Australia to rely on Erickson air tanker

Australia to rely on Erickson air tanker

10 September 2010

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Australia: Australia loves its Erickson helicopters, enough so that the southeastern coastal state of Victoria has decided to scrap plans to acquire a DC-10 air tanker.

Instead, the Victoria government will rely on four other aircraft, including an Erickson air tanker, for the coming fire season, according to the Brisbane Times.

After spending $10.5 million on a 10-week trial of the DC-10, the Australians decided to take a different tack, apparently seeking a third Erickson helicopter.

The Australian Department of Sustainability and the Country Fire Authority discovered water dropped by the DC-10 fell with such force it could potentially cause serious injury to people and damage property, and did not curb fires as well as hoped.

“When we asked the government if they supported the trialing of the DC-10 and the ‘first-in-the-world’ type research on its performance, we were quite confident it would come out as being a good fit for our setting in Victoria,” Country Fire Authority Chief Executive Mick Bourke said Wednesday. “But we were proven otherwise … the DC-10 itself, while it performed well in settings, it didn’t show that it could in fact bring about the levels of retardant capability to break firelines that we would have hoped.”

Erickson Air-Crane presently has a fleet of 16 Sikorsky air-cranes and typically moves several from the Northern Hemisphere to southern stations during the third quarter. Erickson spokesman Dennis Hubbard said he was unsure how many helicopters would be deployed to Australia for the upcoming bushfire season that usually begins in late November or early December.

Ever since an Erickson Air-Crane S-64 helitanker, dubbed Elvis, swooped in to rescue 14 bush firefighters in January 2002, the locally built and maintained helicopters have become legend in Australia. A later aircraft was christened Elsie and worked in tandem with the first helicopter.


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