Bombardier sells 'SuperScooper' fire-fighting plane division

The Canadian aerospace company Bombardier said it would sell its fire-fighting amphibious aircraft programme to Viking Air Limited so it could focus on its core businesses in aircraft and rail.

Viking Air, based in Victoria, British Columbia, will buy all variants of the CL-415 waterbomber aircraft considered a leader in firefighting around the world. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“While the Amphibious Aircraft programme is part of our long history, this divestiture positions Bombardier to better focus on our core, higher-growth businesses,” said Alain Bellemare, the Bombardier president and chief executive.

Mr Bellemare cited business jets, commercial aircraft and rail transportation.

As part of the deal, Viking Air, a leading manufacturer of utility aircraft including the Twin Otter bush plane, will also assume responsibility for maintaining a fleet of 170 waterbombers currently in service with 21 operators in 11 countries. That will be done at a new facility in Calgary, Alberta.

“This acquisition expands Viking’s capabilities in product support and parts into another vital niche aviation segment, and ensures that a unique and important Canadian innovation stays in Canada,” said the Viking president David Curtis.

“Our aim is to take the 415 to its highest potential and keep these aircraft in service for decades to come.”

The transaction – which is expected to close in the coming months, pending regulatory approval – allows Bombardier to raise much-needed capital.

Bombardier has been beset by recent financial difficulties since launching its C Series jetliner to challenge the dominance of Airbus and Boeing in medium-range, single-aisle aircraft, and go head to head with their workhorses, the A320 and 737.

The CL-415 waterbomber – its original design based on Second World War flying boats – was introduced by Canadair in 1969.

Bombardier later acquired it and updated the design in 1994.

It needs only 12 seconds to scoop up 6,137 litres of water while skimming over lakes or rivers at high speed, earning it the nickname “SuperScooper”.

Viking, meanwhile, is due to deliver next month its 100th new Twin Otter since obtaining the rights in 2006 from Bombardier to the 19-seat twin-engine bush plane.

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