|Fireboss is Conair's version of the firefighting Air Tractor:
A water bomber battling the Terrace Mountain wildfire in central B.C. crashed in Okanagan Lake Saturday afternoon.
Rick Pedersen, vice president with Conair Group, the company that operates the aircraft, said the Air Tractor AT802F Amphibious “Fire Boss” aircraft was involved in a “scooping accident” when it was taking water out of the lake at about noon local time.
“During scooping operation, the aircraft flipped over,” Pedersen told Canwest News Service.
The lone person on board, a male pilot, was able to escape out of the aircraft, Pedersen said. There were no reported injuries and he was taken to hospital for observation.
“As always in these kind of accidents or incidents, we’re extremely relieved that the pilot is OK,” Pedersen said.
Abbotsford, B.C.-based Conair Group Inc. has more than 60 aircraft specializing in aerial firefighting mainly within B.C., Alberta, Yukon and Alaska, he said.
There were seven fixed-wing aircraft involved in fighting the Terrace Mountain fire before the accident occurred. The group of aircraft were contracted to the Province of Alberta at the time of the accident, and lent to British Columbia to assist fire crews battle the wildfire, about 30 kilometres northwest of Kelowna. The blaze is 4,500 hectares in size and is about 25 per cent contained.
Bill Yearwood, an aviation investigator with the Transportation Safety Board in Vancouver, said a “limited investigation” involving mostly data gathering will take place. “I’m expecting that a conversation with the pilot later (Saturday) will shed most of the information we need,” he said.
The air tractor is an aircraft that was initially designed for crop dusting, but was converted to landing on both land and water, Yearwood said.
There are pontoons on the bottom of this amphibious aircraft, similar to a float plant, and has a mechanism to scoop water into the pontoons for fire suppression.
“On touchdown to scoop water, the aircraft upset and it sank,” Yearwood said of the accident.
Pedersen said in the company’s 40-year history, this type of aircraft has never been involved in an accident. “We’ve been in this business for a long time and we have well-experienced aircrew and support to provide (aerial firefighting) services.”
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