If you live in an area prone to forest fires, you will have seen the Canadair CL-215 flying around or landing on lakes and reservoirs to pick up water. Designed and built by Canadair and later produced by Bombardier, the Canadair CL-215 “Scooper” is a flying boat water bomber used to fight forest fires.
The origins of the Canadair CL-215 date back to the early 1960s when Canadair was looking to build a float plane to transport goods to remote areas. The concept, however, changed after forestry officials in the province of Quebec asked the government for water-carrying aircraft to fight forest fires.
The Canadair CL-215 was designed to be a multirole aircraft
The result was a purposely designed water bomber that evolved into an amphibian flying boat. The high-wing aircraft was to be powered by two 2,100 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 piston engines. Beyond its firefighting mission, the plane needed to be a multirole aircraft that could be used for search and rescue, cargo transport, and the carrying of passengers.
Now called the “CL-215,” the plane was revealed to the public at the 1965 Paris Air Show. When writing about the plane, Flight International pointed out that it was the first large plane purposely built for water bombing.
In early 1966 the program received the green light. The prototype CL-215 made its maiden flight on October 23, 1967. By November of the following year, Canadair was committed to building at least 30 aircraft and delivered the first CL-215 to the French civil protection agency in June 1969. The first plane was one of ten that the Sécurité Civile had ordered, with the rest delivered by the summer of 1970. Simultaneously, the government of Quebec had ordered the plane to replace its aging Canso water bombers. Compared to the Canso, the CL-215 required a shorter landing distance and could fly twice as fast.
The production of the CL-215 passed through five series of aircraft, with the most significant development taking place in the 1980s in the form of the CL-215T. Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF turbine engines replaced the plane’s original piston engines.
With Canadair now owned by Bombardier Aerospace, production of the CL-215T ended in 1990, with a more advanced version, the CL-415, started in 1993. During its 21-year production run, Canadair and Bombardier build 125 CL-125s.
Viking Air bought the rights to the plane
In 2018 Bombardier sold the design and intellectual property rights of the CL-215 and Cl-415 to Viking Air. The same company that had previously purchased the rights to build the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter.
Viking immediately announced plans to build the CL-515, an advanced version of the plane with upgraded systems and the ability to fight fires at night. Viking also announced retrofit kits allowing owners of older CL-215s to upgrade the aircraft to the same standard as the CL-515.
Specifications and general characteristics of the CL-125:
- Crew: Two
- Capacity: Up to 26 seats for passenger transport
- Length: 65 feet 0 inches
- Wingspan: 93 feet 10 inches
- Height: 29 feet 3 inches
- Wing area: 1,079.9 square feet
- Empty weight: 26,808 lbs
- Max takeoff weight: 43,499 lbs on land, and 37,700 lbs on water
- Max capacity for water/retardant: 1,440 US gallons
- Fuel capacity: 1,561.3 US gallons in two fuel tanks, of eight cells each, in the wings
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83AM 18-cyl air-cooled radial piston engines, 1,566 kW (2,100 hp) each
- Propellors: 3-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed fully feathering propeller
- Cruise speed: 181 mph at 10,010 feet
- Stall speed: 76 mph
- Range: 1,301 miles
- Rate of climb: 1,000.65 feet per minute