Conair Group

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Conair Aerial Firefighting.
Conair Logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
N/A FGD Fireguard
FoundedApril 1969
HubsAbbotsford International Airport
Fleet size74[1]
Company sloganProtecting Our World
Parent companyConair Group Inc.
HeadquartersAbbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
Key peopleBarry Marsden (President & CEO)
Convair CV580 Airtanker

Conair Group Inc. of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, formerly known as Conair Aviation Ltd., is a company specializing in retrofitting firefighting aircraft, maintaining customer and company-owned aircraft and aerial firefighting. Conair currently employs over 250 staff and has a fleet of aircraft that are broken down into two categories; air attack (a.k.a. bird dog), and airtankers (a.k.a. waterbombers). Conair specializes in fire management support by providing services and products to forest protection agencies around the world. In 1996 Conair became a Canadian Air Tractor dealer for the AT-802F air tanker.[2] A former Conair Group division; Cascade Aerospace was acquired by the IMP Group of Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2012.


The Company was started by a consortium led by Les Kerr consisting of: Leslie George "Les" Kerr, K. Barry Marsden, Herman Joseph "Slim" Knights, Ronald "Ron" F. Connelly of Whitehorse, Yukon, and John De Voin (a silent partner). Les Kerr had worked for Skyway Air Services Ltd. for 17 years and put together the 5 man group to take control of the fire control and aerial agricultural interests of Skyway Air Services Ltd. In the transaction, they took 35 employees and 19 single engine aircraft. This took place after the owner for Skyway (Art Seller), had suffered a stroke and wanted to eliminate some of his workload.

Skyway Air Services Ltd., was started shortly after the close of WW2. They were pioneers in the development and operation of aerial firefighting, agricultural and pest control spraying. After the interests were sold, Skyway continued to operate as a flying school and charter business out of Langley, British Columbia.

The new company was called Conair Aviation Ltd. and was incorporated in April 1969 receiving their operating license on October 22, 1969. As part of the deal, the aircraft and assets that Conair purchased were: 13 Grumman Avengers, 5 Boeing Stearmans , 1 North American Harvard and the existing Skyway hangar located at Abbotsford, British Columbia.

In 1978 Conair acquired a subsidiary; Frontier Helicopters Ltd. based at Watson Lake, Yukon. This rotary division was renamed Conair Helicopters in 1999. Conair also went into the Air Cargo business in 1980 by starting a company named Swiftair Cargo. They filed for license in early July 1979, and flew for the first time on September 15, 1980 using two Douglas DC-8 aircraft flying in opposite directions across Canada. Swiftair Cargo went into receivership by May 1982.[3]

By 1984 Conair had the world's largest private fleet of Air Tankers including 50 fixed wing aircraft and 15 helicopters and by the early 1990s has grown to over 90 aircraft. Conair Aviation Ltd. later became Conair Group Inc., and they continue to be based out of Abbotsford, British Columbia.[4][5][6]


As of June 2017, according to Transport Canada the Conair Group fleet numbers 76 aircraft.[1]

Conair Group Inc. Fleet
Aircraft In Fleet Variants Notes
Aero Commander 690 7 Commander 690, Commander 690A, Commander 690B Bird dog, listed at Conair as Turbo Commander TC-690A[7]
Air Tractor AT-802 33 AT-802, AT-802A Air Tanker, nine of which have amphibious scooping capability. Listed at the Conair site as the Air Tractor AT802 Amphib, Air Tractor 802AF and F[8][9]
Avro RJ85 2 Avro RJ85 Jet air tanker, listed at Conair as the Avro RJ85 AT[10]
Canadair CL-215 4 CL-215T Turboprop powered air tanker with scooping capability, listed at Conair as the Canadair CL215T[11]
Cessna 208 Caravan 6 208B Grand Caravan Bird dog, listed at Conair as Cessna Caravan C208B[12]
Cessna CitationJet 2 Cessna 525 Bird dog, listed at Conair as the Citation Jet C525[13]
Conair Firecat 9 Air tanker - modified from Grumman S-2 Tracker in the 1970s and are not listed at the Conair site. These are based in France and flown and maintained under contract for Sécurité Civile.
Convair CV-240 family 10 Convair CV-340, CV-440, CV-580 Air tanker. All CV-340 and CV-440 were converted into the CV-580 turboprop. Listed at Conair as Convair CV580[14]
Lockheed L-188 Electra 1 L-188A Turboprop air tanker
Piper Aerostar 2 PA-60-600 Bird dog, not listed at the Conair site

