For the first time, two 3,000-gallon Type 1 air tankers will be put to regular use in Australia during their upcoming 2014/2015 summer bushfire season. Other than a brief trial of a DC-10 several years ago, Australia has rarely used large air tankers but instead has relied on single engine air tankers and helicopters for aerial support of firefighters on the ground. In 2010 they had the use of two 2,000-gallon Convair 580s, a Type 2 air tanker.
Britt Coulson said that their company, Coulson, will be be providing one of the large air tankers, their 4,000-gallon C-130Q known as Tanker 131. The other will be a 3,000-gallon RJ-85. The only company that currently operates RJ-85 air tankers is Aero Flite. Their two RJ-85s, Tankers 160 and 161, were first certified this summer. However, Judy Ziomek, the Vice President of the company, said Thursday that she was unaware that of one of their aircraft was destined to be used in Australia. Calls to Convair, the company that converted the RJ-85s into air tankers, were not returned. (Check out this unusual photo of Tanker 160.)
Kim Payne of Emergency Management Victoria, said the air tankers will be based at Avalon Airport in the south part of the state beginning in mid-December.
Victoria is also contracting for two Erickson Aircrane helicopters from the United States, and Coulson will, as usual, send two of their Sikorski S61s down under.
The state has appropriated $7.15 million in additional funding this year to bolster the state’s aerial firefighting fleet and increase the number of aircraft for the upcoming fire season.
Minister for Bushfire Response Kim Wells said this fire season, 46 specialist aircraft will help to support firefighters, which is four more aircraft than the previous fire season.
“Targeted aviation resources based in the Latrobe Valley will ensure rapid response to incidents across the whole Gippsland region and increase community safety,” Mr Wells said.
“In addition, Victoria will be the first Australian state to use the two large air tankers, which are some of the biggest firefighting aircraft available, and were most recently used to support firefighters in California.
The aircraft fleet will include:
- 2 large fixed wing airtankers;
- 1 firebombing helicopter to be based in the Latrobe Valley;
- 2 Erickson Aircranes capable of dropping 7,500 litres (1,980 gallons) of water;
- 2 large Sikorsky helicopters capable of dropping 3,500 litres (924 gallons) of water or transporting up to 17 firefighters;
- 5 medium sized firebombing helicopters;
- 15 light helicopters;
- 12 single engine airtankers;
- 2 infrared line-scanning fixed wing aircraft;
- 4 fixed wing firespotting aircraft; and
- 1 fixed wing aircraft to support the large air tankers.
The Aircrane helicopters and the large air tankers will be available for use in December, with the remaining fleet available later in October.