September 2021

Canadair CL-415 Water Bomber

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Canadair CL-415 “Superscooper”

Sécurité Civile “Pompiers du Ciel”, Groupement des Avions Bombardiers d'Eau,

Marignane Aeroport, Marseilles, 2017

Heller 1/72

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Building the Heller CL-415

Heller’s kit is also available from Italeri and Revell, with decals tailored to their relevant customer base.  The kit was initially issued in 1980 as a CL-415 aircraft, then updated in 1998 to add the new turboprop engines plus a range of aerodynamic changes on the newer variant. Moulded in a bright yellow plastic (aaargh!) the kit has prominent raised rivets, but generally nice detail and it fits together reasonably well.  A detailed cockpit is provided, along with sufficient of the main cabin contents to allow some serious detailing if the modeller feels up to it.  Reference pictures are widely available on the internet, along with some superb YouTube documentaries (mostly in French).

The new parts for the CL-415 are a little clunky and crude, in a harder white plastic, but fit without major issues -  I had to fill some gaps beneath the new engines, but other than that I only needed a little filler to tidy up the nose of the hull.  

The bright yellow plastic is a potential issue for all but the most basic modeller and was

the main cause of delay in my building this kit.  It is slightly translucent, allowing the internal paint to show through despite several overcoats on the outer surface.  I suspect that an overall coat of some darker grey would have helped, but by the time I decided this I was 3 top-coats in and not keen to add even more. Enamel paint is currently very difficult to find around here, with most retailers out of stock, particularly of Humbrol.  After an abandoned start with two coats of Revell paint (too orange) I settled on a tin of Humbrol 99 “lemon” that I had reserved for something else.  This was a good match for the many on-line videos. Red was mixed up from Humbrol Signal Red and some black, to match the decals.  

Speaking of decals, these were a modern Heller set, a far cry from the pitiful ones of their past.  They were well printed and did not fall apart. Unfortunately they were quite thick, so didn’t easily fit over surface lumps, and very glossy.  To try and match surface finishes, I painted the entire kit with Micro Satin then some Klear.   After looking at a few reference pictures, I decided to add some French national marking roundels from the spares box, since they all seem to carry these now.

The kit is a serious tail-sitter. A cabin ladder is provided, but this is not strong enough to hold the kit up.  As I am not keen to add large amounts of weight to models (too many collapsed undercarriages!), I added a small prop under the rear hull.   

This was a slow and slightly frustrating kit to build, but I got there in the end and it certainly looks bright and cheerful on the shelves !  

Background - A French CL-415 lines up for departure

The French Civil Defence and Crisis Management Directorate (Sécurité Civile) )operates 12 Canadair/Bombardier CL-415  Water Bomber flying boats, used to fight wildfires across France, and in co-operation with similar forces in other nations, across a wide area bordering the Mediterranean.  

Based out of Nimes Airport, the aircraft formerly operated from Marignane Airport  in Marseilles.  Each aircraft is capable of rapidly scooping up over 6 tonnes of water (a 15 second run is normal) at a speed of 70 knots, from any suitable 410 metre open water area and dropping it accurately on a fire target area.

Able to trace its origins directly back to the wartime Catalina flying boat, the Canadair CL-415 is a turboprop powered update of the older Canadair CL-215, the world’s first purpose-built water bomber.  Operated by aerial firefighters in Canada, the USA, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia, Morrocco, Spain and Turkey, it has become a vital tool in fighting wildfires and forest fires.

A  French CL415 drops its water load on a fire, whilst another aircraft  banks right at the end of  its run.  

Picture © Collection Gérard JOYON  CCBY 3.0

The pictures that inspired this build.  This is Marignane (Marseilles) in 2017.  I was visiting for a sailing event and when we landed, the runway was full of CL415s and Grumman Tracker fire bombers.