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These 19 Firefighting Aircraft Are Taking Care Of Business This Summer

There's a wildfire just west of our office in Boulder, CO, and we've been watching several of these aircraft and helicopters flying overhead all week.

1) CL-215 Scooper

The Scooper was the first in a line of firefighting aircraft made by Canadair (acquired by Bombardier). And, it can get rid of more that 1,000 gallons of water in a hurry.

Shawn Noseworthy

2) PZL M-18 Dromader

The Dromader is a Polish aircraft that was built in the 1970s with the help of US manufacturer Rockwell International. The Polish wanted FAA certification to help sell their planes worldwide, and Rockwell wanted Poland's high-powered radial engines on its own agricultural airplanes.


3) UH-60 Blackhawk

The Blackhawk is one of the most versatile helicopters in the US Army's fleet.

US Army

4) IL-76

Need to lift a lot of water? The IL-76 can do it. It was originally designed to deliver heavy machinery to remote locations, but approximately 25 were modified for firefighting capability.


5) Mil Mi-8

The Mi-8 is one of the most produced helicopters in the world. Approximately 40 of them are equipped for firefighting operations.


6) Grumman S-2 Tracker

The S-2 was the United States' first purpose-built anti-submarine aircraft. While they're no longer used by the US to hunt subs, several of them are operational water bombers.


7) S-64 Skycrane

When it's not helping build skyscrapers, the Skycrane is hauling 2,650 gallons of water to fight fires.


8) L-188 Electra

The L-1888 was the first large turboprop airliner built in the US. Unfortunately, after two fatal crashes, orders for the plane stopped. However, modifications to the design have allowed the Electra to continue firefighting even today.


9) Bell 205

Most people think of Bells as news or police helicopters, but they're pretty good and fighting fires as well.


10) B-25

From the Doolittle Raid to water bombing, the B-25 has been in action for over 73 years.


11) C-130

The US Forest Service started using C-130s in the 1970s for firefighting. Their fleet was grounded in 2004, but they spent years suppressing fires and containing oil slicks. The National Guard uses them with the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS).


12) AT-802F Fire Boss

The Fire Boss can be configured with floats to reload closer to fires.

Eder Navacerrada

13) S-70 Firehawk

The Oregon National Guard was the first US military organization to use this heavy lifting helo for firefighting.


14) Be-200

Another heavy lifter from Russia, the Be-200 can carry 3,170 gallons of water and reload at sea.


15) BAe 146

You may have flown on the BAe 146 when it was used by airlines, but many of them now have been converted for firefighting.


16) CL-415

The 'SuperScooper' is one of the few aircraft built specifically for water bombing, and it's the big brother of the CL-215. It can land and reload on water, and it just looks cool doing its job.

17) CH-46 Sea Knight

The Sea Knight can haul pretty much anything, including over 2,400 gallons of water.

Oregon Department of Forestry

18) DC-10

Here's some heavy metal. The DC-10 can drop 12,000 gallons of water - that's up to 10 times more than most mainstream firefighting aircraft.


19) 747

Want to see the biggest of them all? Here's a 747 dropping 20,500 gallons of water! Awesome.

Wright Flyer

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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