Australia — PREMIER John Brumby yesterday inspected the biggest firebombing aircraft ever trialled by Victoria, watching as the converted DC-10 dumped a full load – 45,000 litres – of fire retardant on empty paddocks near Avalon Airport.
The huge capacity of the American-based DC-10 – known as ”Vicki” – dwarfs that of other firebombing aircraft used by Victorian fire authorities. The ”Elvis” helitanker, for example, has a capacity of just under 10,000 litres.
But because the DC-10 is a fixed-wing craft, its suitability in Victorian bushfire conditions is yet to be proven.
It costs $10 million per year to hire for the fire season.
Speaking at the airport, Mr Brumby said he was optimistic that ”Vicki” – formally known as the Very Large Airtanker – would prove itself.
”We took the decision this year, after the tragic events of last year, to trial it,” he said.
Ewan Waller, the Department of Sustainability’s chief fire officer, said the aircraft would be tested to see whether its load of retardant would be able to penetrate forest canopy and reach the ground in the event of a bushfire.
The aircraft can be ready to go within 30 minutes and reach any part of Victoria within an hour.