The Canadair CL-215 ("Scooper") was the first model in a series of firefighting flying boat amphibious aircraft built by Canadair and later Bombardier. The CL-215 is a twin-engine, high-wing aircraft designed to operate well at low speed and in gust-loading circumstances, as are found over forest fires. It is also able to land and take off from short, unpaved airstrips.
Design and development
Arising from an earlier 1960s research study at the company, the original concept was for a twin-engined floatplane transport, that was altered into a "firefighter" as a result of a request by forestry officials in the Quebec Service Aérien (Quebec Government Air Service) for a more effective way of delivering water to forest fires. The preliminary design, the CL-204 was a purpose-designed water bomber that evolved into an amphibian flying boat configuration, powered by two 2,100 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 piston engines, shoulder-mounted. The definitive design known as the CL-215 received a program go-ahead in February 1966 with its maiden flight on 23 October 1967. The first delivery was to the French civil protection agency (Sécurité Civile) in June 1969. Production of CL-215s progressed through 5 series ending in 1990.
The CL-215 is known by several nicknames depending on where it is used. In France and Greece, they are known as "Canadairs." In western Canada they are known as "Ducks." Most other operators prefer to go by "Scoopers." The turboprop versions, CL-215T and 415 are known as "Super Scoopers" because of their increased performance. The aircraft can skim lakes, rivers, reservoirs, or open water to fill its tanks. The water can be mixed with additives for direct attack of wildfires and structure protection. The aircraft has a 1,400 US gal (1167 Imp gal, 5300 liter; 12,000 lb, 5,442 kg) fluid capacity, and can refill its tank in ten seconds at 75-80 knots (140-150 km/h, 86-92 mph). With water sources close to fires, CL-215s have delivered 75-125 loads of water in a single day in support of fire fighting efforts.
The CL-215 is a versatile aircraft capable of several configurations such as maritime patrol and search and rescue, in addition to its primary role as a water bomber.
CL-215s have been involved in 26 accidents, 21 fatal.
In 1987, the CL-215T was announced, with improvements in handling brought about by design changes to the wings and empennage, and more powerful Pratt and Whitney turboprop engines. Originally the follow-up CL-215T was to be a simple turboprop-powered development of the CL-215, and Canadair converted two aircraft in 1989 to act as development aircraft. The first of these flew on 8 June 1989. Retrofit kits for CL-215s to the new standard are offered, but Canadair elected not to build new CL-215Ts and instead developed the CL-415.
Cascade Aerospace, Canada, offers CL-215 to CL-215T engine retrofits using the Bombardier kit and Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF engines and is currently the only conversion kit installer in the world.
Over a period of 21 years beginning in 1969, 125 of these aircraft were built and sold to customers in 11 countries.
Published - July 2009
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