The video below shows Air Tanker 137, a Boeing 737, dropping on the Bruxner Highway Fire (Tenterfield LGA) in New South Wales, Australia.
A Blackhawk and an Air-Crane can be seen in the video below working on a wildfire in New South Wales, Australia.
Aircraft continue to work on slowing the process of the #Tingah fire allowing firefighters on the ground to directly attack and extinguish the fire. This will continue over the coming days as they work to contain the fire. #NSWRFSpic.twitter.com/dDgvO33Okg
WATCH & ACT: Tingha Plateau (Inverell LGA) – There is a reduced threat to properties. Firefighters continue to work with landholders across the fireground in an effort to contain the fire. #NSWRFSpic.twitter.com/5OB8Ee9vdd
The very unusual hot, dry, windy weather that has brought about large wildfires in Queensland, Australia during what is normally their wet season is requiring firefighters to adapt to the new unprecedented conditions. For the first time the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service is using large air tankers to assist firefighters on the ground. In recent days there have been at least three helping out, two RJ85’s and one 737 moved north from New South Wales to Rockhampton, Queensland.
Large air tankers from North America have been working in the states farther south for months, and a third RJ85 has recently arrived to bring the total to six.
Tanker 165 has been in NSW but is moving to a new contract in Victoria. T-165/391 will take its place at Richmond. This is requiring a call sign change and it will become T-391 while in Victoria.
When the Queensland fire situation subsides, the primary basing for the aircraft will be:
Richmond RAFF in New South Wales: a 737 (T-137), a C-130Q (T-134), and two RJ85’s (T-163 & T-166).
Avalon airport in Victoria: an RJ-85 (T-165/391) and a C-130Q (T-131).
Most if not all of the North American large air tankers and helicopters working in Australia have adopted names, like Thor, Gaia, Boomer, Hunter, and Rocky — for reasons that are not clear.
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#avgeekpic.twitter.com/qHnbcddFpe
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).
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.
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:
RJ85, T-165 (Aeroflite/Conair via FieldAir) based in Sydney (Richmond) – already in place;
B-737, T-137 (Coulson) based in Sydney (Richmond) – subject to regulatory approvals;
RJ85, T-166 (Aeroflite/Conair via FieldAir) based in Sydney (Richmond)/Dubbo;
C-130Q, T-134 (Coulson) based in Sydney (Richmond) – already in place. (This is an “extra” for the 2018-19 season only, considering the predicted above-normal potential of the fire season on the east coast of Australia);
RJ85, T-163 (Aeroflite/Conair via FieldAir) based in Melbourne (Avalon);
C-130Q, T-131 (Coulson) based in Melbourne (Avalon)
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.
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.
Above: One of the first test drops by a 737 air tanker, Coulson’s T-137. Photo by Jeremy Ulloa.
On July 13 the 737 that Coulson Aviation has been converting into an air tanker made its first drops. In this case it was a series of water drops by Tanker 137 while flying out of San Bernardino, California.
Britt Coulson said, “The 4,000 USG RADS-XXL/2 performed perfectly as did the airplane. Our flight crew couldn’t have been happier with the handling characteristics and our split tank worked as designed with no CG shift during the drop.”
Next week they will finish flight testing with the FAA, and will soon begin static tests of the tank system. They are working with the Forest Service to schedule the grid test.
Mr. Coulson expects Tanker 137 will be ready to fight fire in August.