Tail section of Bombardier 415 separated from fuselage while battling Corsican blaze.

All French-registered Bombardier 415 firefighting amphibians have been grounded following the mid-air break-up of an aircraft after releasing its water/foam mixture on a forest fire in Corsica.

Bombardier 415 Big

The aircraft had just completed dumping of its 6,137 litre (1,620USgal) water load over a forest fire that had been burning since the previous afternoon. Observers, including firefighters on the ground, saw the rear section separate completely from the main fuselage, hitting the ground several seconds after the rest of the aircraft. Both pilots died.

The defence arm of French accident investigation authority BEA, the BEAD, grounded the remaining aircraft in the fleet immediately after the accident. There are 10 415s in the French civil protection corps, two of which were stationed permanently in Corsica, the rest at Marseilles. The flight data recorder has been recovered intact. The BEAD was unable to comment on how long the aircraft would be grounded.

According to Bombardier, the 415 was delivered new to the civil protection corps in October 1995 as part of a 12-aircraft order. The only previous 415 crash was on 18 March, when an Italian civil protection corps aircraft struck power lines and crashed into a house near Versilia.

The Bombardier 415 is a high-wing, turboprop amphibian de­vel­oped from its 215 piston engine-powered predecessor, with a four-compartment, four-door water tank system that refills its tanks by skimming the surface of water. The aircraft first flew in 1993. There are 57 in service around the world.

Bombardier restarted 415 production last month and says it is in talks with several potential customers for both firefighting and multi-mission operations.


Source: Flight International