Aircranes continue to stay busy in Australia

Stymied by contracting regulations in the United States, Erickson’s Aircrane helicopters are still loved down under.

Above: An Aircrane reloads with retardant while fighting the Beaver Fire northwest of Yreka, California, August 12, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Erickson’s Australian partner Kestrel Aviation signed up for a third S64E Aircrane helicopter to support firefighting efforts in Victoria state. Erickson has six Aircranes currently working in Australia.

“We are proud to help protect the lives and homes of Victoria’s residents during the peak of their fire season,” said Andy Mills, Erickson v-p of commercial aviation services. “Our crews have already been busy fighting fires in Western Australia and New South Wales.”

The third Aircrane, previously stationed in Sydney, New South Wales to fight fires, has been reassigned to Mangalore, Victoria where it remains available as required for the remainder of the fire season.

Erickson has also been contracted in support of the initial phases of NASA’s 3rd Generation Mid-Air Retrieval Project focused on mid-air retrieval of NASA spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere. Erickson is contracted to study the concept of operations for proposed NASA missions that employ mid-air retrieval using a single S-64F Aircrane helicopter.

North American firefighting aircraft in Australia beginning to head back home

As the bushfire season winds down in Australia the large and very large air tankers are beginning to migrate back north to North America to prepare for the fire season back home. The DC-10, Tanker 910, arrived at Albuquerque at 8 p.m. Friday night after flying over 8,500 miles from Melbourne, stopping in Pago Pago and Honolulu on the way.

Two of the DC-10s will be on exclusive use contracts with the U.S. Forest Service this summer; one starts in late April and another in early May.

Tanker 910 DC-10 fire
The photo, supplied by 10 Tanker, shows Tanker 910, a DC-10, at Albuquerque Friday night after returning from a deployment in Australia. It could be a little blurry because the crew and aircraft may have been exhausted after flying for over 8,500 miles from Melbourne.

Conair’s Tanker 162 (an RJ85) and Coulson’s two C-130s (T-131 and T-132) are expected to depart around March 1. Britt Coulson said their two S-61 helicopters (photos) have both been extended for another week and a half and may get extensions beyond that if it continues to be hot.

One of our readers alerted us to the photo below that was taken February 28 when Tanker 910 stopped in Hawaii on the way back from Melbourne.

Air tankers in Victoria

Above: Conair’s Tanker 162, an RJ85 at Avalon Airport, Victoria, Australia.

The Country Fire Authority currently has one very large and three large air tankers on contract during their summer bushfire season working out of Avalon Airport near Melbourne, Australia (map). The down under fire season will likely be winding down soon and the aircraft will migrate back to North America.

In recent weeks the air tankers were deployed across the Bass Strait to Tasmania. This may have been the first time large aerial firefighting assets were used in the state. The Fire Service felt it was necessary to warn the residents to “not be alarmed” when they saw the air tankers “flying a bit low over the coast”.

air tanker 910 DC-10
10 Tanker’s T-910, a DC-10, at Avalon, Victoria.
air tanker 131 at Avalon
Coulson’s Tanker 131, a C-130 (known as T-390 in Victoria) at Avalon, Victoria.
air tanker 132 at Avalon
Coulson’s Tanker 132, a C-130, at Avalon, Victoria.
Bird Dogs Avalon
Bird Dogs at Avalon Airport, Victoria.
fire Retardant plant Avalon
The fire retardant mixing plant at Avalon, Victoria.

Photos provided by the Country Fire Authority, Victoria.