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Saskatchewan to update aging air tanker fleet beginning in 2025

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The Government of Saskatchewan has purchased four re-purposed Dash-8 airliners to replace elements of its air tanker fleet in the next three years.

The two Dash 8-Q400AT and two Dash 8-Q400MRE models were purchased for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) at an estimated cost of $187.06 million.

The four aircraft will replace Saskatchewan’s fleet of four Convair 580s – which will reach the end of their effective lifespans in 2027.

The company conducting the conversions – Conair Firefighting – flew an example aircraft to Regina for the announcement on Tuesday.

“They’re upgraded aircraft. They’re faster and they have a larger payload. They will serve Saskatchewan communities better and keep Saskatchewan families safer,” Premier Scott Moe said at the announcement at the Regina International Airport.

According to the province, the AT models will be dedicated air tankers while the MRE can also be reconfigured for multiple roles. These include air evacuations, patient transport and cargo hauling.

Both models have increased capacity over their predecessors, producing 30 per cent less emissions than similar sized air tankers.

The financial impact of SPSA’s 2024-2025 capital budget is a $5.52 million deposit with the three-year payment plan. A total of $16.29 million in federal funding will offset the cost of the tankers.

The lifespan of the new aircraft is an estimated 25 years. The first of the four units is expected to arrive in late summer of 2025 with the remaining three arriving by the end of 2027.

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