The specialized business of fire-fighting requires equally-specialized tools. Case-in-point is the Canadair CL-215, a dedicated "amphibious" aircraft developed specifically (and from the outset) to combat forest fires by dropping vast amounts of water / fire-retarding solutions to contain spread. The aircraft currently (2020) operates with services in Canada, Greece, Italy, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States and 125 of the type were constructed from 1969 into 1990 (with Bombardier eventually taking over). A first-flight was recorded on October 23rd, 1967.
Former operators include Croatia, France, Venezuela, and Yugoslavia.
As built, the CL-215 features an operating crew of two (seated side-by-side in the cockpit) and can ferry up to 26 passengers in forward-facing seats (if equipped). The aircraft sports a running length of 65 feet, has a wingspan of 93.9 feet, and a height of 29.2 feet. Empty weight is 26,808lb against an MTOW of 43,500lb (on land, this is reduced to 37,700lb on water).
Externally, the aircraft is given a boat-like hull for waterborne work and showcases its straight mainplanes high atop the fuselage for enhanced lifting (critical for low-speed, low-level flight). The engines are mounted on top of the mainplanes to better clear water spray and give the pilots excellent view of each unit. The fuselage is slab-sided with a short nose assembly and tapered empennage. The tail unit is comprised of a single, high-reaching vertical fin with mid-mounted horizontal planes. The wheeled undercarriage is retractable and of the tricycle variety, allowing the aircraft to take-off and land from a prepared strip.
Power is served from 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83AM 18-cylinder air-cooled, radial piston engines developing 2,100 horsepower each driving three-bladed propeller units. Performance specifications include a cruising speed of 180 miles-per-hour, a range out to 1,300 miles, and a rate-of-climb of 1,000 feet-per-minute.
The initial production mark was the CL-215A detailed above and this was followed by the similar CL-215B. B-models were additionally outfitted for the Search and Rescue (SAR) role. The CL-215C arrived next and lost its water-bombing capability, reworked with larger doors and windows for the purpose of ferrying passengers through a maximum 36-seat arrangement.
The CL-215T was brought about in 1987 with new wings and tail section as well as uprated PW turboprop engines. First-flight was on June 8th, 1989 and two flyable prototypes cleared the way for retrofit kits to be issued. This work led to the CL-415EAF standard.
Both the Viking Air CL-415 and Viking Air / Viking Aviation CL-515 represent offshoots of the base CL-215 line. The CL-415EAF of 2020 sports reinforcement of primary components throughout, more powerful Pratt & Whitney branded turboprop engines, and an EFIS suite resulting in a stronger, higher-performance fire-fighting platform. The CL-515 are CL-215 aircraft brought up to the CL415EAF standard by Viking Aviation.