Aircraft manufacturer making pitch to N.L. government for damaged water bomber

A provincial water bomber is pictured dousing a fire near Cappahayden in this 2018 file photo. There are internal government discussions underway about the future of a water bomber that has been out of service since it was damaged in an accident more than four years ago. (Submitted by Bruce Mactavish - image credit)
A provincial water bomber is pictured dousing a fire near Cappahayden in this 2018 file photo. There are internal government discussions underway about the future of a water bomber that has been out of service since it was damaged in an accident more than four years ago. (Submitted by Bruce Mactavish - image credit)

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada is floating some options to the Newfoundland and Labrador government about the fate of a water bomber damaged more than four years ago.

The aircraft has been grounded since an accident in 2018, and its future has been up in the air ever since.

"We'd love to use it as our flight test vehicle," Neil Sweeney, the company's vice-president of corporate affairs, told CBC News.

"We'd like to get our hands on an aircraft — whether it's this one or another one, and as quickly as possible — so that we can develop the the next generation of water bomber."

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada is manufacturing a new water bomber, the DHC-515 Firefighter, based on the CL-415s used in Newfoundland and Labrador's fleet.

The company wants to use the grounded CL-415 here to flight test new components, as part of the process to get the DHC-515 certified by Transport Canada.

"We're interested in speaking with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador about how we can work collaboratively to get that aircraft back into service," Sweeney said.

The province had plans to sell it, until this year's record-breaking forest fires made officials think again.

Earlier this month, Transportation Minister Elvis Loveless told CBC News they are now re-evaluating their options and could instead decide to fix the aircraft and put it back into service.

The provincial water bomber fleet has been down to four aircraft ever since the accident.

The government couldn't turn to insurance to cover repairs, because a previous crash in the fleet saw the deductible climb to $10 million — roughly the same as the estimated repair bill.

"We think it's warranted that we have further discussion on what we will actually do with that unit No. 5," Loveless recently said.

Loveless indicated that those internal deliberations could take between six months and a year.

CBC
CBC

Sweeney says the company has had discussions with the province since the aircraft was damaged back in 2018, and he hopes the internal government review opens the door for those talks to ramp up.

He says they could buy it, repair it and then lease it, or simply just fix it.

In 2016, Viking Air acquired the rights to the CL-415 water bomber program from Bombardier.

Viking has since rebranded as De Havilland Aircraft of Canada. The company now owns the rights to all De Havilland aircraft plus the Canadair program.

This spring, De Havilland Aircraft of Canada announced that European customers have signed letters of intent to purchase the first 22 DHC-515 aircraft, with the first deliveries expected in 2026.

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