the aerial firefighter in action
models and diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen
For many years, I have spent the warm summer months on the French Riviera.
One thing you can be sure of on the Riviera is: it never rains in the summer!
That’s nice of course, but also the reason for great concern because every summer there are dangerous forest fires on the famous French coastline (and in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Balkan as well).
The French fire brigades are well prepared
to fight the wildfires, both on the ground and
in the air.
Every time a wildfire starts, yellow aircraft turn
up over the burning forest.
Usually, three aircraft flying close after its
other, swooping down on the blue
Mediterranean (or the nearest water hole),
sucking up more than 6 tons of water, flying
low over the burning inferno and drop tons
This cycle takes place over and over again:
From the water to the fire, round and around.
An incredibly effective circle of firefighting.
The aircraft is the Canadair CL-415, an
amphibious aircraft from Canada.
Purpose-built as a water bomber, designed
and built specifically for aerial firefighting.
The 415 can scoop up to 6,140 litres
(1,620 US gal) of water from a nearby water
source, mix it with a chemical foam if desired,
and drop it on a fire without having to return
to base to refill its tanks.
The CL-415 was specifically developed to
provide the capability to deliver massive
quantities of suppressant in quick response
The aircraft is built for reliability and longevity,
with use of corrosion-resistant materials.
The CL-415 first flew in 1993. Orders from
several countries soon followed.
The American quickly gave it the nick name
In recognition of its abilities, the aircraft was
awarded the Batefuegos de oro (gold fire
extinguisher) by the Asociacion para la
Promocion de Actividades Socioculturales.
The award citation in part read "This is the
most efficient tool for the aerial combat of forest
fires, the key to the organization of firefighting in a large number of countries. The continuous improvements to meet the needs of forest firefighting have made these aircraft the aerial means most in demand over more than 30 years."
The aircraft requires 1,340 metres (4,400 ft) of flyable area to descend from 15 metres (49 ft) altitude, scoop 6,137 litres of water during a 12-second 410 metres (1,350 ft) long run on the water at 130 km/h (81 mph), then climb back to 15 m altitude.
The CL-415 can also pick up partial loads in smaller areas and can turn while scooping, if necessary.
Nine countries use the CL-415
Above: The CL-415 in action in Italy
Three French CL-415 scooping water
Not only in rural areas. This Greek CL-415 fights a fire in a highly polulated area.
Crew: 2 pilots
Additional Seating: one on jump seat, eight on bench seats
Payload: 6,400lb (2,900 kg)
Length: 65 ft (19.82 m)
Wingspan: 93 ft 11 in (28.6 m)
Height: 29 ft 3 in (8.9 m)
Empty weight: 28,400 lb (12,880 kg)
Max Capacity (Water or Retardant): 13,536 lb (6,140 kg)
Maximum weight after scooping: 47,000 lb (21,360 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PW123AF turboprop, take-off power: 2,380 hp each
Maximum speed: 223 mph (359 km/h)
Cruise speed: 207 mph (333 km/h)
Stall speed: 78 mph (126 km/h)
Range: 1,518 miles (2,443 km)
Take-off distance (land): 2,750 ft (840 m)
Take-off distance (water): 2,670 ft (815 m)
Landing distance (land): 2,210 ft (675 m)
Landing distance (water): 2,180 ft (665 m)
Minimum water depth: 6 ft (1.8 m)
Building the CL-415
The model kit is the 1/72 from Revell.
From my point of view, the kit is excellent! Easy to build and with all the details you expect from a modern model kit.
The only drawback is the yellow colour of the plastic.
This might be fine if you just want to glue it together and that’s it.
The plane was yellow after all.
But if you want to paint the model in the correct colours, the yellow plastic is a pain in the ¤¤¤, difficult to prime and difficult to paint.
I made a hole in the bottom of the plane so I could place 10mm acrylic tube to keep the aircraft suspended in the air.
