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An Airbus H125 AStar, operated by Nova Scotia’s Department of Lands and Forestry, Aviation Services, flies alongside the popular fishing village of Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. Mike Reyno Photo

Nova Scotia set to replace fleet of Airbus H125 firefighting helicopters

By Ben Forrest | December 18, 2023

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 21 seconds.

An Airbus H125 AStar, operated by Nova Scotia’s Department of Lands and Forestry, Aviation Services, flies alongside the popular fishing village of Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. Mike Reyno Photo
An Airbus H125 AStar, operated by Nova Scotia’s Department of Lands and Forestry, Aviation Services, flies alongside the popular fishing village of Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. Mike Reyno Photo

On the heels of its worst wildfire season on record, the government of Nova Scotia said it plans to replace its fleet of four Airbus H125 helicopters.

The Canadian province acquired its current fleet in 2016 and plans to negotiate and purchase a new set of four H125s with its current provider, according to a public procurement document.

“Being prepared for emergencies such as wildfires is critical to protecting communities and Nova Scotians,” said Tory Rushton, the province’s natural resources minister, in a statement.

“That’s why we’re considering all options and are upgrading our fleet of helicopters to ensure we can manage wildfires in the future.”

A tender for the acquisition is set to close Jan. 3, 2024, at 2 p.m. local time.

Nova Scotia will leverage $12.8 million in funding from Canada’s federal government to help pay for the new fleet, part of a five-year agreement for firefighting training and equipment.

The final price tag for the new fleet is subject to negotiation. It’s expected the new fleet will also support search-and-rescue efforts, emergency transport, and aerial surveillance to support several departments in the Maritime province.

“Helicopters are very effective in fighting wildfires and they also serve us well for other uses,” said Rushton.

The Nova Scotia government bought its first helicopter, a Bell 47, in 1974 and has since operated several platforms, including a Bell 206, four Hughes/MD 500s, a Bell 212, and a Eurocopter (now Airbus) EC120 B.

It chose the Airbus H125 over the Bell 407 for the current fleet, which began deliveries in January 2017. Vertical visited and flew with the current fleet of H125s, operated by Nova Scotia’s Department of Lands and Forestry, Aviation Services, in 2018.

“They are at the point where they require a lot more maintenance at a lot higher cost,” Rushton told the CBC, referring to the current H125s.

“And as we look at the replacement steps of this versus the maintenance cost, this is something that we looked at, and with the federal financing that’s coming into play this is how we can ensure a more updated helicopter.”

This year, the province saw major fires in the regional municipality of Halifax, and in Shelburne County, near its southwest coast. Nova Scotia has “a couple of hundred” fires a year, Rushton said. The province also uses fixed-wing waterbombers to contain those fires.

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