If you listen to the radio or TV in Croatia during the summer, the word “kanader” might feature in the broadcasts. Or you might see the bright yelllow strange shaped airplane on TV or for real. So what on earth is it? Why do people keep mentioning it?
In common with other mediterranean-climate areas, for example California, Croatia is prone to summertime wildfires. Lightning or people can cause fires anywhere at any time. Much of the Croatian coast is hard to reach by vehicle and firefighting would need to be done by hand. Enter the Canadair CL215 and its successor the CL415.
The CL215 was a custom designed airplane aimed at just this kind of wildfire fighting. It is amphibious, meaning it can land and takeoff on both water and land. It can fly relatively slowly, and it can dump five tons of water all at once in a massive water bomb. Best of all, it can scoop up more water as it skims the surface of a nearby river, lake or sea, so it can return quickly.
The huge water bomb does not just wet the burning forest or brush, it also envelops, covers, cools and deprives the fire of oxygen for several crucial seconds.
For airplane nuts, here are some technical details. The CL215 was first flown in 1967 an was equipped with two 2100hp Pratt and Whitney R2800 radials. The CL415 is an upgraded model, with two Pratt and Whitney Canada PW123AF turboprop engines. It first flew in 1993. The CL415 bomb load has been increased to six tons. The original company, Canadair, gave its name to the ubiquitous pronounciation all over Europe: “Kanader”. In the meantime it has been taken over and is now part of the Bombardier aerospace empire.
These airplanes and their very brave crews are crucial for taming the summer wildfires all around the Mediterranean.
Here is a great video of the “Kanaders” demonstrating their ability:
And another rather fuzzy one, but showing the effect of the water bomb on a truck fire in Canada: