Water Scooping Planes Skim Lake to Fight Fire

BirchLeafPhotoPublished: November 22, 20171,968 views
Published: November 22, 2017

The Canadair/Bombardier CL215T water tanker planes are amazing pieces of equipment, and the men who fly these beasts are certainly some of the most skilled pilots in the world. In August of 2013, a very large wildfire raged just west of the small town of Delta Junction, Alaska. A fire which eventually grew to over a million acres and threatened the community and its inhabitants, it was named the “Mississippi Fire” – not because it was associated with the famous state or river, but because it began on a military training range dubbed the “Mississippi.” National fire management teams descended upon the community and set up shop, dispersing hotshot crews of land-based firefighters from all over the country. But at the time, the United States had no planes in its fleet capable of dropping water or fire retardant on this large and threatening fire. Enter the Conair Group and its Canadair/Bombardier CL215T tanker planes based in Alberta, Canada. The group was set up shop about 75 miles away at Eilson Air Force base in North Pole, Alaska, but flew each day to Quartz Lake, a large lake just north of the town. This lake sits in something of a hole, surrounded by hills and small mountains. The expert pilots would swoop down into the basin, skimming the surface of the water for 10-15 seconds, allowing the internal tanks to fill with over 1,000 gallons of water, and then rising up again to head off and jettison their loads. They would then circle around and do this again. These runs would last 1-2 hours, and each round trip from lake to fire and back again would take about 10 minutes. The photographer was told 3 of these planes would be working that day, so she rushed down to the lake and positioned herself at one end, waiting for the planes to make another pass. You can tell when that last plane comes in how close to the plane the photographer was, as the camera vibrates from the rushing air circulating around the tanker. This is one of the most impressive sights to witness and this video captures the raw power of these awesome machines and their skilled pilots.

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