BAE Systems is making specialist contributions to a number of Airtanker (aerial firefighter) aircraft conversion programmes underway in North America
Four companies in the USA and Canada have selected the BAe 146/Avro RJ as the optimum aircraft for conversion to the 3,000 gallon US Type 1 Airtanker. It is the Type 1 Airtanker which forms the bulk of the fire-fighting fleet in North America and the BAe 146/Avro RJ is one of a number of designs that are described as ‘next-generation’ Airtankers. Ten aircraft are under conversion currently.
Many of the existing Type 1 Airtankers in use today are Korean War vintage aircraft such as the piston-powered PV2 Neptunes and Grumman Trackers, as well as early-generation turboprops such as Convair 580s and Lockheed Electras that are coming to the end of their operational lives and need replacing with more modern equipment.
This is particularly the case given the extremely demanding flight profiles that these aircraft have to fly when dropping retardant on to wildfires that are prevalent in the summer season especially across the mid-west to the Pacific coast in North America. According to the United States Forest Service (USFS) as of mid-August there were 48 uncontained large fires burning across the country.
Mark Taylor, Business Director Engineering for BAE Systems Regional Aircraft said today: “We estimate that the extreme nature of this wildfire flying means that for every BAe 146/Avro RJ flight cycle on a typical mission, the impact for structural and fatigue life is estimated to be between four and seven flight cycles of normal flight. This figure will be validated during the initial years of operation and might vary due to the nature of the Airtanker design.
“This type of specialist service is one which we can provide to these operators and the authorities are pleased that we, as the Original Equipment Manufacturer, are taking such a close interest in these programmes. The specialist design and engineering services provided by BAE Systems Regional Aircraft to these operators/conversions in support of their individual tanker designs include aerodynamic/computational fluid dynamics analysis; dynamic loads assessment; structural analysis; technical data packs; flight test planning and analysis; and flight test engineers and pilots.”
BAe 146/Avro RJs that are suitable for conversion tend to be lower cycle aircraft to ensure that based on the typical utilisation expected a long life can be planned for the aircraft in this role.
The exceptional slow-speed handling of the aircraft, coupled with its ‘hot and high’ performance and steep approach capability means that the four-engined BAe 146-200/Avro RJ-85 are seen as ideal for this type of mission. Several operators have flown flight profiles in simulators to verify performance and there have been two actual flight trials in the USA in September 2004 and in Scotland in October 2009.
Source: BAE Systems PLC (LSE: BAES.L)
Date: Sep 11, 2013