Helimax CH-47D begins its bushfire season in Australia

Above:  Before it was repainted and shipped to Australia, Helimax’s N948CH, seen in the background here, was photographed in Sacramento March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(Originally published at 11:05 a.m. MST November 16, 2017)

One of Helimax’s CH-47D’s has been shipped to Australia and will be working for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service during their summer bushfire season.

According to the Wollondilly Advertiser, which has photos and more information, it will be working out of Camden, NSW southwest of Sydney (map) using an external water bucket carrying about 2,000 gallons.

An aircraft resembling the Chinook was spotted in a shipping box it shared with one of Coulson’s S-61’s in a photo posted November 3, 2017 by Coulson.

The video below from the Wollondilly Advertiser, shows the Chinook taking off near Camden, NSW.

Helimax CH-47D helicopter
Another one of Helimax’s CH-47D’s photographed by Bill Gabbert March 23, 2016 in Sacramento, Calif.

A tour of Air Tanker 912

Also known in Australia as Bomber 912, or “Nancy Bird”.

Above: File photo of Air Tanker 912, a DC-10, making a quick orbit over the Indian Canyon Fire to check out the last of two drops the aircraft had just made just after sunset near Edgemont, South Dakota July 17, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Air Tanker 912 is beginning its contract with New South Wales in Australia, working out of Richmond. The NSW Rural Fire Service produced this video featuring pilot Captain R. K. Smithley giving us a tour of the huge 11,600-gallon capacity aircraft. (If you are having trouble seeing the video you can view it at YouTube.

10 Tanker Air Carrier recently renamed the aircraft “Nancy Bird”, honoring a renowned aviatrix in Australia.

Firefighting aircraft migrate south of the equator

Four large North American air tankers will be in Australia during their 2017-2018 summer.

Again for the Australian bushfire season four large air tankers are migrating from North America to assist the firefighters down under. During the 2017-2018 summer there will be one DC-10 from 10 Tanker Air Carrier, one RJ85 from Conair/Field Air, and two C-130’s from Coulson — plus a couple of Coulson S-61 Type 1 helicopters.

The contracts for the aircraft have different mandatory availability periods. One of the C-130’s has been there for a while.  For the last couple of Australian summers Conair and Field Air collaborated to bring an RJ85 from Canada to Australia, and they will have one there again. Jeff Berry of Conair said it will ferry there in late November for their contract that begins in mid-December. In 2014-2015 it worked until March, 2015.

The video below was not shot in Australia, however, it’s interesting seeing seeing an RJ85 airliner converted into an air tanker.

Coulson air tanker begins its down under bushfire season

Coulson’s Air Tanker 132, known as “Thor” in Australia, began its bushfire season contract with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service at Sydney September 1. Shortly after being introduced to the media it was dispatched to a fire.

Another of their C-130’s, Tanker 131, will be heading down there later this year. It will be based in the state of Victoria.

New South Wales expects to continue to use DC-10 and C-130 air tankers

Above: A DC-10 drops on a fire in Australia. New South Wales Rural Fire Service photo.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service apparently thinks their two year trial of two air tankers, a DC-10 and a C-130, was a success, and expect to keep using them for several more years.

The state of Victoria also has been using air tankers from North America during their down under summer for the last two years, an RJ85 and another C-130. Both states have been using single engine air tankers and helicopters for a long time to aid firefighters battling bush fires.

Tanker 391’s missions during the Australian summer

While Conair’s Tanker 391, an RJ85, was in Australia during their 2016-2017 summer, it delivered more than 450,000 liters (119,000 gallons) of retardant, foam and gel onto fires in Victoria and New South Wales for Vic Emergency, Forest Fire Management Victoria, CFA (Country Fire Authority), NSW Rural Fire Service, and other agencies. The aircraft has now returned to Canada.

(Above Graphic by RJ85 Australia)

The photo below won 3rd prize in the Professional category in the 12th Annual Dahl Mountain Photo Competition in Rapid City in which there were 215 entries. The photo shows an RJ85 air tanker making a retardant drop on the Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota June 27, 2016. The image below may show the price “starting at $0.00”. That of course is not correct. Click on it to get more information.

Art Prints

Slow motion video of air tanker drops

This video has excellent footage of air tanker 131, a C-130Q (Bomber 390 in Australia) and Bomber 391, an RJ85, dropping water during the air show at Avalon, Victoria in Australia during the weekend of March 4. Both of Coulson’s C-130’s have since returned to North America.

It appears from the Facebook post below that the RJ85’s contract down under may also be drawing to a close.

Inquest finds inadequate inspection contributed to fatal air tanker crash

A coroner’s inquest found that an inadequate inspection contributed to the crash of an air tanker in New South Wales, Australia.

Dromader M-18 air tanker
File photo of Dromader M-18. Photo by Ted Quackenbush.

David Black, 43, died when his M18 Dromader single engine air tanker crashed while fighting a fire at Wirritin in Budawang National Park, 40 kilometers west of Ulladulla, October 24, 2013 when a wing snapped off the aircraft as it was approaching the fire. The crash started another bushfire which, along with high winds, hampered efforts to reach the pilot.

Below is an excerpt from an article at 9news:

[The aircraft] was tested and inspected just over two months earlier by two companies, Aviation NDT and Beal Aircraft Maintenance, but [Deputy State Coroner Derek] Lee said the work was inadequately done.

He wrote in his findings that testing by Aviation NDT used an unauthorised method and did not comply with the mandatory requirements of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Further, the plane’s wings were not removed during a visual inspection by Beal Aircraft Maintenance, meaning that corrosion and cracking on one of the left wing’s attachment lugs was not detected.

By the time Mr Black crashed in October, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that cracking on the inner surface of the lug had reached a critical length of 10.4 millimetres and at least 32 secondary micro cracks were also identified.

The engineer behind the visual inspection, Donald Beal, told the inquest the manufacturer’s service bulletin did not mandate removal of the wings, so he didn’t see any need to remove them.

Mr Beal also said there was ambiguity about what visual inspections actually involved, Mr Lee recalled in his findings.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chris.
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