Buffalo Airways wins contract to fly new water bomber fleet

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Buffalo Airways has been awarded a five-year contract to operate and maintain eight new aircraft that will fight wildfires in the Northwest Territories.

The agreement was announced by the territorial government on Friday.

The new Air Tractor 802AF FireBoss planes are capable of working on land and on water.

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The FireBoss can load up to 3,025 litres of water in 15 seconds. Photo courtesy: Air Tractor.

They’re also much smaller than the four C-215s they’re replacing, meaning they can skim water from nearby water sources and continue fighting a forest fire without having to return to base.

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“The FireBoss can load up to 3,025 litres of water in 15 seconds and be back on its way to the fire line in less than 30 seconds,” read a statement issued by the GNWT Friday.

“The targeting accuracy of the FireBoss will allow firefighting resources to take a more aggressive approach to fighting a wildland fire.”

The government says all eight planes will be in service for the 2017 wildfire season.

RELATED: 2016 wildfire season has cost the GNWT almost $30M, says minister

This is the first time the government has replaced its air tankers after inheriting its current fleet of Canadair C-215s from the federal government back in 1969.

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Buffalo Airways was one of three proponents that submitted proposals for the contract.

“I am very pleased the successful proponent for this specialized aviation services contract is a Northern company,” said Robert C. McLeod, minister of environment and natural resources.

“It demonstrates the competitiveness of the aviation industry in the Northwest Territories for specialized aerial suppression services in support of wildland fire preparedness and operations.”

Buffalo’s contract runs from 2017 through 2021 and includes an option to extend the agreement for an additional five years.

This is at least the second time the territorial government has awarded the contract to Buffalo. It’s not clear how much the Hay River-based airline is being paid over the course of the contract.

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