WASHINGTON — The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted Aero-Flite, a US aerial firefighting specialist, clearance to operate De Havilland Dash 8-400 tanker aircraft after approving the supplemental type certificate for the Dash 8-400AT variant. The turboprop aircraft has been modified for fire attack purposes.

Aero-Flite plans to operate two Dash 8-400ATs this year under a contract with Washington state and will make them available to other agencies, including the US Forest Service. The company, which has primarily used De Havilland CL-415 and BAE Systems Avro RJ tankers, had seven pilots ready for the FAA clearance.

A subsidiary of the Canadian firefighting service Conair Group, Aero-Flite has assembled a fleet of Dash 8s for modification, including some airframes formerly used by UK regional carrier Flybe. Conair's Vice President of Business Development, Jeff Berry, states that the Dash 8 surpasses all required performance criteria and provides a "maneuverable and stable platform."

Aero-Flite General Manager Christ Niemann highlights that the Dash 8-400AT offers "greater flexibility and responsiveness" and lower fuel consumption compared to larger firefighting tankers without sacrificing much payload capability. He adds that the aircraft can operate from shorter runways at higher elevations and be positioned in smaller airtanker bases closer to wildfires, ensuring a rapid response.

Following the FAA approval, Aero-Flite intends to expand its fleet of Dash 8-400AT aircraft.