Dirk Jan de Ridder and Menso van Westrhenen spent a week with the pilot s of the Croatian Air Force’s Firefighting Squadron, who are among the most respected in their field.


CL-415 888 drops a 6,000-litre water ‘bomb’ over the Adriatic Sea during a training flight from its Zadar base. All photos Dirk Jan de Ridder and Menso van Westrhenen

SOME CHILDREN dream of becoming firefighters, others want to become pilots. Combining both may seem like a dream job, but firefighting pilots themselves liken their profession to a combination of being a surgeon and a miner. The pilots’ working days are long and they have to be very precise, while after a long day they often return home dirty, smelly and sweaty. Each has a bag packed with toothbrush, underwear and clothes to hand because they may be summoned at any time, sometimes not returning home for days or even weeks.

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