Australia’s National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) has updated the graphic showing their aerial firefighting resources. The text is hard to read in this image, but you can download a higher-res version and a booklet.
On November 22 Air Tanker 137 dropped on a bushfire in New South Wales
On November 22 Air Tanker 137 made the first drop by a Boeing 737 on an active fire. It occurred in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia.
In these photos the aircraft was dropping gel, which clings to the vegetation and retains the moisture.
Coulson completed the conversion of the 737 a few months ago and it is now working on a contract with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service during their summer. Nicknamed “Gaia”, it 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).
The 737 Large Air Tanker ‘Gaia’ has been in action in the Hunter this afternoon – the first time this kind of plane has been used to fight a fire anywhere in the world. It’s provided valuable support to firefighters on the ground. #NSWRFS #nswfires #avgeek pic.twitter.com/qHnbcddFpe
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 22, 2018
Going by the coordinates on the images, the fire T-137 dropped on was very close to the Kurri Kurri Hospital southwest of Heddon Greta. The NSW RFS reported at 8:14 p.m. local time on November 22 that firefighters assisted by aircraft had slowed the spread of the fire. They estimated it had burned 61 hectares (151 acres).
This will be the first time a 737 air tanker has been used on a wildfire
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).
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.
Another Avro RJ85 air tanker has arrived in Australia for their summer bushfire season. Conair’s Tanker 166, named Hunter, was officially greeted by Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and others on November 5 a few days after it began assisting firefighters on a fire near Tamworth.
Hunter, the RJ85 LAT demonstrates water bombing capability this morning at Dubbo. Hunter has already been busy this last weekend assisting with fire fighting in the Tamworth area. #NSWRFS @NSWRFS @troygrant @DubboCouncil @DubboAirport pic.twitter.com/efpmPOh9Hi
— Shane Fitzsimmons (@RFSCommissioner) November 5, 2018
There will be six large air tankers from North America working in New South Wales and Victoria this summer. Not all have arrived yet — T-137 and T-131 should be there soon. Here is the list:
These images distributed by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia are presumably from an air attack aircraft. They were created on November 5, 2018.
A fire that was a few kilometers away from NASA’s Deep Space Network of satellite antennas near Canberra, Australia was attacked by firefighters on the ground assisted by large air tankers that have migrated below the equator for the Australian summer.
Seen in these photos are a C-130Q (T-134) and an RJ85 (T-165). In the video below is the C-130Q.
Amazing flying skills as aircraft tankers drop water on the Pierces Creek fire front.
This footage makes it look like the fire is closer than it actually is – about 3kms.
The antenna in the foreground is #DSS36. @ACT_ESA
Thanks @nascom1 for the video.📡✈️ pic.twitter.com/4zwXjRSC5U
— CanberraDSN (@CanberraDSN) November 2, 2018
All photos are by the Canberra DSN. The video is by @nascom1.
The NASA Deep Space Network facilities at Canberra, Australia, seen below in a file photo, are managed by CSIRO.
Two of Coulson’s helicopters have completed their trip on board a ship and have arrived in Australia. The company is in the midst of putting them back together in a hangar in Avalon. The S-61 due to its size had to be broken down more than the S-76, but the mechanics have done this several times before.
The two ships will be used in the Aussie’s night vision goggle firefighting program, with training beginning November 7. The S-61 will be double crewed, providing assistance to firefighters well into the night. It will be capable of filling while hovering, something the North American firefighting agencies have not done.
Photos by Coulson
During the coming bushfire season they will have access to six large air tankers and scores of SEATs and helicopters
Australia’s National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) has virtually settled on its lineup of the country’s firefighting aircraft for the 2018-2019 bushfire season which is getting underway. It was just a few years ago that they had no large air tankers, but this season they will have six privately owned large air tankers on contract, including three RJ85s, two C-130Qs, and one 737.
Large air tankers:
Coulson’s recently converted 737 just went through its first flight tests for the U.S. Interagency Airtanker Board in September, dropping retardant into a grid of hundreds of cups on the ground. For it to be used in Australia it must first receive their regulatory approvals.
Single Engine Air Tankers
In addition, NAFC will have 51 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) on contract across the country, including 2 amphibious water-scooping Fire Bosses. Another 8 SEATs have been contracted directly by State agencies. The SEATs can also be supplemented by other aircraft on Call When Needed (CWN) arrangements if required.
There will be 77 Helicopters of all types for a variety of roles across the country. This includes six Erickson S-64E Aircranes, as well as five Type 2 /Type 3 helicopters that will be specially equipped for intelligence gathering, with gimbaled sensors and on-board image processing, mapping, and transmission gear.
Night flying helicopters
Near the end of the 2017-2018 bushfire season the Aussies experimented with dropping water from helicopters at night in Victoria.
This season one Type 1 helicopter (a Coulson S-61) based at Ballarat, Victoria and one Type 2 helicopter (a Kestrel Aviation Bell 412) based at Mangalore, Victoria will have a Night Vision Imaging Systems or Night Vision Goggles (NVIS/NVG) for water dropping. Several other Type 2 and Type 3 helicopters based in Victoria and New South Wales will be capable of NVIS mapping, reconnaissance, supervision and aerial ignition.
“We aim to continue and extend the helicopter NVIS firebombing trial in Victoria, operationalizing the learnings from the Victorian trial earlier this year, but it will be in small, careful steps” Richard Alder, General Manager of NAFC said. “At this stage”, he continued, “it is anticipated that night firebombing will only occur on fires where the aircraft crew has operated during the day – so at this stage there won’t be any initial attack at night.”
Night flying air tanker
Mr. Alder said they may experiment toward the end of the 2018/2019 bushfire season with a fixed wing large airtanker (the C-130Q, T-131) using NVIS/NVG, but there is much work still to be done to design the trial and obtain the necessary regulatory approvals.