I already wrote an article about the trackers. Now here is the other water bomber based on the Dash 8 Q400. Its capacity is big : it can hold 10t of fire retardants.
The pictures were taken at Cannes during the unfortunate fire that happened at the North of Nice at the beginning of July 2017. Almost half of the french fleet was dedicated to this fire (1 Dash, 6 Trackers and 4 Candairs + 1 Beech for surveillance + helicopters).
For the moment there are only two “MILAN” in France, their callsin is Milan 73 and Milan 74. But the french government has just announced that they will purchase more Dash in order to replace the Firecat Trackers which are getting old.
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.
3 pelicans low pass during and exercice near Cannes
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.
Holding points A1 and A2 are used by “normal” aircraft and a Tracker at the Pelicandrome
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).
Trackers 01 and 24 vacating the runway
2 trackers landing
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 !
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