The new Coulson C-130Q in action (Image © CFA)

Big fire-fighters at work in Australia

For the first time in history Australia uses big airtankers as part of its fire-fighting force. A Coulson C-130Q Hercules and a Conair RJ85AT have been dispatched in the beginning of December to Avalon Airport southwest of Melbourne in Victoria. The state currently combats hard to kill bushfires, as well does neighbouring South Australia at the Sampson Flat just northeast of the outskirts of Adelaide.

The new Coulson C-130Q in action (Image © CFA)
Featured image: the new Coulson C-130Q Airtanker in action (Image © CFA)
Victoria’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) issued yet another emergency warning on 5 January 2015, advising people near Balmoral to move out because of a “fast moving, out of control bushfire travelling in a northerly direction from the Black Range State Forest”. The fire reached the Mt. Talbot Reserve on Monday and the CFA warned that “privae properties could be impacted anytime within the next hour”.

Air Fleet
Being used to bushfires during the current Summer season Victoria already had an air fleet of 46 planes and helicopters. The contracted support from Canadian companies Coulson and Conair adds big capacity to that, with the Conair RJ85AT no. 162 being able to drop 3,300 US gallons (12,492 litres) of water or fire retardant at a speed of 120 knots. Fully loaded the Avro is able to shuttle back and forth at a cruise speed of 390 knots. The Coulson Hercules no. 131 can even drop 3,500 gallons (16,000 litres) of stuff onto the fire. Both aircraft debuted on 18 December, fighting the Creightons Creek fire, south of Euroa.

Already in December Victoria pre-positioned some of its choppers. Two Orange Erickson Aircranes were moved to Essendon and Ballarat. The Coulson contracted pair of Sikorsky S61s were moved to Colac and Mansfield.

The Conair Avro RJ85AT  striking a pose at Avalon (Image © CFA)
The Conair Avro RJ85AT striking a pose at Avalon (Image © CFA)
The Coulson C-130Q striking a pose at Avalon (Image © CFA)
The Coulson C-130Q striking a pose at Avalon (Image © CFA)

South Australia
The South Australia Country Fire Service (CFS) has 14 fixed-wing and four helicopters steadily contracted during the Summer season, but more are possible. Aerotech First Response supplies up to 10 Air Tractor AT-802s. Of the AT-802s six are based at Woodside, two at Port Lincoln and two based at Mt Gambier. They can drop 840 US gallons (3,200 litres) of water or fire retardant at a time. An Erickson Aircrane (Sikorsky S64E) is based in the Adelaide Hills. It can drop 1,980 US gallons (7,500 litres) of fluid.

Moreover the CFS uses several scout and observation planes. Aerotech 1st Response supplies South Australia with Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and two Cessna 182s. Lincoln Air Charter owns a third Cessna 182. Moreover, two Eurocopter AS350 Squirrels, with an Eurocopter EC130 being provided by MAC Helicopter Rescue Service.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, based on source information provided by the CFA and CFS

The Aerotech Air Tractor AT-802, of which ten are available in South Australia (Image © CFS)
The Aerotech Air Tractor AT-802, of which ten are available in South Australia (Image © CFS)
The MAC EC130 (Image © CFS)
The MAC EC130 (Image © CFS)
The Conair Avro RJ85AT in action (Image © Conair)
The Conair Avro RJ85AT in action (Image © Conair)