AEROMEDIA
The Italian Aerospace Information Web
by Aeromedia - corso Giambone 46/18 - 10135 Torino (Italy)


Italian Flying Firefighters

SOREM (*), astablished in 1956 and now part of the Aeroservices group, from 1998 operates all the Bombardier (former Canadair) water bombers of the Italian Civil Protection Department (DPC). In December 2005 SOREM was awarded renewal contract expiring in 2015.
At the beginning of 2005, two CL-415 amphibian aircraft were sent to Sri Lanka, after the tsunami disaster, for a five month relief mission. During the 2006 summer season, SOREM used a total of 16 Bombardier 415s, each providing at least 12 flying hours a day. Three aircraft formed an operational reserve, rotating in active duty with aircraft undergoing maintenance.
From January 1 to mid December 2006, the Bombardier 415 aircraft operated by SOREM recorded 4,189 flying hours, including 2,649 in action. A total of 18,100 releases of extinguisher liquid (a mix of water and foam) were carried out (111,500,000 litres). There were 1,198 flight missions against 774 major fires. During the summer season (from June 12 to October 12) 2,847 flying hours were recorded, including 2,649 hours of operational flight. In the same period, 1,016 flight missions and 13,638 releases (981,888,000 litres) were recorded against 625 major fires. The activity of all the Italian firefighting aircraft, at all levels, is under the operational control of the Civil Protection Department through the COAU (Centro Operativo Aereo Unificato).
From 2006, besides the main base at Rome/Ciampino airport, SOREM established two new bases in Reggio Calabria and Genoa, in Southern and Northern Italy respectively. Genoa airport is also the location in which SOREM carries out aircraft maintenance through SAN and crew training through Air Columbia, a certified Flight Training Organization. Both companies are also part of the Aeroservices group.
In the meantime, a technical update programme has started, mainly devoted to increase the operational safety of the Bombardier 415 fleet. New equipment will be added by the manufacturer at their Canadian factory, such as Meteo Radar, Flight Data Recorder, Cockpit Voice Recorder and Auto Pilot. All the fleet will be upgraded this way by 2009, at a pace of five aircraft every year.
In 2004 and 2005 experimental activities were performed in Sardinia, using Russian manufactured Beriev Be-200 Altair twin-engine amphibian aircraft with a capacity of 12,000 liters (3,170 US gallons) of liquid. However this pressurized and fly-by-wire aircraft is still awaiting type certification by the European Airworthiness and Safety Agency.
SOREM is also the owner of six Canadair CL-215 water bombers, earlier piston-engined models able to deliver 6,000 liters (1,585 US gallons) of water, operated in other countries such as Portugal (2004), Turkey (2004/2005), Kosovo and Albania.
Besides SOREM, Aeroservices group controls other aviation-related companies such as SAN, Itali Airlines, Air Columbia Servizi Aerei and Air Columbia. The group, with a current workforce of 500, forecasts a turnover of about 100 million Euro.

(*) SocietÓ Ricerche Esperienze Meteorologiche

In the picture: A Bombardier 415 in action against a bush-fire. (Aeromedia))

(Aeromedia, December 2006)