Firefighting choppers fire up for fire season


The helicopters will be used throughout the bushfire season by Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) and Country Fire Authority (CFA) to respond to fires across Central Victoria.

FFMVic Regional Manager Fire and Emergency Preparedness, Carsten Nannestad, said helicopters have been based in Bendigo over summer for several years now and are a valuable firefighting asset for FFMVic and CFA.

‘Aircraft have already played a key role in the region during the flood response.

‘On days of elevated fire danger, as soon as the call goes out for FFMVic or CFA to respond to a fire, the water-bombing helicopter will be deployed so we can hit the fire hard and fast in the initial stages and stop it spreading,’ Mr Nannestad said.

‘They often arrive at a fire before ground crews, providing immediate response so firefighters on the ground have a greater chance of limiting the size and spread of fires.

‘The Air Attack Supervisor (AAS) who is in the smaller of the two helicopters directs the pilot of the larger water-bombing helicopter where to drop its load so it is most effective in suppressing the fire. The AAS will also help the helicopter pilot locate suitable water sources near the fire.’

The firefighting aircraft based at the Bendigo airport this summer are:

Helitak 335: Bell 214B water bombing helicopter. Carries 3,000 litres of water in its belly tank. It can fill the tank in 40 seconds by dropping its three-metre snorkel into a water source while hovering two and a half metres above the water surface.

Firebird 305: Airbus AS350 FX2 Squirrel helicopter. Carries the Air Attack Supervisor who oversees and coordinates the aerial tactical operation. Acts as a liaison between the ground crews and the water bombing aircraft.

The aircraft based in Bendigo are part of Victoria’s fleet of 50 firefighting aircraft to start operating ahead of the fire season.

Image: Pilot Ben Hall in front of the Firebird 305, Airbus AS350 FX2 Squirrel helicopter.

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