In addition to the above; Conair's website also shows the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400-MR as air tankers.[15] There were two used Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s, acquired from Scandinavian Airlines System, that were modified by the Conair Group's former[16] division Cascade Aerospace of Abbotsford, British Columbia. These aircraft are set up for dual roles and were modified for the Sécurité Civile to act both as fire-fighting water bombers in fire season and as civilian or cargo transport aircraft in the off season. This aircraft is designated the Q400-MR (Multi Role). The aircraft can be reconfigured into the passenger, cargo or aerial fire control role in under three hours and can drop 10,000 L (2,640 US gal) in the tanker role.[17]

Conair also previously converted several Fokker F27 Friendship turboprops for use as air tankers.[18]

Air attack[edit]

Conair's air attack aircraft, more commonly known as "bird dogs", are aircraft that contain the pilot and Air Attack Officer. The bird dogs ensure the runs to be made by the laden airtankers are safe and free of obstructions. The crew inside the bird dog determine the run locations and drop types to be made, coordinate the aerial action with the ground crews if present and control the airspace around the fire. The attack aircraft are Piper PA-60 Aerostars, Rockwell Turbo Commanders, and Cessna 208 Caravans. These aircraft are always used in conjunction with the airtankers.

Air tankers[edit]

Conair's tankers include Air Tractor AT-802F, and AT-802F Amphibious "Fireboss" variants, Convair CV580s, Conair Firecats (retrofitted S-2 Trackers), Douglas DC-6s, Lockheed L188 Electra, and Canadair CL-215s. Conair's headquarters are in Abbotsford at the Abbotsford International Airport which also is where their maintenance and retrofitting facility is located. Conair bases their aircraft under contract to fire control agencies throughout western Canada and the US. Currently, Conair airtanker groups (a group consists of one birddog and from one to four airtankers) are contracted to agencies in BC, Alberta, Yukon and Alaska. Conair serves as the Canadian dealer for Olney, Texas-based Air Tractor, which produces the AT-802F, one of only three types of aircraft specifically designed for aerial firefighting (the others being the Canadair CL-215 and 415 models).

Conair has announced that they have purchased an Avro RJ85 and will be converting it into a Type 1 3,000 US gal (2,500 imp gal; 11,000 l) air tanker.


  1. ^ a b "Canadian Civil Aircraft Register: Quick Search Result for Conair". Transport Canada. Retrieved 6 June 2017. The results include two Bell 206 helicopters that are listed as registered with their certificates cancelled.
  2. ^ [1] Conair Group
  3. ^ "Swiftair, Canada's only all-cargo national airline, was placed in..." UPI. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  4. ^ Art Seller and Skyway Air Services
  5. ^ Conair - About
  6. ^ "BC Aviation Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  7. ^ Turbo Commander TC-690A
  8. ^ Air Tractor AT802 Amphib
  9. ^ Air Tractor AT802
  10. ^ Avro RJ85 AT
  11. ^ Canadair CL215T
  12. ^ Cessna Caravan C208B
  13. ^ Citation Jet C525
  14. ^ Convair CV580
  15. ^ Q400-MR
  16. ^ "Abbotsford’s Cascade Aerospace sold to Nova Scotia company". Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  17. ^ "Q400MR Airtanker - Conair Aerial Firefighting". Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  18. ^, photos of Conair Fokker F27 aircraft

External links[edit]