Two aircraft crashes in Australia connected to bushfires

Dromader M-18 air tanker
File photo of Dromader M-18 in Prineville, Oregon. Photo by Ted Quackenbush.

Two pilots were killed in Australia Wednesday and Thursday in separate crashes while they were fighting or supporting bushfires in New South Wales.

On Wednesday Peter Brereton, 60, was killed when his light plane crashed on his way back from dropping off spare parts for a helicopter used in the fire fighting efforts on the south coast of NSW October 23, 2013. After he did not return as expected a search located the wreckage Thursday morning in rugged terrain near Mt Hotham in Victoria. Eight helicopters and two fixed wing planes were involved in the search for the Cessna. He had recently retired from the Country Fire Authority as an Operations Officer for District 22 that covers Shepparton.

David Black, 43, died when his Dromader single engine air tanker crashed while fighting a fire at Wirritin in Budawang National Park, 40 kilometers west of Ulladulla, around 10 a.m. on October 24, 2013.  The Australian network ABC reported that a wing snapped off the aircraft before it went down. The crash started another bushfire which, along with high winds, was hampering efforts to reach the pilot. Other firefighting aircraft were called to the area and were attempting to slow the spread of the fire.

Our sincere condolences go out to the families and coworkers of both pilots.

Stunning UAV video of bushfire

UAV video bushfire near Lithgow, NWS
UAV video bushfire near Lithgow, NWS
Still image from a UAV video of a bushfire near Lithgow, NWS

The video below of a bushfire was shot by an unmanned helicopter near Lithgow, a city in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. While there are several issues that would need to be addressed to deploy one safely over an active wildfire, the benefits of having live aerial streaming video available to firefighters on the ground could be enormous.

The UAV was piloted by Cividrones.

Airliner painted to honor FDNY firefighters

Jet Blue - FDNY plane

Jet Blue painted an Airbus A320 in red to honor the firefighters of the Fire Department of New York City. At 7:20 a.m. Wednesday the aircraft with the FDNY logo on the tail flew at 2,000 feet over the Hudson River in New York from the Verrazano Bridge to the George Washington Bridge.

MyFoxNY has a video of the flyover; fast forward to 2:15 to get a good look at the aircraft.

Airbus begins tests of C295 air tanker

C295 test water drop
C295 test water drop
C295 test drop. Airbus photo.

Airbus Military has begun tests near Cordoba, Spain of a C295 aircraft modified as an air tanker. The flights went well, according to the company, and further tests are planned in the near future to make a more detailed analysis of the C295 as a firefighter aircraft.

The C295 looks similar to the C-27J but it has less impressive performance. According to Wikipedia (see the links above) the payload capacity of the C295 is about 5,000 pounds less and the engines have 57 percent of the horsepower of the C-27J. It would probably carry about 400 gallons less retardant than the C-27J, with a capacity of around 1,400 to 1,700 gallons is our guess.

Comparison, C-27J and C295
Comparison, C-27J and C295. Info from Wikipedia. (click to enlarge)

Rumor has it that France is considering replacing their fleet of Conair Turbocats, which are retrofitted Grumman S-2 Trackers.

A Polish Air Force CASA C-295M
A Polish Air Force CASA C-295M

 

Thanks go out to Walter

2013 Airtanker and Water Scooper Forum

The U.S. Forest Service has scheduled an “Airtanker and Water Scooper Forum” to be held in Boise November 19-20, 2013. Today they posted a notice about it at the GSA site that is normally used for solicitations about contracts and requests for proposals, fbo.gov — an odd way to advertise a conference. It even has a Solicitation Number (SN-2014-01). But, almost everything the federal government does concerning fire aviation is odd.

This is rather short notice for a meeting like this.

The topics include:

  • Questions (preferably submitted in advance) and answers.
  • Review of accidents.
  • Future strategy for airtankers, VLATs, and water scoopers: next-gen, legacy, budgets, fleet design, aerial supervision, policy and operational changes, pilot practical test standards.
  • Contracts Q&A.
  • Aviation audits.
  • Technology: ATU, AFF, AFUE.
  • Aviation program updates: FAS-AVID report, night flying, public aircraft operations, retardant avoidance areas.

More information about the “Forum”.
The agenda.
Registration form.

Speaking of aviation, I checked into air fares between Rapid City and Boise and was shocked — $858 was the lowest. Holy Crap. RAP is expensive to fly out of because of a lack of competition.

Thankfully, as far as I know there is no admission fee to attend the Forum.

Australians impatient to get Air-Cranes into the air

Erickson Elvis in Victoria
File photo of Elvis in Victoria. Erickson photo.

The Australian government has been contracting for Erickson Air-Crane helicopters during their down-under fire seasons since ”Millie” (N223AC) was deployed there in 1997. They seem to have a special fondness for the ships which can carry 2,650 gallons of water, especially since the 2001-2002 bushfire season when ”Georgia Peach” (N154AC) and “Incredible Hulk” (N164AC), were rushed out from the U.S.A on board a Russian Antonov An-124 air freighter to assist with bushfires near Sydney, working with “Elvis” which was already “in the building”.

Their fire season this year has caught the Aussies by surprise, starting in New South Wales weeks earlier than usual — before the contract for the Sky-Cranes begins. While at least two Air-Cranes had already been shipped to the country from Greece by air freighter, not all of the flight crews had arrived when dozens of very large bush fires broke out that so far have burned about 200 homes and caused the death of one person. There is a bit of a controversy going on with some residents not able to understand why the huge helicopters can’t be used to fight fires without a flight crew.

One headline shouted the news:

Critical US water bomber grounded during NSW bushfire crisis

Reports say that by this weekend both Air-Cranes were actively fighting the fires.

Erickson Air-Crane

Commemorating air tanker pilots in Spain

43 GrupoAnother video has been produced about the 43rd Grupo (Group) Firefighting Squadron of the Spanish Air Force commissioned in 1971 when the first Canadair CL-215 arrived in the country. During four decades and 150,000 flight hours, the Squadron has suffered 9 fatal accidents, with a total of 15 casualties and the loss of 25% of its fleet. War-fighting in peace time. Ten years have passed since that last accident, and this video honors those young aviators who gave it all.

Other 43 Grupo videos can be found at Wildfire Today.

2011 was an especially bad year for aerial firefighters in Spain. At least 11 firefighters died in accidents involving helicopters and a single engine air tanker.

 

Thanks go out to Hidros