Historic Aviation: The Canadair CL-215 ‘Scooper’

Written by on June 15, 2021

“The Premier Firefighting Airplane”

In 1965, Canadair revealed the CL-215 to the World at the Paris Air Show.  One of the only marine-based airplanes to be developed in over 20 years, the CL-215 was a revolutionary new design to solve an old problem: battling the remote forest fires of the Canadian wilderness and around the World.  Intended to replace the aging and modified ‘Canso’ water bombers which were adapted from their original naval maritime roles, the CL-215 would be the first amphibious water-bomber designed from the ground up.

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83AM radial piston engines generating 2,100 horsepower each; and a high-lift wing almost 94 feet in length, the CL-215 came packed with exceptional flight performance and was particularly adept at the STOL nature of landing and taking off from small lakes surrounded by terrain.  Able to collect up to 5,910 litres (1,561 U.S. Gallons) in a single ‘scoop’ and deliver directly to the fire at a staggeringly-low 100 feet, The CL-215 could achieve fire suppression with pinpoint accuracy unseen previously to its debut.

The first-ever CL-215 was delivered to the French ‘Sécurité Civile’ (Civil Protection Agency) and began flight operations in 1969.  Over 50 years later, the CL-215 can still be found operating in multiple countries serving in its primary role of fighting the World’s forest fires.  It’s success also lead to the development of the CL-415 in the 1990’s featuring modern avionics and turbine engines, although the same basic design was generally preserved.  For those who have witnessed the awe and terror of forest fires, the CL-215 remains an image of hope and bravery over the vast forests of the Earth.

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