Australia Gets New Waterbombing Aircraft To Fight Bushfires

Australia Gets New Waterbombing Aircraft To Fight Bushfires

16 December 2009

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Australia —

The largest aircraft to be trialled to fight fires in Australia’s history arrived in Victoria today and will be ready for deployment in a bushfire emergency from early January.

At Avalon Airport today, the Premier John Brumby, Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron and Victoria’s fire chiefs welcomed the new DC-10-30 aircraft on its arrival from the United States.

Mr Brumby said Victoria would be the first Australian state to trial the effectiveness of the large waterbombing plane in the firefighting effort.

“There has never been a greater effort to make our state as fire-safe and as fire-ready as possible, with communities across Victoria putting in a massive effort to prepare,” Mr Brumby said.

“Our Government and emergency service agencies are rolling-out unprecedented new resources and measures for the largest-ever firefighting effort. This is being backed by record funding for our emergency services.

“Large aircraft that can carry up to eight times the water or retardant of smaller firefighting aircraft are untrialled in Australian conditions and Victoria will lead the way in testing their ability to help fight fires in the peak of this fire season.”

The DC-10-30 will be housed at Avalon Airport. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) will start final compliance assessments of the aircraft so it is ready for use from early January.

The aircraft can hold about 45,000 litres of water at a time. Class A recycled water will be used wherever possible. Fire chiefs will determine where and when the aircraft should be deployed.

The new DC-10-30 aircraft joins Elvis the Erickson skycrane, which arrived last month and his sister skycrane Elsie which will arrive later this week. Elvis and Elsie can each dump 9000 litres of water and fire retardant.

They will be backed-up by a further 32 aircraft, with an additional 170 on standby for deployment in a bushfire emergency.

Following Victoria’s decision to trial a very large aircraft this fire season, the National Aerial Firefighting Centre ran the procurement process.

Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron said the DC-10-30 was selected based on its operational performance in the United States, which has similar landscape characteristics to Victoria, where it had completed more than 300 operational drops.

“Firefighting agencies will need to determine how they’ll work in Australian conditions, and Victoria will test how effective the big machines can be in fighting Victorian fires in conjunction with our current fleet of smaller firefighting aircraft,” Mr Cameron said.

“We have been working with the Country Fire Authority since September to bring a large aerial firefighting aircraft to Victoria for the first time to help protect lives and property.

“Firefighting aircraft are one of our key weapons against bushfires. They can drop large amounts of water, suppressant foam and fire retardant to help control fires in hard-to-reach locations.

“During this coming fire season we will be trialling a new suppressant gel as an alternative to the traditional use of foam and fire retardant slurries for firebombing.”

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland welcomed the Victorian trial.

“The Rudd Government is pleased to support Australia’s first trial of the very large aircraft, with the National Aerial Firefighting Centre to contribute $500,000 towards the review of its effectiveness in fighting fires in Australian terrain,” Mr McClelland said.

North America has been using very large aircraft such as DC-10 and 747s in the last three seasons with mixed views surrounding their effectiveness in terms of their application compared with the performance of helicopters and smaller apparatus.

The Bushfire Co-Operative Research Centre will deliver a scientific and operational review of the aircraft’s effectiveness for Victoria’s fire agencies after the 2009-10 bushfire season.

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