North Carolina’s CL-215 being sold by company featured on reality show

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.

North Carolina's CL-215 before it was sold in March
North Carolina's CL-215 before it was sold in March. State of NC photo.

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.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

4 thoughts on “North Carolina’s CL-215 being sold by company featured on reality show”

  1. rats! wish I woulda known it was up for grabs! man…my own super scooper- would that have been cool or what!

  2. UUUhhhh Buffalo Airways

    At least the 215 is in better hands in two ways….

    no politics
    Pilots and mechanics that WILL take care of the two Pratt and Whitney R2800’s (IF those are still on it) both mechanically and as a resource.

    Not sayin NC was doing a bad job BUT after reading the State report….WEEELLLL lets just it another one of those famous management NON mangement decisions based on peoples lack of true knowledge of aviation assets and not being able to see farther ahead into the future with aging aircraft……

    Hopefully those Beech Barons that NCFS has did not come from the USFS….those series had an AD against them that is /was as expensive as a newer Baron B58

    Good Luck with those if you got those through FEPP and the USFS or even bought them after the fact

    Better look up those Beechcraft / Raytheon AD’s , buoooyzz.

    If so…You be in heap of troooble,boy….ya all hear??

  3. I saw the episode where the tankers made it to Turkey. They showed the pilots training the Turkish pilots and with cameras everywhere one the pilots forgot to put the landing gear down and did a belly landing destroying the bottom of the aircraft.

    1. I found a video of the wheels-up landing.

      And here’s information from the National Geographic Channel about an episode that may contain the incident:

      Episode 11: The Crash
      After thousands of hours of painstaking preparation and life-risking flying, a terrible accident devastates the Turkey crew – and everyone at Buffalo.
      Next Showing on National Geographic Channel:
      Wednesday, 18 April, 2012 at 1:30am ET

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