Air Enthusiast 1997-01
R.Stitt - Conair's Mighty Sixes
‘Tanker 48’ began her career as CF-MCL of Maritime Central Airways but was destined to remain in their ownership for just eight days. In Conair service for 19 years, she is now for sale as the company reduces the size of its fleet. Sistership, CF-MCK, currently serves with Air Atlantique as G-APSA.
Making more than just a splash, ‘PWF makes her public debut at the 1972 Abbotsford International Airshow.
Captain Al Mehlhaff performs a ‘downhill run’ in ‘Tanker 48’ during a fire control action on a grass fire near Vernon, British Columbia in 1992. The retardant falls to the ground, coating the unburned fuel to create a fire-containing barrier.
The DC-6’s 12-door tank provides the required flexibility to tackle a wide variety of fire types and behaviours. ‘Tanker 48’ delivers a two-door ‘string’ (two doors at a time in sequence) to contain a fire in medium timber and grass.
Conair ‘Tanker 47’ demonstrating its virtues at the 1980 Abbotsford International Airshow.
‘Tanker 43’ with its Cessna 337 ‘bird-dog’ and full operational crew, pictured at Almeria during the 1993 deployment to Spain for ICONA. Note the wide forward entrance door (a feature of some DC-6s) and the soot-black nacelles, the product of low-level operations on a rich mixture.
A Conair DC-6 applies dispersant from 50ft (15m) above the Gulf of Mexico during the ‘Ixtoc One’ operation. The area already cleared of oil can be seen to the left of the photograph.
‘Tanker 49’ thunders aloft from the gravel runway of the Loon River tanker base in Alberta. Bases in Alberta tend to be more spartan and remote than those in British Columbia.
Flight crews compare notes from a completed fire control action as tankers ‘44’ and ‘51’ wait in the high summer heat for the next dispatch. Though each tanker is allocated to a particular base, they are routinely ‘base-changed’ to reflect the changing fire situation.
Conair’s first DC-6 fire-bomber, CF-PWF, under conversion at Aero Union’s facilities in Chico, California, during the summer of 1972; the tank has been attached and awaits fitting of the fore, aft and side fairings. The aircraft wears the green cheatline and horseshoe logo of Golden Voyagers of Toronto, a Canadian travel club that had originally intended to buy the aircraft.
Conair’s last DC-6 acquisition, ‘Tanker 52’, displays the initial eight-door retardant tank.
‘Tanker 43’ interrupts the early morning calm over the City of Vancouver during the 1992 Gypsy Moth Eradication Program.
Conair leased C-118A, C-GKFF, from Kelowna Flightcraft for two summer seasons. She is seen demonstrating her ultra low volume spray system following her return from the 1985 spruce budworm programme in Newfoundland. She served as a ‘fish-feeder’ in British Columbia in 1987.
‘Tanker 47’ as she appeared at Santa Monica in June 1958 prior to delivery to Cathay Pacific Airways of Hong Kong.
‘Tanker 44’ in its original incarnation as N572 of Northwest Airlines. She was retired in 1993 and reduced to spares, though her tail section flies on in Alaska.
Former Delta Air Transport DC-6B, OO-VGL, prior to its first season as an airtanker, taken during the 1976 fleet photo shoot.
'Tanker 45' sporting cryptic Cyrillic script for the John Travolta movie, ‘The Experts’, filmed at nearby Boundary Bay airport in 1988.
Familiar scene at Abbotsford in May 1994 as the fleet stands ready for the start of the new operating season. Heading the line-up is ‘Tanker 49’, formerly operated by Western Airlines and the ‘Fuerza Aerea de Chile’ and shown wearing the polar bear motif of the Northwest Territories. Conair Firecats bring up the rear.
The four DC-6Bs provided to Quebec for the 1973 spruce budworm spray operation included, from left to right, CF-PWF, ’PWA, ’EAN and ’QAN. The latter pair were leased from Rosenbalm Aviation and still wear their basic Olympic Airways colour schemes
A ‘Six’s’ starboard R-2800s receive close attention during the 1985 winter maintenance programme.
The ‘fish-feed’ DC-6 at work over a Vancouver Island lake in 1986, delivering liquid nitrogen fertiliser as part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Salmonid Enhancement Program.
A Conair ‘Six’ at 50ft (15m) above the prairies at Suffield, Alberta during the 1980 oil dispersant trials.
Pleasingly delicate study of the ill-fated CF-PWA at Abbotsford in 1973, her first year of fire-bombing operations.
A base engineer listens carefully as the crew starts the port inner R-2800 of his charge for the summer. Prudent engine handling is one of the key elements of fire-bombing operations when using piston-engined aircraft.