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.

Victoria picks up Tanker 132 on contract

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.

Tanker 131 fire crew
Tanker 131 and her crew on contract in Victoria. Coulson photo.
Tanker 132 fire crew
Tanker 132 and her crew on contract in Victoria. Coulson photo.

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.

A third Air-Crane is now under contract in Victoria

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.

Erickson Air-Crane
Photo by Erickson Air-Crane

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.

Photos of aircraft fighting bushfires in Victoria, Australia

Air tanker Victoria
Tanker 132

The Country Fire Authority recently released some excellent photos of aircraft that are fighting bushfires in Victoria, Australia.

Air tanker Victoria
Tanker 162

helicopter Victoria

Air tanker Victoria
Tanker 160

Air tanker Victoria

Continue reading “Photos of aircraft fighting bushfires in Victoria, Australia”

Currency training for heli-rappellers in Australia

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.

Video of RJ85 dropping on a fire in Australia

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.

More about the Lorne-Jamieson Track Bushfire that burned 116 homes.

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.