I was talking to a new friend the other day about my job as a firefighting helicopter pilot. He asked me if the Erickson Air Crane that I flew was the largest fire fighting helicopter in the world. It is not. The best fire fighting helicopter in the world, but not the largest.The Chinook is a bit larger than the Air Crane and the Russian Mil 26 is about as big as both of them put together.
My friend asked about fixed wing water bombers. He wondered if the Canadair CL 415 was the largest water bomber. It is not. It is the best fixed wing water bomber in the world but not the largest.The Russians have some large water bombers naturally and the old Martin Mars is still a sight to behold. There are 747 ‘s and a DC-10 converted for water bombing as well.
Size is not everything when it comes to water bombing aircraft. A combination of water carrying capability, maneuverability and reliability are the more important than just an ability to carry a lot of water or retardant.
Some photos of the aircraft I mentioned are shown below.
The Mil 26.
The Canadair CL 415
Ilyushin-II-76TD Water Bomber
The Martin Mars(with me by the wheel)
Big is not always better. Just ask my Italian copilot Luca with one of Italy’s best fuel truck drivers backing him up.