New water bomber planes are being manufactured on Vancouver Island, creating new jobs for the region and updating wildfire-fighting resources.
De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. is starting to build its new DHC-515 water bomber plane, with some of the work being done in North Saanich.
A number of parts are being made in two different air hangars near the Victoria International Airport.
Neil Sweeney, De Havilland Aircraft vice president of corporate affairs, said some parts of the plane will also be assembled on the Island as well, including the mid and forward fuselages.
“Most of the parts are going to come from here and then they will be shipped to Calgary where the aircraft will be assembled,” Sweeney said.
Once fully assembled, Sweeney said the aircraft is massive, having a 100 foot (30 metre) wingspan.
He explained the plane can scoop about 1,600 litres of water in about 12 seconds, adding it can also fly very slowly to ensure a precise water drop in hard to hit wildfires.
“The aircraft is perfectly suited for remote, hilly and obviously very fire-prone areas,” said Sweeney.
The new DHC-515’s aim to replace an aging fleet of water bombers worldwide.
Sweeney told CHEK News the first generation of the aircraft, the CL-215’s, were built in the 1970’s. Many of these planes are now being put into retirement.
The last version on the plane, the CL-415’s, were built in 2015, making them now eight years old.
Sweeney said as these planes continue to age, more need to be built to replace the fleets.
De Havilland currently has 24 orders for new planes, including orders from France and Greece finalizing their contracts to replace the old planes.
“After that we know there is an aging fleet in Canada and it’s really critical to get new aircraft in Canada ASAP,” Sweeney added.
He said the company doesn’t currently have any orders from Canada, but it is in talks with multiple provinces.
Those in the aviation industry are excited to see new planes being manufactured, given the current wildfire situation across the country.
Steve Nichol, president of the BC Aviation Museum, said “this is excellent and boy do we ever need them.”
This year’s wildfire season has broken records across the country.
In B.C. more than 19,000-square-kilometres of land has been scorched, prompting a number of evacuation orders.
Nichol said these new water bombers could be an important resource going forward as the province’s wildfire seems to be getting worse year over year.
“These are really critical for the future, absolutely,” Nichol said.
Sweeney said as orders for these planes start ramping up, De Havilland is hiring people to help build them.
Manufacturing the DHC-515 water bomber’s is creating 700 jobs across the country, 300 of which will be in North Saanich.
Sweeney said anyone interested in aviation can apply through the De Havilland website.