The tube was almost invisible and made photographing the aircraft in the air very easy.
I would have liked to make the French “Securite Civile” aircraft but was not able to find any 1/72 decals for this plane. I, therefore, had to settle for the CL-145 from Ministry of Natural Resources (Ontario), which operates nine of these aircraft.
I needed the propeller to rotate and glued a brass rod to the propeller as a propeller shaft.
When blowing at the propeller, it would rotate without any problems.
I wanted to photograph the model both on the tarmac and in the air.
Therefore, I made the model with the wheels down and took pictures.
Then I removed the wheels and placed them in the retracted position, inserted the acrylic rod in the keel of the plane and took some pictures of the plane in the air.
As you can see, I used several different backgrounds on which I pasted the model in different positions.
This often gives a very lifelike - and even dramatic composition.
The Water Base
I used a plywood plate 70 x 80cm (28 x 32in) on which I used some old plaster (that’s what I had available) to sculpt the waves and painted it blue/green/black/white.
The situation I had in mind was when I saw the 415s in action in the Med were the sea is very blue (it’s not without reason called Côte d’Azur).
I would have changed the colours and the wave structure if it had been a lake, a river or anywhere else.
I understand that it might be a little confusing because the plane has Canadian markings, but it is the same aircraft, and that’s the most important.
Then I painted the wake with white acrylic paint and places some white cotton on the first part of the wake to simulate the sea spray.
Hairspray was used to stiffen the cotton so it would stay in place when I placed the aircraft on the base.
It looked good, and it was incredibly easy to do.
I painted a background (70 x 100cm / 28 x 48in) with burning forest on the hills to give the diorama a slightly authentic look.
The Forest Fire
I used an old base (60 x 70cm / 24 x 28in) which had been used as a base for a tank battle. I
t was covered with artificial grass and I just had to fix the acrylic rod with the aircraft to the base placed in an angel so the “water” from the aircraft could sweep backwards.
I put up some wooden sticks to support the smoke and the lights. The forest was on fire, and that means that there should be a fire in some of the treetops.
To support the smoke, I placed a couple of small chicken wire constructions around the lights and user red and yellow cellophane to make a little colour to the fires
The smoke from the fire was from a Hamster Bed (!) (bought in a pet shop).
This was very soft and nice cotton, yellow and grey in colour. It needed just a little dark some places (from the airbrush).
When sprayed with hairspray, it was very easy to sculpt the way I wanted – and chicken wire underneath helped to make room for the LED lights.
The water drop from the aircraft was also made by cotton. This cotton also hides the supporting rod to the aircraft.
This cotton was ordinary white cotton, which needed any colouring at all, just the hairspray to make it stiff and easy to sculpt.
Most of the trees were hidden in the smoke, but I needed some in front of the fire.
Some of the trees were bought ready-made, some were made by me and some was just picked from weeds and plants in my backyard.
Then it was just to tweak the smoke and the light so it looks as realistic as possible.
You do not need to use lights to make it look like a fire.
I took some pictures of the diorama with and without the LED lights.
As you can see, the diorama is also good without the lights burning.
However, if you prefer to use lights, you should bear in mind:
Lights always produce heat!
Use as much airing around the lights sources as possible, and never leave the lights on unattended!
Here are my CL-145
aerial firefighting dioramas:
The Canadair CL-415 firefighting aircraft ready for take-off
Arriving at the fire. Assessing the conditions. Diving to the nearest water to fill the tanks.
The following three pictures have been made by pasting pictures of the model on a new background.
This is done by the help of a photo editing program. The effect is often very dramatic.
Then we go to my last diorama: The forest fire.
I used LED lamps to make the fire light, but I have taken some of the pictures without using the lights. It shows that you might make this kind of dioramas without lights, although I feel that the lights add a new and more exciting dimension to the scene.
I hope you enjoyed this website!
Thank you for visiting!
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments