Night fuel

 TWO large water bomber aeroplanes will be added to Victoria’s fire fighting armory this summer.

08 September 2010

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Australia: The State Government will invest $12 million in a trial of the Convair 580 fire bomber aircrafts, as well as for a new Erikson Aircrane and four extra fixed-wing aircraft for the upcoming fire season.

The two Convair aircrafts will replace the DC10 converted passenger plane from the US, which was on trial in Victoria last summer.

The DC10 was able to drop 45,000 litres of water or retardant in a matter of seconds but will not return to Victoria this year following findings from the National Bushfire Co-Operative Research Centre that its use was less effective in Victorian fire fighting terrain.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings said the two new fire bombers had the capacity to carry and drop 8000 litres of water or retardant and will be deployed airfields across the state to improve flexibility to fire fighting efforts.

“These aircraft can refill very quickly, delivering rapid response which can significantly increase their impact during fires especially in the crucial early stages of an outbreak,” Mr Jennings said.

”The great advantage of these aircraft is the flexibility they provide in fire fighting. They are proven first attack aircraft and can travel at fast speeds of up to 500km/h which means they can reach fires anywhere in the state in about 30 minutes.

The trial conducted by the Bushfire CRC on the DC10, or Very Large Ariel Tank, found the aircraft was not practical for fire fighting in Victoria.

“The VLAT Project Control Board considered the findings from the Bushfire CRC which found the aircraft would be less effective in suppressing Victorian bushfires and would not be suitable for use around the urban interface where the forest meets communities of relatively high populations,” Mr Jennings said.

“This was because the VLAT, which can carry more than 40 tonnes of water or retardant, was found to have the potential to cause serious injury should the load fall on a person. There was also the potential for the aircraft to destroy the property it was attempting to protect.

 “It was also determined the aircraft was limited in its use in Victoria because it could only be based at Avalon airfield and could not land or take off at any regional airfield that might be closer to a fire.”

The government has also committed almost $100,000 to the development of night vision goggles for the fire season.

Night vision goggles will assist fire fighters to safely fly at night and will extend night-time planned burning.


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