aircraft.”
The “state-of-the-art navigational instruments” will enhance safety and improve situational awareness, while the aircraft is also equipped to “deliver multiple drops, in rapid succession” to attack wildfires that have become characteristically unpredictable and “prevalent due to climate change.”
In addition, its capability of delivering nearly 700,000 liters of water in the fire zone (per day) makes the DHC-515 twice as proficient as its competitors, the company said.
In contrast to land-based aircraft, which must return to an airport after each deployment, the new DHC-515 can refill its tanks from fresh or saltwater in just 12 seconds. Moreover, the aircraft is “capable of refilling in rough waters with waves up to two meters,” caused by high winds that are typical of mega-fires.
The high-lift wing and turboprop engines with instant thrust allow for safer operation in mountainous terrain and the ability to drop in close proximity to the fire “with superior precision.”
As well, the engines burn “25 percent to 40 percent less fuel than jet engines,” DHC said.
“[The program] will involve negotiating contracts with our European customers and ramping up for production,” said DHC’s chief executive officer, Brian Chafe.
“To bring the DHC-515 into production is important for not only our company, but countries around the world who rely on our aircraft to protect their people and forests,” he added.
The final assembly of the aircraft will take place in Calgary, Alberta. The program is anticipated to create employment opportunities for more than 500 people.
Assembly of the CL-215 and CL- 415 will continue at the same facility.
“Not only is this is great news for Canadian exports, but for all the countries that will benefit from its technology advancements and world-class solutions,” said the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development.
At present, letters of intent have been signed by European customers for the purchase of the first 22 aircraft, “pending the positive outcome of government-to-government negotiations.” Initial deliveries are expected by 2025, with subsequent purchase fulfillment anticipated closer to 2030.