I always admired the pilots of the two PZL M18B "Dromader" fire-fighting airplanes that were stationed in Cephallonia's airport.
They were remarkably efficient. All around the island I could see small patches of burned land in the midst of beautiful pine and cypress trees; no doubt extinguished in time by those improbably small and fragile miracle planes and their courageous pilots. The conditions under which their Hellenic Air Force pilots worked were surely gruesome. They seemed always ready to take off in minutes, flying sortie after sortie until they extinguished the fire. They would fly low over the fire to get a good target and when they returned to replenish their tank with the fire-retardant their landings and takeoffs were often extraordinary: upwind or downwind, or from the middle of the runway, the pilots' only goal seemed to be a swift turnaround to fly another sortie. On some hot or windy days, just hours after they returned they would begin flying again to fight another fire.
Today at midday the two planes took off flying south-east toward Katelio. Some time later, one plane returned alone and dumped its retardant beside the runway—a highly unusual move. The other airplane never came back; a few minutes ago I read that it fell killing its pilot. To that pilot who never returned I want to publicly say: thank you!
Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 4:28 pm
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