In 1963, the Canadian National Research Council’s Associate Committee on Forest Fire Protection met and agreed there was a requirement for an aircraft specifically designed to fight fires. The resulting specification called for a multi-engine amphibian capable of delivering up to 1,500 gallons of water from tanks that could be filled either on the ground or by scooping from the surface of lakes or seas. Canadair’s initial response was the radical CL-204, a twin-boom, twin-float design with much of the fuselage pod given over to the tanks, but this was abandoned in favour of a more conventional aircraft that came to be known as the CL-215. The project was given the go ahead in February 1966 and production of an initial 30 was authorised against orders from the Government of Quebec and France’s Ministry of the Interior. A dispute over engine performance with the former meant the first deliveries were made to France, and the cancellation of five of the Government of Quebec’s order offered an opportunity for Greece and Spain to join the French as early customers. Ultimately, five batches of CL-215s were produced before production switched to the CL-415, a modernized version with turbine engines (not covered here). The type is known unofficially as the Scooper, or, in France, as the Pelican. On 20 June 2016, Canadair announced the sale of the entire programme to Viking Air of Victoria, BC. The deal includes manufacturing and intellectual property rights to both the CL-215 and CL-415 as well as after-sales support. A new-build version, based on the CL-415EAF, is being marketed as the CL-515.
First flight: 23 Oct 67 (c/n 1001, CF-FEU-X)
Production: 125, at Cartierville, QC.
First delivery: 6 Jun 69, to Sécurité Civile (c/ns 1021, F-ZBAR, and 1022, F-ZBAX)
Last delivery: 7 May 90, to the Hellenic Air Force (c/n 1123)
Variants: CL-215 - production aircraft, sometimes reported as CL-215A, powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney R2800-83AM or -CA3 radials, progressively improved with each batch either with increases in fuel capacity and range, or by improvements in the water-scooping system. Batch 1 consisted of c/ns 1001 to 1030; Batch 2, 1031 to 1050; Batch 3, 1051 to 1065; Batch 4, 1066 to 1080; and Batch 5, 1081-1125. 2 from Batch 3 were optimized as maritime patrol aircraft for Thailand (reportedly CL-215B) and 2, also from Batch 3, as passenger transports for use in Venezuela (CL-215C).
Conversions: CL-215T - re-engined CL-215, powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney PW123AF turboprops, with aerodynamic improvements and new avionics (first flight: 8 Jun 1989; 25 converted either by Canadair, from Canadair-supplied kits or by Viking Air).
CL-415EAF – developed version of the CL-215T with new navigation system, integrated digital avionics suite, increased retardant capacity and other systems improvements (first flight 12 Mar 20; 4 converted to date, with a futher 7 expected to follow, including 2 for Bridger Air Tanker, 1 for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency and 1 for the Indonesia Government).