On July 23, 2007 a Canadair CL-415 amphibian water-bomber crashed while fighting fire in a wildland-rural interface area near the town of Styra, on the island of Evia in Greece. Both pilots were killed on the spot.
The fire started in the morning of that day. It picked up momentum quickly, due to the high temperature (42 oC), low humidity and strong wind, burning pines, shrubs, and agricultural cultivations. Initial attack failed. As the fire moved towards the town of Styra and the surrounding wildland-rural interface area, seven Canadair water-bombers were dispatched in an effort to control the blaze. One of these planes, according to eye-witnesses on TV reports, flying only a few meters above the ground and after releasing its water load, failed to clear the slope. One of the wings touched the ground and the plane crashed into the hillside between two houses. Both pilots werekilled.
Investigation of the accident is underway. However, it seems quite likely that the accident is the result of the extreme work load and pressure that the pilots, the firefighting planes of the national fleet and the contracted heavy lift helicopters have endured for the last month, due to the high number of fire starts, the difficult fire weather conditions and the ineffectiveness of the ground forces. These conditions have resulted in excessive use of the aerial means for extended attack on large fires under adverse conditions, often trying to protect villages and people on the ground.
The plane was built in 2001 and was the latest addition to Greece’s water bomber fleet. It had been delivered in March 2004 and had approximately 1400 flight hours.
Two more Canadair CL-215 water-bombers experienced engine failures in the two following days (24 and 25 of July) while firefighting in western Greece. Fortunately they were both able to land safely, flying with one engine.
Ironically, on the same day as the Canadair crash in Greece, another Canadair CL-415 water-bomber crashed in Italy’s central Abruzzo region, fighting a fire near S. Erasmo, Acciona. Italy is also struggling against wildfires fanned by soaring temperatures and strong winds. The pilot was killed while the co-pilot was seriouslyinjured.
Dr. Gavriil Xanthopoulos Research Forester (Forest Fires) Athens, Greece