The Victorian government is issuing a tender to lease a Boeing 747 or DC-10 water bombing aircraft for the summer as part of plans to head off a repeat of the devastating fires experienced in the previous fire season.
“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 this season,” Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron said on November 9.
“Some large firefighting aircraft can lay a continuous line of retardant or water 30 metres wide for 1.2 kilometres and we’d trial how the big machines can be used for immediate attack when a fire is small, their impact on a developing fire to help contain it, or for a control line on a going fire,” he added.
According to some newspapers, the aircraft would be based at Avalon Airport from January to March, could reach anywhere in Victoria within 45 minutes, and be able to lay down 10 times more liquid than the Erickson Skycrane heavy helicopters which have traditionally been used in the worst bushfires. The aircraft could also be offered to other states in the event of a major bushfire emergency.
Modified DC-10s and 747s have been used by authorities in North America to combat forest fires, but have generally been seen as too expensive and inflexible for operating in Australia. However, in December 2008 CASA granted an exemption to Super Spread Aviation to operate DC-10 N17085 to operate the aircraft on aerial fire fighting duties.