In recent years Western North America has become increasing prone to severe wildfires as the climate there becomes drier. These fires often break out in inaccessible areas and the most effective way of dealing with these are by the use of aerial firefighting aircraft, or ‘Air Tankers’ as they are known in the trade. Until recently these were mainly converted Korean war era military aircraft and 1950’s airliners. However a spate of airframe failures resulted in the US Forestry Service bringing in requirements for a new generation of turbine powered aircraft capable of dropping 3000 US Gallons of fire retardant chemicals. The aircraft of choice in this role has turned out to be the BAe146 / AVRO RJ series of aircraft. In this talk Dr West will describe what the role entails and why the unique design of the BAe146 family fit that role so well. He will look in detail at the specific example of the Conair RJ85, which was developed by Conair Group, with considerable engineering involvement from BAE Systems. He will discuss some of the hurdles encountered and how these were overcome to produce a fine aircraft very well suited for a role for which it was never designed.
Michael West studied Aeronautical Engineering at Manchester University and went on to complete a Ph.D in aerodynamics. After that he went to ARA at Bedford, but writing CFD codes all day was too far removed from aircraft so he took a job working for BAe Prestwick division. In 20 years with BAe he has worked on a wide range of projects including special role Jetstreams, military UAVs, Hybrid Airships and satellite launchers. He also had the dubious distinction of briefing for the UK’s last commercial airliner development flight test when working as a Flight Test Engineer on the AVRO RJX programme at Woodford. He is currently Chief Aerodynamicist for BAE Systems Regional Aircraft. He is a Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the British Interplanetary Society, a Chartered Engineer and a member of the ESDU Aerodynamics committee.