Canada’s Reynolds-Alberta Museum, of Wetaskiwin, Alberta received its 100th plane for its collection in a ceremony held last Saturday, Conair Firecat 567. The plane has a long history serving the people of Canada, starting in 1960 as a Grumman S-2 Tracker, built under license by de Havilland Canada and serving in the Royal Canadian Navy, patrolling the oceans for submarines, attached to the HMCS Bonaventure (CVL 22), Canada’s third and final aircraft carrier. The retirement of the Bonaventure in 1970 limited the usefulness of the planes for anti-submarine patrols and several were repurposed for use in fisheries protection and standard maritime patrol duties, while 35 were acquired by the Conair Group (now Cascade Aerospace) for conversion into water bombers.
The Trackers were substantially modified for aerial firefighting and were re-designated as Conair Firecats. The modifications included raising the cabin floor by eight inches and fitting a 940 gallon capacity tank for fire retardant in the torpedo bay that was significantly enlarged by the relocation of the cabin floor. All military equipment was removed, and the resultant plane ended up 3,300 pounds lighter than the Tracker on which it was based.
This particular Firecat, registration C-GABC, was the last remaining of its type in active service in the Conair fleet. It had a 29 year career as a fire fighter and was retired last September. It also marks the end of the era of piston-engined aircraft for fire fighting duties at Conair, as they’re replaced by more modern turbine and jet-powered aircraft.