Bill Anstey was beaming as he gave reporters a tour of the province's newest waterbomber on Monday, July 26.Anstey, a pilot with 43 years experience flying waterbombers, gave the tour shortly after Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson and Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale unveiled the Bombardier 415 aircraft at a government hanger at the St. John's Airport.It's the second of four 415s which are replacing the CL-215 waterbombers. The first arrived in April. The final two will arrive in the province next year, one in April and the final one in July.
"It's a state of the art waterbomber, comparable to these particular times," Hedderson said.
"It carries more water, flies faster, uses jet fuel which is much more efficient, so it burns less fuel and has less of a carbon footprint," added Dunderdale. "It's just the newest generation of this type of aircraft."
She said the upgrade was needed as the older aircraft are aging and it's become harder to find spare parts for them.
Dunderdale said waterbombers are the best way to protect the province from forest fires.
"We have a number of forest fires on an annual basis. A lot of those fires take place in the interior (of the province,)" she said. " This is the most efficient and effective way to get (to) those fires, and minimize the effect they have on our forestry resource,"
A government news release states provincial crews respond to about 100 forest fires a year.
Anstey flew waterbombers for Eastern Provincial Airways when it had the provincial waterbomber contract. He's been flying for the province since it took over the service in 1973.
Anstey said each pilot needed about 10 hours of training on the new planes, despite having the same hulls and structure of the older ones.
"They're very similar except for the engines and the new radio equipment and everything," he said.
After showing reporters the exterior, cockpit and inside the fuselage, Anstey tapped a black box about the size of a microwave located in the area behind the cockpit and said it was his favorite new feature. It was an air conditioner, something which comes in handy, he said, when flying over the intense heat of a forest fire.
Hedderson said the older aircraft will be retired as the new ones arrive.
They will go back to Bombardier as a "trade-in" on the new waterbombers.
The provincial fleet consists of six waterbombers - and four light helicopters under contract for the forest fire season - stationed in Gander, Deer Lake, St. John's, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Wabush.