The provincial government will use Abbotsford-based Conair Group’s Avro RJ85 airtanker this year to battle forest fires, Finance Minister and Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong announced Friday.
The aircraft are already in use in the United States and in France and offer a quick response and high speeds to fight blazes in remote areas of the province. While just one of the planes will be in use this summer, de Jong said the deployment will give the B.C.’s Fire Protection Branch a chance to evaluate the plane and determine how it can be best used.
“In a jurisdiction like British Columbia, where fires can start in very remote locations, it just isn’t possible to position traditional aircraft in every single sector, so having an aircraft that in less than half an hour can be over the target, depositing retardant, on a repeated basis, is a huge advantage,” de Jong said.
The construction of the RJ85 has already created 50 jobs. It was also announced that Conair will follow the RJ85 project by enhancing a Bombardier Q400 airtanker, a project estimated to create more than 30 jobs.
And CAE Inc. announced that it was planning to build a wildfire training and simulation centre in the province that will allow pilots to train to fly the RJ85. A location for the centre has not yet been announced.