By the numbers

Background

In 2018, a review by the Manitoba Department of Sustainable Development was done on the delivery of aerial wildfire suppression services for the province as part of an ongoing value-for-money analysis of government programs and service delivery. This review was undertaken to determine the optimal method to support the residents and communities of the region. In their examination, it was determined that external alternative solutions provided better overall value than the existing aerial firefighting services provided internally by the Manitoba Government.

The province engaged the commercial aerial firefighting community for viable vendors to assume responsibility for the custody, care and operation of its amphibious air tankers. A request for proposal was issued by Manitoba to formally compare the capabilities and costs of various suitable enterprises bidding for the contract.

Based on operations in years prior, the government’s Wildfire Suppression Service provided approximately 1,400 flying hours and performed 3,750 water drops per season. The successful enterprise was expected to achieve and maintain in excess of 96% aircraft availability ensuring aircraft are available from April 1st to September 30th.

In the fall of 2018, Babcock was awarded a contract for aerial firefighting by the Government of Manitoba. The Wildfire Suppression Services Contract was issued by the Manitoba Department of Sustainable Development for a period of ten years.

The Wildfire Suppression Services Contract covers the entire province of Manitoba, over 649,950km2, and protects communities totalling a population of 1.3 million people.

Solution

Babcock established its centre for aviation in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and assumed operations in three satellite bases across the province, in Gimli, The Pas, and Thompson. Through the Wildfire Suppression Services contract, Babcock also undertook the management, maintenance, and operation of Manitoba’s fleet of seven Canadair water-bomber amphibious aircraft. The fleet consisted of four CL-415s and three CL-215s, as well as three Babcock-owned Twin Commander “bird-dog” aircraft. To support the aerial emergency services for the province, Babcock hired 32 full time staff in critical operations and engineering roles.

Results

Babcock was proud to report that its inaugural season of aerial wildfire suppression for the Province of Manitoba was a success. The team was called on to help fight 277 wildfires across the province from April through to the end of September 2019. Together, with our industry partners, our crews flew 364 missions and made 4,092 drops which amounted to over 25 million liters of water.

Of the missions, the majority (251) were flown from Gimli, 80 from The Pas, 79 from Thompson, 50 from Winnipeg and 2 from other locations. Over the season, Babcock was able to surpass the expectations of the customer with, providing an aircraft availability of 99.7% throughout the fire season.