In order to fight fires in France, the Sécurité Civile has a big (but old) fleet of 26 airplanes. Among them the most known is the CL415 (popularly called “Canadair” which is in fact the manufacturer). Their callsign is Pelican followed by the number on the tail of the aircraft. During their mission there are usually 2 to 4 of them.
But this article is about the Firecat Trackers who are less known but still effective against wild fires. Initially these aircraft were used on USA aircraft careers so they are very easy to manœuvre which is perfect to fight fires (especially in areas with mountains).
Unlike CL415 they cannot scoop on the water. They have to be refilled on the ground in places called Pelicandrome.
There is one in Cannes that can be seen on this chart :
It is placed near the threshold of the runway 17 (used more than 90% of the time) so they can take off very quickly.
Their callsign is Tracker followed by the number of their tail. There are 9 of them in the French fleet. They are now based in Nîmes Garons (South of France, roughly between Montpellier and Marseille). In order to gain time (every minute is precious with wild fires), 2 of them will be based in Cannes during this forthcoming summer.
They usually fly by two, in a relatively close formation. They have priority over other aircraft (which makes the situation complicated during heavy load of traffic in Cannes). Each one can carry 3000L of water (usually fire retardants).
They are getting old will be retired in 2020 (initially it was supposed to be 2008). We don’t know yet which one will replace them. But for the moment it is a pleasure to see the professional pilots using their skills in order to save lives !
More about this :
- Gouvernemental report about the fleet (French)
- Other gouvernemental report (french)
- Wikipedia page on the S2T
- Wikipedia page on aerial firefighting around the world