IRKUT CORTORATION announced on July 5 that one of the Beriev Be-200 amphibian prototypes had left Russia that day for Italy, where it will be used to fight forest fires. The aircraft will be flown on behalf of Italy’s Protezione Civile (Civil Protection Department) by SOREM Sri, which already operates the Protezione Civile’s Bombardier 415 amphibians. It is initially being flown under a leasing arrangement to enable test operations before any decision to buy is taken.
A Be-200 had been demonstrated fighting forest fires in Italy last autumn, completing 46 sorties totalling 90 hours, including the extinguishing of three fires on Sardinia on September 3, 11 and 13. The demonstrations led to a request by the Protezione Civile for a number of improvements in performance, which were then made, together with some adaptation to suit Italian operational conditions. In particular, Irkut has modified the aircraft to regulate injection of chemical retardants into the water tanks to take into account the type of fire being dealt with, and the special features of chemical reagents used in Italy. Avionics software has been modified to provide displays in both metric and Imperial. Further modifications requested by Italy will be carried out after studies are completed.
For the duration of the lease, the Be-200 will be flown by joint crews of Russian and Italian pilots trained by Beriev, who took part in last year’s trials of the aircraft.