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”.
Photos provided by the Country Fire Authority, Victoria.
Above: Air tankers 131 and 132, both on contract in Victoria. Coulson photo.
Both of Coulson’s C-130 air tankers have been working in Australia during the 2015/2016 bushfire season; 131 has been with the state of New South Wales while 132 was in Victoria. When the NWS contract with 132 ended recently, Victoria hired it, affording a rare opportunity to photograph both of them together.
Both of the air tankers are variants of the C-130 platform. T-131 is a C-130Q which served as a strategic communications link for the U.S. Navy’s Ballistic Missile submarine force and as a backup communications link for the U. S. Air Force manned strategic bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile forces. It had the capability to deploy two trailing wire antennas with the longest being 17,000 to 20,000 feet depending on the VLF frequency being used. The aircraft still has remnants of the system — a vent in front of the landing gear that brought in air to cool the wire spooling mechanism. (More information, a Word document, about the “TACAMO” communications system.)
T-132 is an L-382G, also known as an L-100-30, a civilian version of the C-130 that has been stretched about 15 feet compared to the L-100.
We like posting photos of firefighting aircraft with their crews. Too often we see dramatic photos of aircraft fighting fires, but the crews don’t always get the recognition they deserve. If you have any recent or classic photos along these lines, let us know. A description with names, places, and dates would be helpful.
Erickson Incorporated has been contracted through Australian partner Kestrel Aviation for a third S64E Aircrane helitanker to support firefighting efforts in the State of Victoria, Australia. In total, Erickson has six Aircranes currently working in the country.
The third Aircrane, previously stationed in Sydney, New South Wales to fight fires, has been reassigned to Mangalore, Victoria. The Aircrane will be available as required for the remainder of the fire season.
The S64 Aircrane can drop 2,650 gallons (7,500 liters) of water on fires in a single pass. With specialized snorkels, the Aircrane can also refill the tank in nearby bodies of water in less than 30 seconds.
The two Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) rappel firefighting crews at Ovens in Victoria, Australia undertook currency activities yesterday. They are part of the long-running Victorian rappel program which consists of two eight-member crews at both Ovens and Heyfield.
Rappel crews enable DELWP to rapidly access fires in the remote forest areas of Victoria where there are generally no clearings to land helicopters and road access takes many hours (if tracks exist at all).
For this reason, the rappel crews are used as first attack on bushfires.
As you can see in this clip, each firefighter individually abseils (or rappels) down a rope from a helicopter with a personal kit before a bag of firefighting equipment (hand tools such as rakehoes) is deployed.
The video shows an Avro RJ85 air tanker taking off from Avalon, Victoria, flying along the Great Ocean Road, over Lorne, dropping retardant on the Lorne-Jamieson Track Bushfire in Victoria, and flying out over the coast at Wye River. Video courtesy RJ85 Australia.
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).
Tanker 131 just received a new retardant tank and a redesigned “Next Gen Smart Controller” to operate the retardant delivery system.
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.
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.