FRANCE’S Securite Civile is to take delivery of two Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 multi-role airtankers after they have been converted from standard passenger configuration. Canadian company Cascade Aerospace confirmed on May 31 that it has been awarded the contract to convert the two aircraft, N532DS (c/n 4040, ex LN-RDW) and N535DS (c/n 4043, ex LN-RDN). Both are former SAS Dash 8-Q402s which were returned off lease to Bombardier in mid-2002 and recently purchased by Cascade. The first was due at Cascade’s facility at Abbotsford International Airport, British Columbia, in June for modifications to begin, which will include installation of an externally-mounted 2,640 US gal (10,000 litre) retardant tank and delivery system.
In addition to its airborne fire control role, the aircraft will also be certified to carry passengers and cargo. Under current aviation safety rules, the aircraft will not however be allowed to carry passengers or cargo while also carrying the fire retardant tanks. The Q400 will also become the newest and most modern type to be converted for aerial fire fighting, which has traditionally been largely undertaken by elderly military or civilian surplus types. Under the terms of the contract, the aircraft must be capable of being reconfigured for the tanker, cargo or passenger shuttle role in less than three hours. In passenger configuration it will seat 70 people and in its cargo role it can carry op to 19,458lbs (8,826kg).
Delivery of the first aircraft to the Securite Civile at its Marignane base is scheduled for June 2005, with the second following in October of that year. Cascade’s predecessor organisation and now affiliate company, Conair, has had a long relationship with France extending back to 1982 when it first sold aerial fire control equipment to the French Government. Since then it has sold 30 aircraft conversions (including 20 Conair Firecat/Turbo Firecat S-2 Tracker conversions) and 22 helicopter-borne systems to France for aerial fire control operations. When the aircraft modification and maintenance division was separated from Conair and re-named Cascade Aerospace in 2001, Cascade retained airworthiness and product support responsibilities for the Conair-built fire control aircraft operated by the Securite Civile.