Next-generation RJ85 will supplement B.C.’s current fleet of air-tankers for 2016 forest fire season

New initiatives take flight in B.C.’s booming aerospace industry


TMTV.NET – The hulking frame of an RJ85 “heavy” air-tanker in mid-production, and another parked on the tarmac provided the backdrop to a series of significant announcements in B.C.’s aerospace industry, reflecting a sector that continues to grow and establish itself in markets around the world.

1_conair_tanker2To see footage of the RJ85 and Q400 in action:

Finance Minister Michael de Jong, Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, were joined by representatives of Abbotsford-based Conair Group Inc. and the larger aerospace industry at the Abbotsford Airport to celebrate new announcements that demonstrate the strength of B.C.’s aerospace industry.


Conair Group Inc. is currently producing its fifth and sixth next-generation RJ85 air-tanker, supplementing the five it currently has in operation in the U.S. and Australia. The RJ85 is a four-engine jet aircraft converted in Conair Group Inc.’s Abbotsford facility to a high-speed air-tanker that includes a B.C.-developed retardant delivery system – considered to be one of the most advanced systems in the world.

The next-generation RJ85 will supplement B.C.’s current fleet of air-tankers on a pilot basis this summer. The addition of the aircraft ahead of the 2016 wildfire season will allow the BC Wildfire Service to evaluate its cost and effectiveness and help inform future procurement decisions.

Conair Group Inc. has also signed a memorandum of understanding with CAE to build a Level D simulator training program for RJ85 pilots in B.C. Companies like Conair Group Inc. currently have to send pilots to Zurich, Switzerland to receive similar training, and this facility will reduce costs and increase access to more world-class, mission-based rehearsal scenarios.

In addition to the various initiatives with the RJ85, Conair Group Inc. has started to make enhancements to the Bombardier Q400 cargo combination aircraft. Two Q400s have been built for the Government of France and the planned conversions will increase the aircraft’s versatility for the global market.

Budget 2016 provides another $1 million to support B.C.’s vibrant aerospace industry, the third instalment of a five-year, $5-million commitment. The funding looks to help expand the industry by introducing new markets and attracting more international investment to the province.

Michael de Jong, Minister of Finance –

“Companies like Conair continue to establish themselves as leaders in the fire suppression industry, all while helping B.C.’s thriving aerospace industry expand and reach new markets. The RJ85 is already in the field in the U.S. and other jurisdictions, and we look forward to supplementing our current air-tankers with an aircraft largely designed and engineered right here in our own backyard.

“This pilot program, along with millions of dollars we’re investing in natural disaster prevention through Budget 2016, will help protect our most vulnerable communities from the unpredictability of Mother Nature.”

Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations –

“The threat of wildfires is a reality many communities in B.C. face each summer, and we need to ensure we have the right tools and assets in place to protect families and infrastructure.

“Wildfire management will always rely on a fleet of dependable aircraft to assist the men and women on the ground who extinguish the fires. The pilot program with Conair will provide us meaningful information as we look ahead to future procurement decisions.”

Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training –

“B.C.’s aerospace industry continues to be a key sector for the province, and we’re proud to help these innovative companies grow and attract even more international investment through a $5 million investment over five years. Our aerospace sector employs thousands of hardworking British Columbians and partnerships like the one with Conair further illustrate the world-class products and services being developed that will help communities here, and around the world.”

Barry Marsden, chairman and CEO, Conair Group Inc. –

“Conair is extremely pleased by the government’s decision to retain a next generation RJ85 air-tanker for the 2016 fire season. Conair has a long history of developing new tools to assist fire fighters in British Columbia and around the world in their aerial assault on wildfires.

“We are really looking forward to working with the BC Wildfire Service on the RJ85 pilot program this fire season. We are also grateful for this opportunity to put our state-of-the-art, made in British Columbia technology to work fighting forest fires and protecting British Columbians.”

Quick Facts:

  • The RJ85s on contract in the U.S. currently fly approximately 200 hours per year, per aircraft.
  • RJ85s can deliver 11,355 litres – that’s equal to more than 140 average-sized bathtubs (80 litres per tub) or nearly 32,000 plastic water bottles (355 millilitres per bottle).
  • B.C.’s air-tanker fleet consists of Electra L-188 “heavy” air-tankers, Conair CV-580 “medium” air-tankers, and the AirTractor AT-802 / AT-802F “light” air-tanker, which come in both land-based and amphibious models.
  • Budget 2016 provides significant investments to help mitigate the impacts wildfires and other natural disasters have on the province’s most vulnerable communities, including:
    • $85 million to establish a new organization – the Forest Enhancement Society of BC – that will work towards wildfire prevention and mitigation through forest fuel management, reforestation and habitat restoration;
    • $10 million for the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative for Community Wildfire Protection Plans, Fire Smart Planning Activities and Fuel Management Projects, which follows through on another UBCM commitment;
    • $55 million in emergency preparedness and prevention initiatives, such as upgrading dikes and flood protection in vulnerable communities; and
    • $3 million increase over three years to Emergency Management BC to support outreach related to emergency preparedness

Learn More:

To see footage of the RJ85 and Q400 in action:

Conair Group Inc.:

BC Wildfire Service:

Emergency Management BC: