As Bombardier has decided to remove itself from a number of its legacy aviation programs, Viking Aerospace has been willing to step in. It acquired the rights for a number of legacy de Havilland Canada products first and put the DHC-6 Twin Otter back into production. Since then it has acquired the CL215/415 amphibious waterbomber program and very recently the Dash-8/Q400 program. It has its headquarters at Victoria International so, after getting off the ferry and having a spot of lunch, we swung by to have a look. They have a very nice, modern headquarters building which stands out amongst the other airport buildings.
I took a look on the ramp. Their demonstrator Twin Otter was parked up along with a couple of clean airframes that looked like they were destined for new customers. A CL-215 was parked a bit further out. I discovered shortly afterwards that this one is about to undergo an upgrade program. There were plenty of people going in and out of the offices but the ramp was sadly quiet. No movements while I was there although we had places to be so I didn’t hang around for long.
Canadair were a company that put together some odd projects. Before they became part of the Bombardier family, they produced a business jet and a water bomber. The Challenger (which came from an earlier Bill Lear project) has gone on to spawn a large number of production aircraft of various types. The CL-215 is a different story.
Water bombers are a very useful tool in fighting fires. Within that sphere, the CL-215 has been a great success. That is not a huge world, though, so production has been modest. Even so, the original piston powered aircraft has gone through a turboprop conversion program and the current production model, the CL-415 has turboprop engines as well as airframe and systems enhancements. Production is at a low rate but they do still come out of the factory.
I was quite pleased to come across a couple of the planes that are still fitted with the original radial engines. The already chunky lines of the plane go quite well with the bluff profile of the piston engine – something the turboprop lacks a little. These planes weren’t flying. They were awaiting their next project. With the fire season approaching, I imagine it won’t have been too long after I saw them before they were back in action.