A video posted on YouTube just before Christmas provides more information than ever before on Viking Air’s plans for a new model to succeed the CL415 scooping air tanker. The upper parts of of the firefighting tanks will be enlarged to increase capacity by 15% to 7000 litres. The video is clearly an official media production by Viking, but was not published by the manufacturer. Text onscreen throughout is in Spanish, although the sound track is in English – suggesting that the video was released to a potential Spanish-speaking operator.
Rob Mauracher, Executive VP of Sales and Marketing at Viking, told FlightGlobal in October that a board decision was expected in the first quarter of 2019 on the new program. Viking has also applied for government funding for the project, the response thereof clearly being central to the board’s consideration. No announcement has been made to date.
Features of the CL515 include a digital avionics suite, full glass cockpit, synthetic vision with an augmented-reality view of the surrounding terrain. Other options include head-up display and night-vision for potential night firefighting operations. The video also suggests a 15% lower operating cost than the CL415 using new materials and anti-corrosion treatments.
Mauracher is seen in the video explaining the operational ethos behind the CL515, clearly touting it as an adaptable platform that would not be solely used for aerial firefighting. Other roles mentioned include dispersant spraying on oil slicks, fishery patrol, as well as search and rescue.
For maritime SAR, the aircraft would be able to land on the water (assuming a suitable sea state) with the potential of rescuing people from, say, a sinking boat. Optional fitment would include up to three stretchers and bench seating for twelve. As an aerial SAR platform, the CL515 would carry search radar and video cameras in under-wing pods which could be installed or removed in about an hour.
Viking Air took on the CL415 program from Bombardier in 2016, including the type certificates (and thus the manufacturing rights) for all variants the amphibious aircraft series, including product support, parts and service responsibility for the fleet of 170 water bombers in service around the world. Viking had previously acquired the rights to the DHC-7 Dash 7, DHC-6 Twin Otter, DHC-5 Buffalo, DHC-3 Otter, and the DHC-2 Beaver. Last November, Viking’s parent Longview Aviation Capital agreed to acquire the DHC-8 program including the 100, 200 and 300 series and the in-production Q400 program from Bombardier Inc. Also included as part of the transaction are rights to the de Havilland name and trademark.