Flying Colours has signed an agreement with aerial firefighting provider Conair Group to modify six production Q400MR aircraft to support the company’s multi-purpose missions. The aircraft will be completed with four different interior types, which Flying Colours will engineer, fabricate, install and certify. The interior types include a passenger mode, which will accommodate up to 64 passengers, a full air freighter mode to transport up to nine tons of cargo, a combined passenger/cargo interior to carry up to 19 passengers along with freight, and a medevac format that will support up to six stretchers along with a clinical team and medical equipment.
According to Sean Gillespie, Executive VP at Flying Colours, the interior options can be switched out quickly according to mission requirements, which will maximize efficiency and costs. “The side wall fittings and alignment are designed for ease of change so that each interior can be swapped out for another in a matter of hours. Speed and convenience are important in this instance,” says Gillespie. “Our engineering team have designed certain elements of the interior to be consistent and used on each configuration. The items that are truly unique to a particular configuration are designed to be easily removable with an experienced crew.”
In addition to the changeable interiors, the aircraft will also be integrated with a customized Inmarsat Cobham Aviator 700 system, which Flying Colours says will enable flexible communications and connectivity that can be adapted for each aircraft mission. The aircraft will incorporate an upgraded version of Conair’s proprietary Retardant Delivery System, which will carry more water than the existing 10,000-liter capacity and can be easily removed and installed in the field within a matter of hours.
“This is the first time that a Q400 has had all these interior types configured for a single fuselage,” says Gillespie. “It’s a unique project and we are delighted to have been awarded the contract.” Gillespie adds that the company’s extensive experience working on complex special mission projects for military and governments worldwide were key in winning the contract.
All work will take place at Flying Colours’ KSUS facility in St. Louis, Missouri, which recently underwent an expansion. Gillespie says the extension of the facility, which includes a new building, several back shop upgrades and 30% workforce growth, will support the project. The first aircraft will be inducted in March and Gillespie says Flying Colours expects to return it to Conair in late August so the company can fit it with their firefighting system. The remainder of the aircraft modifications will take place over the next several years, although Flying Colours has not disclosed an expected completion date.