When a water-scooping CL-215 air tanker crashed in Greece on June 26, the pilots of two Aircrane helicopters who were working a fire diverted to the site, saw that the aircraft was on fire, and each helicopter dropped three loads of water on the flames. This helped make it possible for one of the CL-215 pilots to extract the other pilot who had a back injury.
[Erickson Aircrane pilots Mike Strasser and Jeff Shelton] and another Aircrane, operated by Jeff Brenhaug and Don McLeod, were fighting a fire about eight miles northwest of Athens, Greece, on June 26, when a Hellenic Air Force Canadair CL-215 waterbomber—known as a “duck”—crashed on a wooded hillside. Thick black smoke was rising into the air as the two Aircranes arrived above the wreckage.
“It was pretty obvious that it had gone down and it was on fire,” Strasser told Skies. “We decided to switch to light coverage and began dropping water on the plane. As we came in behind the other Crane for our first drop, I was looking out the bubble window and I saw two people on the right side of the aircraft. It looked like one of them was dragging the other out.”
“Just seeing somebody outside [the aircraft] was a good feeling,” said Strasser. “It crashed close to a road, and soon I saw firefighters on the ground rescuing them. We finished up there and headed back to fight the fire.”
But the story didn’t end there for the Aircrane crews. The next day they received a special visitor. Taxiarchis Papamarkos, one of the CL-215 pilots, sought them out to say his thanks.
“He told us the other guy had a back injury and couldn’t walk,” recounted Strasser. “He was trying to help him, but it was getting very hot and his flight suit was singed. He thought he would be dead in 10 seconds. He expected the plane to blow up, so he started counting backwards from 10. But when he got to four, he felt cool rain falling on him. It helped him to pull his friend out.”
The other CL-215 pilot is in the hospital but is expected to recover.
Bombardier has agreed to sell their air tanker manufacturing business to Viking Air Ltd.
The transaction will see Viking acquire the Type Certificates (manufacturing rights) for all variants of Bombardier’s amphibious aircraft, and assume responsibility for product support, parts and service for the fleet of 170 air tankers in service with 21 operators in 11 countries around the world.
Below is an excerpt from an article at CTV News:
…Victoria-based Viking manufactures the Twin Otter as well as spare parts for several planes originally made by de Havilland. It also has manufacturing rights for all out-of-production de Havilland aircraft, including the DASH-7 regional airliner, a predecessor to Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop.
Viking employs just under 90 people in Calgary and more than 330 at its headquarters and facilities in Victoria. The company said it expects to add up to 40 people to its workforce in Victoria and Calgary with the new program.
Bombardier said Monday it plans to transfer 50 employees from the amphibious aircraft program based in North Bay, Ont., to other parts of its business.
The Montreal-based company hasn’t produced an amphibious plane since December 2015…
Canadair began manufacturing the amphibious CL-215 air tanker in 1967 and in 1986 sold the manufacturing rights for the aircraft to Bombardier. In 1993 Bombardier introduced the upgraded CL-415, replacing the piston engines with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF turboprops as well as introducing an updated cockpit and aerodynamics enhancements.
At least seven air tankers are being sent from Canada to Alaska to help with the wildfire situation developing in that state. Here are the aircraft that we are aware of that stopped at Whitehorse, Yukon, for fuel:
Tanker 42, a Convair 580, from Slave Lake, Alberta, operated by Conair.
Four CL-215Ts from Slave Lake, Alberta, with two Bird Dogs, operated by Conair.
Two Convair 580s out of Williams Lake, B.C. passed through Whitehorse a couple of days ago on their way to Alaska.
After running CL-215 amphibious water scooping air tankers for years, the state of Minnesota is selling the two they have and will be converting to single-engine Air Tractor 802F Fire Boss scoopers. The CL-215s served the agency well, but Aero Flite, now owned by Conair, is no longer interested in maintaining and operating the piston engine aircraft for the state. A newer model, the CL-415, has the more reliable turbine engines. The 215’s will be sold at auction, and four turbine-engine-powered AT-802Fs will be hired on contract.
Aero Flite’s two RJ-85s are now fully qualified and on contract. They are tankers 160 and 161, both piloted by initial attack qualified crews.
Three CV-580s are in the lower 48 on loan from the state of Alaska. There was one more and a birdog that was borrowed from Canada, but they returned last week.
Last week the two C-130 Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) at the Channel Islands National Guard base in California were activated by the governor of California to help deal with wildfires in the northern part of the state. Two MAFFS from Cheyenne, Wyoming (MAFFS 1 & 3) had previously been activated and have mostly been working out of Boise, but last weekend their temporary home was the tanker base at Helena Regional Airport in Montana.
On August 1, 17 California National Guard helicopters were also activated to assist with the fires in the state.
The CL-415 and the two CL-215s late last week were working out of Deer Park Washington.
Another video has been produced about the 43rd Grupo (Group) Firefighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force commissioned in 1971 when the first Canadair CL-215 arrived in the country. During four decades and 150,000 flight hours, the Squadron has suffered 9 fatal accidents, with a total of 15 casualties and the loss of 25% of its fleet. War-fighting in peace time. Ten years have passed since that last accident, and this video honors those young aviators who gave it all.