NewsWildfire Watch


Super Scoopers, the planes built for fighting wildfires

Super Scooper plane over the Colt fire
Posted at 8:59 AM, Jul 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-26 10:59:38-04

MISSOULA - During fire season, you may have seen some big red and yellow planes flying through the skies or dragging across a lake.

The CL 415 EAF nicknamed the "Super Scooper" can drop over 100,000 gallons of water onto a wildfire daily and has been very active in fighting the Colt Fire northwest of Seeley Lake.

The bottom of the plane is intentionally shaped like a boat for easier control on the water and they scoop the water with only the momentum of the plane dragging across the water.

Tim Sheehy, CEO and one of the pilots of Bridger Aerospace, says it takes a very skilled pilot to fight fires with these planes.

“Flying floats or flying amphibious aircraft is a whole other segment of aviation where you’ve gotta be both an expert high-speed boat driver and an expert pilot," he explained.

Sheehy also has advice for people who may be recreating on the lake when the Super Scoopers are in action.

“If you’re a boater on the lakes out there and you see big yellow planes coming in, get out of the way. You know, when jet skis and boats out there want to have fun they think it’s fun to race us or be in front of us," he told MTN News. "The reality is you might shut down that lake for water scooping and then we can’t fight that fire because we can’t risk potentially killing folks so if there’s aircrafts helicopters planes coming in scooping water grabbing water out of that water source get out of the way and give us the space to do our job because we’re trying to protect you and protect the environment.”

Sheely also says if you are asked to evacuate an area do so as quickly as possible because people hanging around those areas can interfere with fire operations.