You may remember when Wildfire Today told you last year that the state of North Carolina sold their CL-215 water-scooping air tanker on eBay for $445,099. Money was cited as the reason for unloading the aircraft, and at the time the state government was not overflowing with cash. David Lane, head of the forest protection for the state’s Division of Forest Resources, said it cost up to $1.2 million a year to operate, which was 35 percent of the division’s aircraft budget and they did not have the funding for an estimated $1.5 million needed for repairs and FAA-required maintenance.
There are several twists to this story.
The aircraft is now listed for sale by the new buyer for $3.5 million, almost eight times North Carolina’s selling price, but it remains to be seen if anyone will pay that price. The state bought the aircraft, which was manufactured in 1969, for $4 million in 1998.
North Carolina sold the air tanker a month before the 20,000+ acre Pains Bay fire started. Fire managers in the state loved the aircraft, and for 14 years had counted on the quick turn-around 1,400-gallon water drops it could make. It was replaced with some contracted single-engine air tankers that could also scoop water.
The company that bought the CL-215 on eBay, Buffalo Airways of Yellowknife, Northwest Territory, Canada has their own reality show on the National Geographic and History Channels called “Ice Pilots”. Buffalo has owned other CL-215s. We wrote about the show in August of last year when they aired a series of episodes in which the company had sold two of them to the Turkish government and were attempting to deliver them to the buyer, flying them across Canada, the north Atlantic, and Europe. (I never heard if they made it all the way to Turkey.) The Weather Channel has picked up “Ice Pilots” and is showing season three at 9 p.m. ET on Mondays. A fourth season is currently in production. You can watch full episodes of the show online at History Television (update, but it appears that only Canadians can view the online episodes).
The Charlotte Observer has more details about the saga of North Carolina’s CL-215.