The CL-215 was designed as a specialist firebomber, particularly suited to heavily forested regions. The resulting aerial firefighter is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-2800 radial engines and is capable of scooping up 5436 litres (1436 USG) of water in 12 seconds from a water source. The CL-215 Series 1 aircraft first flew on October 23, 1967 and the first delivery was to the French Civil Protection agency in June 1969.

Production of piston-powered CL-215s continued through 1990 ending with the Series 5 aircraft standard.

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