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New Buffalo Airways firefighting tanker begins tests

Buffalo Airways’ latest weapon in the battle against forest fires has arrived.

A Lockheed Electra sent to Red Deer for conversion into a firefighting tanker returned to the Northwest Territories this week.

The aircraft is now awaiting test flights and full certification before joining wildfire control operations.

“It has been converted basically from scratch,” Buffalo general manager Mikey McBryan told Moose FM. “This is a full-on, custom-made Electra specifically designed to fight forest fires here in the Northwest Territories.

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“We’re very excited to get it here but we need to start test flights soon, as Transport Canada considers this starting from scratch. We need to get her in the air.”

On Facebook: Video of Buffalo Airways’ latest arrival

McBryan says the aircraft is “ready to go” but with a number of aircraft awaiting tests in the NWT, manpower is the bigger problem.

“Each airplane has to have a test procedure and there’s only really one test pilot available for these large aircraft,” said McBryan.

“We’re all fighting for him.

“The aircraft is ready to go and we’re just waiting on the final stamp.”

The Electra, designated Tanker 416, is specifically designed to drop fire retardant onto fires. Larger and faster than Buffalo’s current DC-4 tankers, the Electra burns jet fuel – as distinct from aviation gasoline, or avgas, which is used by older aircraft and is increasingly difficult to procure.

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On Flickr: Photos of Buffalo’s new Electra in old and new livery

“We went back to the drawing board and designed our own version of the Electra,” said McBryan. “We’re pretty proud of it.”

Meanwhile, First Air has also announced a new addition to its fleet.

The airline is introducing its first ATR 42-500 series, which First Air says will offer “improved performance and passenger comfort” compared to the older 300-series aircraft currently in service.

Like Buffalo’s tanker, the ATR 42-500 is awaiting certification. First Air tells us the Yellowknife-based aircraft should enter service in the last quarter of 2015.

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