ABOVE: The Canadair CL-215 believed to be operated by the Hellenic Air Force’s 335th Tactical Transport Squadron

An aircraft fighting wildfires in Greece has crashed on the island of Evia, with the loss of both crew.

The Canadair CL-215 ‘Scooper’ crashed just after 3pm (12:00 GMT) during a firefighting operation in Platanistos, Evia, with two crew on board. Footage seen on state television shows the low-flying aircraft dropping its water load before rolling right, stalling and erupting into a ball of fire upon impact with the ground.

After an Air Force statement confirmed that a search and rescue operation was underway, with one Super Puma one AB-205 helicopter of the Air Force joined by a S-70 Navy helicopter, Greece’s defence ministry later confirmed that both pilots – aged 34 and 27 – had lost their lives.

The Canadair Cl-215 is a high-wing, twin-engine platform optimized for aerial firefighting operations; housing two 1,400L hydraulically-actuated water tanks within its belly. Missions typically range from three to three and a half hours of firefighting before the aircraft returns to base for refuelling and inspection. It is part of the Hellenic Air Force’s fleet of firefighting aircraft (which also includes the CL-415 and the PZL M-18B), described as ‘an essential and active component to the National Firefighting Brigade’.

Greece’s ‘Scooper’ aircraft are operated by the Hellenic Air Force’s 355th Tactical Transport Squadron, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in November 2022. Named after the Greek god of fire, Hephaestus, the squadron is also nicknamed the ‘Dragons’ owing to the ‘roaring’ noise of the aircraft’s two Pratt & Whitney R-299-83AM Double Wasp engines.

Wildfires have been raging across Greece for the last week, with the island of Rhodes particularly hard-hit. More than 30,000 people have fled the flames on the island since the weekend, with several other areas (including Crete) placed on high alert.