Category Archives: Special Mission

Hellenic CL-215 fire-fighters escape death

The crew of a Hellenic Air Force Bombardier (Canadair) CL-215 are probably the luckiest men on earth at the moment, escaping with only minor injuries from the aircraft an emergency landing went bad.

Looking at the images, published here among other location, one cannot think anything other that the pilot and co-pilot escaped death with narrow margins.

355 MTM Squadron

The CL-215 was engaged in combating a large fire near the village of Stefani in the Dervenochória, only 7 mls (11 km) north of Elefsis Airbase near Athens, home to the CL-215’s 355 MTM Squadron as well as seven other squadrons and a major part of the military airlift fleet of Greece.

Engine fire

According to Hellenic Air Force officials the left engine of the aircraft caught fire around 11:00 on the morning of 26 June. Attempting a safe landing the lack of trust threw the plane rather hard onto the ground where it struck objects while going astray.

Flight time

Local media report the pilot had 850 hours of flight time on the CL-215, and the co-pilot 250 hours.

Greek fire-fighting aircraft

It is the third time in two years that one of the HAF’s fire-fighting aircraft is written off. In May 2015 a CL-415 crashed, followed by a CL-215 in July last year. That leaves a remaining fleet of 39 aircraft to combat wildfires: 11 CL-215s, 7 newer CL-415GR/MPs and 21 PZL M18B Dromader planes from Poland.

© 2016 senior contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Hellenic Air Force CL-215 (Image © HAF)

First US Coast Guard Spartan gets colourful

The US Coast Guard (USCG) this week accepted its first HC-27J Spartan medium range surveillance aircraft in full USCG colours. The Asset Project Office in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, accepted the aircraft on 30 March.

The C-27J is one of 14 aircraft formerly in service with the US Air Force. Budget cuts forced the aircraft to be retired after only a few years of service, but the USCG was quick to snatch them up. The US Special Operations Command also took seven Spartans.


After retirement from the USAF, the aircraft were stored at the US Air Force’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group  (AMARG) in Tucson, Arizona. The first Spartan destined for the USCG was re-delivered to the coast guard’s station in Elizabeth City in November 2014.


The repaint was completed by Leading Edge Aviation Services in Fort Worth, Texas. This particular Spartan will be transferred to Air Station Sacramento, California, this summer to continue the station’s transition from the HC-130H to the C-27J.

Five Spartan aircraft have been in operation in Elizabeth City since completing the regeneration process; the Coast Guard is conducting test flights on a sixth aircraft at AMARG, where the process to bring the Spartans out of long-term preservation is completed.

Meanhwile, C-27J Spartan manufacturer Finmeccanica continues efforts to make the Spartan also Canada’s fixed wing search and rescue platform over sea.

© 2016 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): Smart looking Spartan (Image © USCG)

US Navy finally retires the Viking

The US Navy finally retired the Lockheed S-3 Viking earlier this week, performing a final flight from Naval Base Ventura County in  Point Mugu, California. It’s operational career ended in 2009 already, but three were retained for service with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-30.

The S-3 Viking first flew on 21 January 1972 and started its operational career two years later, serving as an anti-submarine platform. It’s size, shape and hoover-like engine sound made it very recognizable aboard US aircraft carriers.


Later in it career it also flew as an electronic warfare platform and as an carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft. Most of the 188 Vikings built ended up in storage at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) in Tucson, Arizona.

At least one aircraft escapes that fate, though. It will fly for NASA for some time to come.

© 2016 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Two Vikings overfly Naval Base Ventura County, California. (Image © US Navy)

Canada: one step closer to new fixed wing SAR

Canada is set to close a tender for a new Fix Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) aircraft on 11 January. Making a bid are FNM Aeronautics (formerly Alenia Aermacchi) with its C-27J Spartan,  Airbus with its C295 and reportedly, Embraer with its yet-to-finish-development KC-390. Also, Lockheed Martin wil probably pitch its C-130J Super Hercules.

The closing of the tender marks the beginning of a selection in which the Brazilian KC-390 is definitely an outsider with a marginally chance of winning. The new aircraft should replace ageing de Havilland CC-115 Buffalos and Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft needed for other tasks.

The CC-115 has been in service for nearly five decades, providing long range SAR coverage over vast empty oceans and vast empty stretches of Arctic ice. The new aircraft is to do exactly the same.

A C-27J Spartan. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
A C-27J Spartan. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)


Canada’s quest for an FWSAR aircraft has been a prolonged one. It started in 2004 and should have materialized into a ready aircraft in 2009. For various and mainly political reasons, that never happened.

The new type should be selected later in 2016 and deliveries are to start in 2018 with completion in 2023. A number of 17 aircraft has been mentioned, but it remains to be seen wether that will actually be the number on the final contract.

© 2016 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-115 Buffalo. (Image © RCAF / Miranda Langguth)

First flight of the new KC-390 (Image © Embraer S.A.)
The new KC-390, seen here during its first flight. (Image © Embraer S.A.)

Germany wants Open Skies Airbus A319

Germany is seeking to convert a used Airbus A319 corporate jet into an Open Skies aircraft, according to a tender issued this week. The jet should be ready in 2018 at a total cost of 60 million EUR and will operate alongside Germany’s fleet of A319 VIP aircraft and probably be based in Cologne.

The German Bundeswehr for years and years did not have the appropriate aircraft for fulfilling the 1992 Open Skies treaty and was forced to hire this capability elsewhere. The fact that Germany now wants its own capability is no surprise given the current international turmoil and the recent behaviour of Russia on the international stage in particular.

Until 1997, the German Air Force did have an aircraft suited for the Open Skies mission, being a former East German Air Force Tupolev Tu-154. This aircraft was lost however on 13 September 1997 when it collided at altitude with a US Air Force C-141 Starlifter off the coast of Namibia.

© 2015 editor Elmer van Hest