Canadair CL-215/CL-415 & Viking Air CL-515/DHC-515

While there are more aircraft types used for fire fighting, the Canadair CL-215 was the first one specifically designed for this task. It is an amphibian aircraft with a rugged construction and appearance. Its fuselage has a nearly square cross section, but with a boat shape underside. The tail cone is typical, as it only tapers in one direction; when viewed from the side, there is hardly taper. On top of the fuselage, not going through it, are the straight wings, with characteristic triangular streamline bodies underneath to support the flaps extension mechanism. Piston or turboprop engines are placed on top of the wings. Fixed floats near the wing tips help to stabilise the aircraft in the water. The tail is quite high and has a cruciform shape. All gears have single wheels, with the main gear retracting towards the side of the fuselage, under the wings.

Although Canadair was the designer and first manufacturer of the aircraft, it was later further developed by Bombardier and subsequently Viking Air (that also has the type certificates for all DeHavilland Canada models). 

Different versions

The different versions of the CL-215 faimly can be identified by:

  • the shape of the engine nacelles
  • the number of propeller blades
  • the presence of stabilising fins on the horizontal stabilisers 
  • the presence of a bullet fairing at the vertical-horizontal stabiliser connection
  • the presence of winglets/bent-up wing tips


As there were no suitable turboprop engines at the time, Canadair equipped the CL-215 with two radial piston engines with three blade propellers. Furthermore, it is a 'simple' version from a recognition point of view: the wing tips are straight and the horizontal stabilisers 'clean'. 

This is a CL-215 in its original shape, so with radial piston engines and clean wing tips and tail. The relatively large, cruciform tail is apparent!

This detail photo shows a nacelle of the Pratt & Withney R2800 engine of the CL-215. Note the triangular streamline bodies for the flaps extension mechanism under the wings!

CL-215T, CL-415, CL-415EAF & DHC-515

In the 1980s Canadair finally found a turboprop engine that could power the CL-215. It then offered a conversion programme for existing CL-215 users, after which the aircraft was known as CL-215T. Canadair also started to build new aircraft under the designation CL‑415. Both aircraft are externally the same. Compared to the CL-215 they have slimmer nacelles and four blade propellers. Additionally, the aircraft received a sort of winglets, but these are more end plates. Finally, a bullet fairing was added to the vertical-horizontal stabiliser junction, as well as swept stabilising fins on top and below the horizontal stabilisers.

When Viking Air took over all rights for the aircraft, the company continued production of the aircraft. They initially called it CL-415EAF (Enhanced Aerial Firefighter), after which the improved CL-515 was introduced. Now Viking Air uses the marketing name DHC-515, as new-built aircraft will be produced by its DeHavilland Canada subsidiary. Externally, all turboprop powered variants have remained the same though.

The CL-415 has slimmer nacelles, four blade props, winglets and stabilising fins on the tail as main recognition points from the CL-215.

The turboprop engines of the CL-415 have a slimmer nacelle, with an air intake below the prop spinner.

Confusion possible with

Grumman Albatross

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The Grumman Albatross has about the same size and appearance as the CL-215. Also, it has a double wheel nose gear. The Grumman aircraft is more 'curved' though, both the fuselage with cockpit windows and the vertical stabiliser, and the tail cone is 'properly' tapered.

Grumman G.73 Mallard

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One of the predecessors of the Goose is the Grumman Mallard. This aircraft is smaller than both the Albatros and the CL‑215, and has a nicely curved vertical stabiliser. Additionally, the nacelles of the radial engines are shorter.