SPSA planning to renew land-based airtanker fleet

SPSA Photo The Conair Dash 8,400, which is being purchased for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) at an approximate cost of $187.06 million.

Daily Herald Staff

On Tuesday Premier Scott Moe and Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman unveiled further details on the four re-purposed land-based airtanker aircraft, consisting of two Dash 8-Q400AT models and two Dash 8-Q400MRE models, being purchased for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) at an approximate cost of $187.06 million.

The planes will replace the current fleet of land-based airtanker aircraft, which consists of four Convair 580 airplanes. Those planes will approach the end of their useful lifespan in 2027.

“Saskatchewan relies on land-based airtanker aircraft as part of its approach to managing wildfires,” Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman said in a release.

“These aircraft are used in instances where waterbombers may not be able to access lakes to fill up their tanks.”

The Dash 8-Q400AT planes are dedicated air tankers, while the Dash 8-Q400MRE models can be fitted as an airtanker and reconfigured to provide multiple roles for air operations (e.g., air evacuations, patient transport, cargo hauling, etc.). Both models have increased capacity and efficiency and produce 30 per cent less emissions than a similar sized airtanker.

“Saskatchewan leads the country in preparing for future disasters with their order for four modern emergency response aircraft,” Conair Aerial Firefighting President and CEO Matt Bradley said.

 “They are the first province to invest in the safety and security of their citizens with a purchase of the multi role airtankers, built by Canadians for Canadians. Saskatchewan is supporting Canadian workers who build these aircraft, enhancing their fleet with aircraft designed to offer first in, last out capability, providing essential services from response through recovery, connecting all regions of the province in times of crisis.”

The financial impact for the SPSA’s 2024-25 capital budget is a $5.52 million deposit with an additional three-year payment plan commitment. Federal funding of $16.29 million is committed to offset the cost of the aircraft through Natural Resources Canada’s Fighting and Managing Wildfires in a Changing Climate Program (FMWCC).

“These planes will replace the SPSA’s aging land-based airtanker fleet with a modern, supportable aircraft with an anticipated useful life of 25 years,” Merriman added.

“They will also support the SPSA’s ability to provide an operational response to more emergencies and public safety events beyond wildfires.” The first of the four airplanes is expected to arrive in late summer of 2025, with the remaining arriving by the end of 2027.