A fourth large air tanker arrives in Australia

This will be the first time a 737 air tanker has been used on a wildfire

737, an RJ85, C-130 air tanker Sydney Australia
A 737, RJ85, and a C-130 are introduced to the media at Sydney, Australia.

Today the New South Wales Rural Fire Service introduced to the media the fourth large air tanker that will be assisting ground-based firefighters in NSW and other Australian states during their bushfire season that is well underway.

The conversion of the Boeing 737 airliner into what Coulson calls a “Fireliner” was just completed a few months ago and has not yet dropped on a live fire. Tanker 137, nicknamed “Gaia”, arrived at Richmond RAAF Base near Sydney November 11 after a multi-day trip across the equator. It will be primarily based at the RAAF Base along with three other large air tankers from North America — a C-130Q (T-134), and two RJ85s (T-165 and T-166). Two other large air tankers will be based in Victoria at Avalon Airport in Melbourne, a C-130Q (T-131), and an RJ85 (T-163).

air tanker 137 737 fire australia
Air tanker 137, a Boeing 737, after arriving in Sydney, Australia November 11, 2018. Coulson photo.

One of the speakers at the welcoming ceremony said one feature that separates the 737 from the other air tankers is that when it is not carrying 4,000 gallons of fire retardant, it can transport up to 70 firefighters or other passengers.

The NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Troy Grant, announced that $23.6 million will be available for a large air tanker to be permanently based in NWS. This will be a first for the state and the country.

11 thoughts on “A fourth large air tanker arrives in Australia”

  1. For whatever reason ,we could use these tankers in the US and in California ,in particular!
    Please don’t oversimplify and tell me it’s about the “rules ” .There should be exceptions ,made!

      1. Chuck, I’m not sure what point you are making. Are you saying that the four air tankers should not have been sent to Australia because they are needed in the U.S.? Or, that more air tankers should have been dropping on fires in California?

        If it is the latter, no firefighting aircraft could have been effective, or could have operated safely, during the first couple of days of the Camp and Woolsey Fires due to the very strong winds. The same has been true for several other large fires.

  2. That’s all fine ,however what I asked was to NOT oversimplify .
    Please give me the locations ,hours flown and the tail numbers of all of these aircraft during Sept -Nov ,2018. How many were from McClellan,and type?
    In my opinion a few 150 -200 gallon helos don’t count for much! Just ask the folks in Paradise ?

    1. Chuck, again what is your point here? As Bill stated, aircraft have wind tolerances and the effectiveness of these aircraft diminish greatly when the winds are very high. So, are you saying we should transfer risk to these pilots just because they are in aircraft and it makes you think there is no risk. Why fly helicopters and air tankers when we on the ground know they will not be effective? I feel non fire individuals just want to see aircraft in the air no matter what the circumstances are just to see an “air show”. Trust me, I have been up there in those winds and it is damn frighting to be put in those positions when we know it is futile and you just hope no one gets injured or hurt.

    2. Even if weather conditions allowed planes to fly 24/7, the number of aircraft sent to Australia for their fire season is pretty small compared to what we still have on-hand in the US. The Australian contracts are competitive because they’re a guaranteed revenue stream during the US off-season. They keep aircraft in-service that otherwise would be sitting on a tarmac on the off chance there’s a major fire to fight. These aircraft are owned and operated by private companies that serve on various types of contracts, they’re not owned by the government/taxpayers so they need to do whatever they can to keep paying their bills.

      It’s also worth noting that while we send some aircraft to Australia for their firefighting season, they often send very skilled wildland firefighters to assist with ours.

  3. Props to Coulson for putting out some great machines and excellent service! They definitely set themselves apart from the other Canadian operations.

  4. Not sure which helicopters were only dropping 150 gallons. Please consider that it’s not just 200 (or a lot more) gallons, but repeated every 4 to 10 minutes. Secondly, as the previous posters said, nobody was flying in those winds at first.

  5. Well Jim , why don’t you get some FACTS on which aircraft were available , which were sitting,at McClellan, and how short were they on pilots ??Do you have any idea on the Gallon load for CL 415 Scoopers, vs Helos ?? The 415s can have a turn around time in 90 sec or a little more and can retrieve a load in 12 sec or so . Your statement of Helos loading every 4-10 min. is pretty meaningless .Then ask yourself if it was appropriate that the USFS cancelled the contract for Scoopers for Fiscal 2018.Was that appropriate ?. I know ,I know, there are all kinds of excuses but that is an example of the wrong course of action; along with the USFS reducing large Air Tanker contracts from 20 >13 and Type 1 Helos from 34 to the 20’s .
    Then there is Mike ,above who seems to be a self- proclaimed expert on all facets of fighting wildfire and what pilots should be doing ,many people are dying and thousands of home are destroyed !
    I hope that you can investigate, and cogently educate all readers .

    1. You claim 90 second turns. Show me exactly where on the Camp Fire the scoopers would have been able to make 90 second turns. I’m calling bs.

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