Big news out of the aviation industry today, as a locally based Viking Air has struck a major deal with the world’s largest manufacturer of airplanes.
Bombardier has sold the manufacturing rights for its water bomber program to the North Saanich based company.
The CL-215 and Bombardier 415 are the work horses of the forest fire season, capable of picking up seven thousand litres of water in 10 seconds.
And soon these water bombers will be built right here on Vancouver Island.
“It’s a unique airplane. Very robust, very powerful, and used all throughout Europe,” said Viking Air President David Curtis after the deal was announced Monday morning.
The acquisition part of a diversification strategy for Viking, which is best known for producing the world renowned Twin Otter airplane.
“So that’s part of the strategy. This is another product, another customer demographic, and just makes you a little bit more bulletproof,” said Curtis.
That wasn’t the case last year, when stalling sales of the Twin Otter forced Viking to cut dozens of jobs at their Victoria and Calgary plants.
“So they cut back production last year,” said Stu Shield of Unifor, the union which represents workers at the Viking plant, “we lost about 75 members in Victoria, and they lost 150 throughout the company.”
The new deal means some of those jobs will be coming back to the capital region.
“We’re expecting, between Calgary and Victoria, to add up to about 40 people in order to support the business,” said Curtis.
And while Shields says they haven’t heard how many jobs will be created at Viking Air, they’re ecstatic to hear more of their members will be headed back to work, “I’ll tell you what, even if it’s one, every job we create we’re happy. But if we saw 40, well we’d like to see all 75 come back to work.”
The deal still needs to pass regulatory approval, but is expected to be officially closed the the next few months.