This province's firefighter pilots travel to Switzerland for training every year, but they soon may be able to take that training in B.C. because Abbotsford-based Conair Aerial Firefighting Group is bringing in a new flight simulator.

CAE, which has aviation training centres around the world, has agreed to set up a RJ85 aerial firefighting simulator in B.C., in partnership with Conair. The simulator is so accurate that a pilot can be certified to fly the airplane after using the program, according to Conair.

The simulation will look something like the video shown below, according to Jeff Berry, director of business development for Conair.

B.C. fire fighter pilots will use the new simulator to prepare for the grueling and sometimes dangerous job of fighting wildfires.

"We're going to be able to switch to a simulated wildfire environment and fly on actual simulated fires," Berry told CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

Most other flight simulators only allow pilots to practice procedural things like landing and flying circuits.

"It's going to bring a whole new level of training and experience to the lads before they actually get out in the field," Berry said.

flight simulator CAE

This RJ85 level d flight simulator is one of only a handful in the world. (CAE)

Connecting with other pilots

A pilot sitting in the simulator will also be able to connect with other pilots in training. This allows them to practice coordinating attacks on fires, one of the most difficult aspects of fighting fires from the air, according to Berry.

"Probably one of the most complex bits of aerial firefighting is when you have multiple aircraft showing up at a fire and you need to coordinate your efforts to get onto the fire."

But firefighters will still have to fly to Switzerland this off season, because the simulator, which costs about as much as an airplane does, won't arrive in B.C. until next summer.

"We're shooting for June 2017 to have this simulator operational at Abbotsford," said Berry.

RJ fire fighting plane

Pilots will be trained to fly a plane like this one, in order to fight B.C.'s wildfires. (Conair Aeriel Firefighting)


To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: New flight simulator for firefighters.

With files from The Early Edition