CL - 215

‘ Faster than fire’

Affectionately known as the ‘yellow duck’, the CL-215 was originally designed during the 1960’s in response to criteria established by forestry officials who were looking for a more effective way of delivering water to suppress forest fires.
Beginning in 1969, 125 aircraft of the type were built in five production series until 1989. Customers appeared in nine countries on four continents and overnight the ‘yellow duck’ developed a reputation as an extremely versatile aircraft. Its potential for fire fighting, transport of passenger & cargo, search and rescue as well as patrol missions was proven, placing the aircraft in a class of its own. During our program we’ll enjoy arrivals and departures of these aircraft in both Fort Smith and Yellowknife!

The CL-215 is an all-metal, twin engined multi-purpose amphibious aircraft with a crew requirement for a pilot and co-pilot. The large wing gives good take-off and landing characteristics on both land and water, and allows excellent low speed handling characteristics. The airframe and hull were designed to withstand repeated gust loadings such as those encountered in fire fighting and rough water landings. The soft field landing qualities permit the aircraft to operate from unsurfaced airstrips. It is designed with an internal, 5346-litre (1410-US gallon) water tank system which can be reloaded through two low-drag water scoops by skimming the surface of a nearby water source. The aircraft is powered by two popular Pratt & Whitney R2800 radial engines that are well suited to the special demands of fire fighting.

Travelling at 130 km/h (70 knots), it takes approximately 20 seconds to scoop up the 5346-litre (1621-US gallon) water load. This requires an on-water distance of only 410 meters (1350 feet). The Bombardier 215 can scoop water from sites as shallow as 2 meters (6.5 feet) and 90 meters (300 feet) wide. This means that a great number of water sites can be used to reload its tanks. When the Buffalo Airways aircraft are dispatched from any of their tanker bases, the aircraft are filled with ‘mud’. This is an environmentally friendly fire-fighting liquid, red in color, with a much more effective bite on the fire. Watch closely as our Hay River DC-4 crew reenacts a red alert dispatch! Within minutes the veteran crew has this tanker ready for combat.

In 1987 Bombardier announced the CL-215T. Performance and handling improvements were evident by various aerodynamic improvements to the wings and empennage and with the new, more efficient Pratt & Whitney PW123AF turboprop engines. The new power plant yields and impressive 15% increase in power. Powered flight controls, cockpit air conditioning, and upgraded electrical and avionics systems were incorporated.
Delivery of the Bombardier CL-415 began in 1994.

TYPE: Canadair CL-215

PERIOD BUILT: 1969 - 1989


ENGINE: Two Pratt & Whitney R2800 radial engines, 18 cylinder


  • Wing span: 93 ft 10 in
  • Length: 65 ft 0.2 in
  • Height: 29 ft 9 in / 22 ft 10 in submerged
  • Total Wing Area: 1080 sq. ft


The maximum take off weight of the CL-215 is dependent upon the role in which it is employed.

From the following table it will be noticed that the take-off weight of 43,500 lbs. Is permitted in the disposable load case, whereas only 37, 700 lbs. Is permitted in the utility case. This is due to the fact that water load can be dropped in an emergency, such as single engine failure, which will lighten the aircraft by 12, 000 lbs to a weight well within its single engine climb performance minima.

Take-off (lbs)
Landing (lbs)
Zero Fuel (lbs)


  • Max. Cruising Speed: 164 kts (IAS)
  • Max. Operating Speed: 188 kts (IAS)
  • Minimum Control Speed: 86 kts (IAS)
  • Ferry Range: 3260 km / 1760 NM
  • Maximum Endurance: 11 hours


  • 2 flightcrew members
  • 5346-litre (1410-US gallon) water tank


“Using an aircraft designed specifically for aerial fire fighting is a great advantage in the initial attack on fires, because the CL-215 is a more stable and more durable aircraft than some others and it can operate in conditions that would normally ground other fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.”



Visit the Buffalo Airways page to learn more about our new DVD featuring the CL 215





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