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.

A bagpiping tribute to the large air tankers at Avalon

It must have been a slow day at the air tanker base at the Avalon Airport (map) near Melbourne, New South Wales, Australia. Yes, in the screen grab above that is Phos-Chek loader Henry Ring playing a bagpipe while standing in the door of Conair’s RJ85.

Several large air tankers from North America have been on contract with the states of New South Wales and Victoria during their 2015/2016 summer bushfire season and have been staged at Avalon recently. In the video, uploaded to YouTube by Steve Forbes, you’ll see the inside and outside of the RJ85, one of 10 Tanker’s DC-10s, and at least one of the two Coulson C-130s, plus some bird dogs or lead planes.

The RJ-85 has a unique way of waving at the camera.

Mr. Forbes described the video:

In 2015/16 many air and ground personnel including aviation industry professionals, fire agency staff & volunteers and contract ground crews worked hard everyday of the Australian summer making sure the Large (and very large) Air tankers could be at the ready to protect the Australian communities. This is a tribute to these crews.

I hope you like the sound of a bagpipe.

Large air tankers assisting with bushfires in Tasmania

DC-10 Tasmania fire
A DC-10 air tanker working a fire in Tasmania February 12, 2016. Tasmania Fire Service photo.

Bushfires that have been raging across northwest Tasmania for several weeks are still causing great concern in the island state south of Australia.

Three air tankers from North America that have been working in Australia during their summer bushfire season have been recently deployed to Tasmania, including a DC-10, Avro RJ85, and a C-130. This may be the first time large aerial firefighting assets have been 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”.

In recent days some of the air tankers have departed from Avalon, near Melborne, and returned there after dropping retardant. Last month a portable retardant base was set up in northeast Tasmania at Launceston.

The video below shows the DC-10 dropping retardant out ahead of a fire in Tasmania. It is courtesy of Wayne Rigg of the Country Fire Authority.

c-130 air tanker Tasmania
A C-130 air tanker working a fire in Tasmania February 12, 2016. Tasmania Fire Service photo.
air tanker Tasmania
An air tanker working a fire in Tasmania February 12, 2016. Tasmania Fire Service photo.
large air tankers in Australia
The National Aerial Firefighting Centre created this poster illustrating the North American Air Tankers that are working in Australia during their 2015/2016 bushfire season.

Coulson’s Air Tanker 132, an L-382G, first began helping the Tasmanians January 26 and was reloading at the temporary fire retardant base installed in Launceston.

T-132 in Tasmania

More information about the bushfires in Tasmania is at Wildfire Today.

“Thor” builds retardant line in Australia

Known in the United States as Air Tanker 132 and down under as “Thor”, it is seen in this video posted by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service building retardant line out ahead of the Terraborra North Fire in the Hawkesbury local government area.

The video was published December 13, 2015.

Tanker 131 en route to Australia

T-131 C-130Q
Tanker 131, a C-130Q. Photo November 23 in Edmonton by Matt Ralph.

Air Tanker 131 (N130FF), Coulson’s C-130Q, arrived in Hawaii on Thursday after completing the first leg of its trip to Victoria, Australia. It is under contract with Emergency Management Victoria for their summer bushfire season, along with Conair’s Tanker 162, an RJ85, (N355AC).

Two other air tankers are already down under working for New South Wales, T-910 (N612AX) a DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, and Coulson’s Tanker 132, an L-382G (N405LC) which is a civilian stretched version of a C-130.

Tanker 131 just received a new retardant tank and a redesigned “Next Gen Smart Controller” to operate the retardant delivery system.

air tanker 131 retardant tank
The new retardant tank for Tanker 131 is on the right. The original tank is on the left. Photo by Matt Ralph.

The newer tank holds about 500 gallons more than the original tank and should enable an average retardant load of 4,200 USG and a maximum capacity of about 4,500 USG, according to Britt Counson. Tanker 132, an L-382G, also has the new version of the tank system.

Victoria to again have two large air tankers under contract this summer

Emergency Management Victoria will have two large air tankers from North America under firefighting contract again during their down-under summer.

Tanker 161 RJ85.
Tanker 161, an RJ85. Photo supplied by RJ85 Australia.

Beginning December 1 they expect to have the same types of aircraft that they employed in the 2014/2015 bushfire season — one of Conair’s RJ85s, and Coulson’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q (known in Australia as Bomber 390).

The RJ85, N355AC, is en route now island hopping across the Pacific after departing Abbotsford, British Columbia at 2:04 p.m. MST on November 14. When heard from last, it left Guadalcanal Nov. 17 at 3:03 p.m. MST on its final leg and was due in Australia Nov. 17 at 8:52 p.m. MST, a six-hour flight.  Last year because of the limited range of the RJ85, they used fuel bladders for the multi-day trip.

Coulson’s Tanker 131 (N130FF) is getting a new 4,000 USG tank and Smart Controller upgrade and is expected to depart for Australia by the end of next week.

During the 2014/2015 fire season the two air tankers completed 81 drops of fire retardant on fires in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

New South Wales already has two air tankers on duty, T-910 (N612AX) a DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, and Coulson’s Tanker 132, an L-382G (N405LC) which is a civilian stretched version of a C-130.

Tanker 132 arrives in Indonesia

T-132 on Indonesia runway

Coulson’s Tanker 132, known in Australia as “Thor”, has arrived in Palembang, Indonesia with a lead plane (in smoky conditions) to assist with the numerous large fires in the area. Local crews are preparing it for water dropping missions northeast of Palembang.

The photos were supplied by Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, which has the air tanker under contract during the Australian summer but has loaned it to Indonesia for a week or so.

T-132 on Indonesia ramp

T-132 and lead plane in Indonesia

Air tankers at La Grande, Oregon

T-10 at La Grande
T-10 (a BAe-146), another BAe-146, and an RJ85, La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.

Josh Annas took these photos of air tankers that were working out of Union County Airport in La Grande, Oregon (map) between July 20 and 24. The aircraft were working the Blue Creek Fire in the southwest corner of Washington.

Aaron tells us that on July 23, 13,000 gallons of Jet A fuel was used.

RJ85 at La Grande
An RJ85 at La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.
T-131 at La Grande
An RJ85 and T-131 (a C-130Q) at La Grande, OR, while a SEAT photo-bombs. Photo by Josh Annas.
Tanker 45, a P2V
Tanker 45, a P2V, at La Grande, OR. Photo by Josh Annas.