Canadair Technicians and Pilots: Ready from the first to last light

The badge on the uniform of the co-pilot of the “113th Fighter Wing” of the Air Force reads: “1500 hours of flights”. After so many hours of flying with firefighting aircraft, does he think he has learned everything he needed to know? “Our work has a peculiarity, every wave, every water is different”, he answers with a short but meaningful phrase …

Shortly before the thermometer hit “red” and began to “smell” summer – a period during which most fires are usually recorded – the RES / EIA was found at 113 P.M. and talked to the people behind the “front line”, the technicians of the Hellenic Air Force.

Lieutenant Nikolaos Efstratiou, aircraft engineer, M.S.A. Aircraft Squadron Squadron Commander at 113 AM He explains that hard work is needed to keep airplanes in the air, a job that is primarily driven by man himself. “We always keep in mind that the citizen who suffers at some point may be a person of our own, our father, our mother, our grandfather … so we treat citizens as if they were our own people,” he said. Asked what he would say to those who are struggling during the difficult time of the fire, waiting for Canadair to come, he said: “I would tell them to be patient. And I would tell them that they need to know that we are doing our best to keep our planes up and running. ”

Making the night … day

In the summer, the workload is huge. But does most of the work “fall” day and night? “It’s not just ‘some hours’ we have to work at night. It is a given that we have to work at night. Especially in the summer, all scheduled inspections, inspections that take place every 50 and 100 hours on the aircraft, take place at night. In the summer you may need to get up to 5-6 hours in the morning for the plane to be ready, operational the next morning, to try if required. In the summer there is no night, no weekend, no holiday. We are present for any damage repair 24/7 so that an aircraft is ready operationally from the first light of day to the last “, answers with a steady voice the commander of the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Behind it stretches a huge shed, where up to five Canadair can be maintained at the same time!

This flying creature, which “collects” hundreds of liters of water in a few minutes and throws them on the fire front, the yellow-red Canadair is not a simple machine. Greek technicians, however, say they are ready for any challenge. “Our work starts from the restoration of the simplest damage that can happen to us up to the so-called 2nd Maintenance Degree, in which we get to work here in the M.S.A. A maintenance that takes place here in the Squadron, every year, and lasts three months. During this periodic inspection the aircraft is “solved” almost completely. Specifically, we work on the water system, the landing system, while the engines, propellers go down and a very good inspection and damage repair is done. This is a project that requires a lot of good,

How often will they see their home during the fire season? “Especially in the summer, when we are developing ladders from June 1st to the end of October, with half of our planes going to Elefsina, there are people who can stay there for even 100 days. It is difficult for their families to stay behind. And that’s not something they only do for a year or two, it’s something that some people do for 10 to 15 years in a row. It is something quite psychedelic “, explains Mr. Efstratiou.

A few meters further on, the smiling and proud of his people, Commander of 113 PM, Squadron Leader Flying (I) George Fortis, explains what summer means to the people of the Air Force who serve in these Squadrons.

He describes why the cooperation between pilots and engineers is always excellent. “From May 1 to October 31, Canadair CL-415 crews are on high alert for 20 minutes from the first to the last light. This means that if any order for take-off is given within 20 minutes, the aircraft must have taken off and headed for the area of ​​the fire “, the commander emphasizes.

The suitcase, the second house, the wonderful flying machines

Squadron Leader (I) also conveys the image of personnel missions during the firefighting season. “The challenge in this process, apart from the mission itself, is that all participants go on the plane with a suitcase. That’s because they don’t know where they’re going during the mission. The aircraft can operate from Evros to Crete, which means that during the mission it can go anywhere but also land anywhere in Greece and abroad “, explains Mr. Fortis.

“It simply came to our notice then. The Unit is our second home, we love what we do, we appreciate it, we honor it and we try to do our job as best we can “, says the commander of 113 P.M. conveying a rather unusual image compared to a “common” workplace.

As for the relationship of these people with their wonderful machines? The estimate starts with their offer. “Canadair’s role, their social contribution, what they offer to society as a whole is important. We try to defend not only the natural wealth of Greece but also the property of the Greeks. This is a huge legacy for us, it is an important task that we perform in full, with the maximum possible efficiency and security “, comments Mr. Fortis.

When a firefighting season is difficult …

Looking at the catastrophe from above and seeing people who are anxious cannot be a simple matter. “Although it may sound strange, we are trying to put emotions aside. We try to do our job with the highest possible level of professionalism because we know that we are also part of the Greek society, we are the part of it that wears a uniform “, answers the commander of 113 PM, which has its headquarters next to the bustling Thessaloniki Civil Airport.

As for missions that may not be possible, he comments: “Yes, there will be some such moments, but they are not due to us but to external factors. The cause may be the weather, something else that will not allow us to react and go to the front of the fire. In 99% of cases, however, we go to the fire. ”

“Would you change what you do with something?” … “No”, the squadron leader (I) answers without hesitation and explains why: “I love it, we all love what we do here very much, I guarantee it to you. We give our souls to what we do. ”

Lt. Gen. Efstratiou, the squadron commander of the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, is quick to explain that everything is done with this interest in mind. “We love it, we hurt it, the plane – and more. It is, you know, what will put out the fires in our country and it is one more reason to be careful. What we always want is a safe, operational aircraft. ”

Closing the discussion, his last words “hide” a lot of stubbornness and devotion to abundance: “We are doing our best. Let everyone be sure that if there is a plane available, it will not be at the moment of the fire on the ground … “, he says characteristically.

The time passes shortly before the departure of 113 P.M. We record the last images on the “hard drive” of the brain: a CL-415 that makes some “touch and go” on the treadmill since it is training day. Like the wide smiles in the wish for “good landings” …

S. Kyriakidis

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