Photo: Andrew H. Cline

MIAMI — The French Department de la Direction de la Securite Civile (DDSC) is adding to its fleet two 18-year old DeHavilland Q400-MR (Multi Role) ‘FireGuard’ fire fighting aircraft.

An order for six new Q400-MRs was placed by the Conair Group with Bombardier in January 2018. Conair is the prime contractor for the program and carries out the mission conversion when the aircraft are delivered from Bombardier’s Downsview plant in Toronto, until completion and delivery to France.

The conversion includes the addition of a large conformal pannier which encircles the lower mid fuselage which contains the drop system. 

Photo: Andrew H. Cline

The six Q400 production aircraft will receive an enhanced version of Conair’s proprietary Retardant Delivery System which can accommodate up to 10,000 liters / 2,642 US gallons of water, foam or fire retardant.

The Q400-MR has a drop speed of 125 knots, and a loaded cruise speed of 370 knots.

Flying Colours, a world leader in custom aircraft interiors, was subcontracted by Conair to install the new Multi-Role interiors on the six DDSC Q400s.

The work is undertaken at Flying Colours facility at Spirit of St. Louis Airport (SUS). The company is responsible for the engineering, fabrication, installation, certification, and completion of four different cabin interiors to support passenger, cargo, combi-transport, and medevac special missions.

In passenger mode, the interior will accommodate up to 64 passengers; the full air freighter mode will transport up to nine tons of cargo; while the medevac format will support up to six stretchers, associated medical equipment, and clinical team.

The combined (combi) passenger/cargo interior will carry up to 19 passengers along with freight. The Q400-MR aircraft can be converted from FireGuard configuration to full cargo in just a few hours with the removal of the retardant tank and associated plumbing from the cargo deck. 

Flying Colours will also integrate a customized Inmarsat Cobham Aviator 700 system, enabling flexible communications and connectivity that can be adapted for each aircraft mission.

Photo: Andrew H. Cline

Conair is a leading MRO company specializing in the conversion of airline category aircraft to missionized fire protection/suppression aircraft. It operates the world’s largest fleet of privately-owned fixed-wing air tankers and supplies specialty aerial firefighting aircraft and products worldwide.

Other recent Conair work includes the conversion of eight Avro RJ85 regional airliners to water bombers.

Securite Civile was the first firefighting agency in the world to use the dash-8 as a fire fighting aircraft. The first of two former SAS Airlines Bombardier Q400s, F-ZBMC c/n 4040, fin 73, was delivered in October 2005 and the second, F-ZBMD c/n 4043, fin 74 in November. These were converted to tankers by Conair.

The Q400s are operated by the DDSC’s Groupement des Avions Bombardiers d’Eau based at Nimes / Garons Airport (LFTW) who uses the aircraft for fire control, as well as humanitarian and government missions in France and abroad.

The six new Q400-MRs are being acquired to compensate for the pending retirement of the Securite Civile fleet of nine Conair Turbo Firecats, (Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6 turbine engine powered S-2 Grumman Trackers). These are slated to retire starting at the end of 2019, and completed by 2022, as they approach their 25,000-hour fatigue life.

By 2022 the Firecat will have been with Securite Civile for 40 years.

Securite Civile ordered 14 piston-engine powered Firecats in 1981 and they were all delivered by 1987. They later underwent a turbine re-engining program.  More were acquired, and the fleet eventually totaled 19.  Eight were lost on operations over the years.  

Alongside the Q400s, Securite Civile also operates twelve Bombardier CL415 Super Scoopers. It was the launch customer for the CL-415, the first was delivered in 1994 and the last ordered in 2007. Securite Civile was also an early customer for the piston-engine powered Canadair CL215.  It received its first CL-215 in 1969.  The agency also operates 40 helicopters. 

Photo: nicolaslesbananas

The first aircraft of the new batch of Q400-MRs is Bombardier (c/n 4577) which was Canadian test registered C-FXFK and assigned fin number 75. It is French-registered F-ZMBH.   

After its initial flight test program with Bombardier (First flight February 22-2018 as BBA14), it was handed over to Conair on Apr 24, 2018.  It was sent to Flying Colours at St. Louis for interior modifications shortly after.  It returned to Abbotsford for the tanker conversion on March 1, 2019. 

The aircraft was delivered in the new livery in full tanker configuration to France using its Canadian registration, departing Conair at Abbotsford on June 16th, routing via Thompson, Manitoba (YTH/CYTH), Iqaluit (YFB/CYFB), Keflavik, Iceland (KEF/BIKF) and Jersey, in the Channel Islands, United Kingdom (JER/EGJJ). 

The plane landed at the Sécurité Civile base Nimes-Garons on June 18, 2019. It was received by the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) for acceptance prior to entering service. Plans are for it to fly as part of the Bastille Day parade on July 14.

The second aircraft of the new Q400-MR batch is c/n 4597, F-ZBMI, fin number 76. It was assigned Canadian test registration C-GFKW April 23, 2019, and made its first post-production test flight on May 18, 2019.

It features a brand-new factory-painted livery with sweeping red and yellow stripes instead of the original red and black markings worn by the two original aircraft. It was handed over to Conair for mission conversion and delivered from Downsview to Flying Colours at St. Louis via Port Huron Michigan (PHN) on May 31, 2019.  

The new Q400s-MRs will give the Securite Civile a much-improved aircraft over the original two, offering five unique roles: passenger transport, cargo transport, combi configuration for both passengers and cargo, MEDEVAC, and of course the ‘raison d’etre’: fire protection and suppression.

The Bombardier Q400 will carry on the Multi-Mission job introduced by Securite Civile in 2006, for many years into the future.