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NSW to acquire its own large air tanker

written by australianaviation.com.au | December 17, 2018
Boeing 737 ‘Gaia’ is on contract to the NSW RFS. (Defence)

The New South Wales state government plans to acquire its own large air tanker (LAT), which will be the first of its kind to be permanently based in Australia.

Until now both the NSW and Victorian state governments have leased air tankers from overseas – six are currently in Australia for the 2018-19 fire season comprising one Boeing 737, two Lockheed C-130s and three Avro RJ85s.

Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant said NSW would acquire its own LAT as well as two fixed-wing “scanning aircraft”.

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“This major funding injection will fortify our fleet into the future and provide year-round long-range aerial firefighting capabilities to complement our existing aviation resources,” Grant said on November 16 (we missed the announcement at the time, but thought it still worth reporting on – Ed).

“With longer bushfire seasons comes the increasing threat of severe fires, which is why the NSW government is leading the way by providing our firies with the very best resources to help protect lives and properties.”

The LAT would also be available for other state government jurisdictions to use, Grant said.

https://twitter.com/troygrant/status/1063310068362358785

PROMOTED CONTENT

Given the $26.3 million budget, the large air tanker is likely to be a converted secondhand aircraft, according to fireaviation.com contributor Bill Gabbert.

“I don’t see how the LAT could be new,” he wrote in a December 14 post.

But options could include a converted secondhand Bombardier Q400 turboprop, or an Avro RJ85 or Boeing 737 jet airliner.

“Coulson and Conair, both Canadian companies which are currently converting these models, would probably be happy to make a sale,” Gabbert said.

“A new C-130 or LM-100J would be out of the question at their budget. Used C-130s are difficult to find and the cost can be higher than retired airliners.”

In the meantime further leased large air tankers may be on their way to Australia for the current fire season. The federal government has announced a one-off boost of $11 million for the National Aerial Firefighting Centre to deliver “more large specialist firefighting air tankers to communities across Australia, bringing our total contribution to $25.8 million this financial year”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a December 4 statement.

The NSW LAT announcement was made while marking the arrival of the world’s first Boeing 737 firebomber in Australia.

VIDEO – the NSW Rural Fire Service marks the arrival of the 737 large air tanker Gaia for the 2018-19 fire season.

Named Gaia, the aircraft is operated by Coulson Aviation and is a converted ex-Southwest Airlines 737-300 fitted with Coulson’s RADS-XXL/2 4,000 US gallon fire retardant-dropping system. According to Coulson’s website, converting the 737 took three years and 43,000 man hours.

“The new Gaia aircraft can carry more than 15,000 litres of fire retardant to drop strategically over fire grounds as the frontline response continues, providing an invaluable support,” NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

The 737 was used in action for the first time on November 22, alongside C-130 and RJ85 LATs, to fight fires near Port Stephens north of Newcastle.

https://www.facebook.com/nswrfs/videos/2224749961182275/

“These large air tankers are incredibly effective,” NSW RFS Inspector Rolfe Poole said.

“We’ll always need boots on the ground but what this aerial support does is support those firefighters on the ground by knocking down the firefront,” Poole said, according to the Port Stephens Examiner.

“Using flame retardants from the air, we are able to get in front of the fire and slow its progress.”

The NSW RFS large air tankers C-130 Hercules ‘Zeus’, RJ85 ‘Boomer’ and Boeing 737 ‘Gaia’ at RAAF Base Richmond. (Defence)

 

Steer your own in-flight experience – available on print and digital Whether our classic glossy magazine in your letterbox, daily news updates in your inbox, peeling back a few layers in the podcast or our monthly current affair reports, you can count on us to keep you up to date. Sign up today for just $99.95 for more exclusive offers here. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.

13 Comments

  • Bill

    says:

    There’s, what, 12 C-130s at RAAF Richmond (not all flying at once obviously) and a bunch of army helicopters at Holsworthy and navy ones at Nowra. Surely it would be cheaper and easier to request that the federal government put some of these aircraft online for firefighting purposes over the fire season. There’s RO/RO systems for the C-130 and bami buckets for the helicopters that can lift more than most civilian helicopters except for the Skycrane.

    • Rob

      says:

      You cannot use the RAAF’s C-130’s because they belong to the RAAF and not to be used by others.
      As for C-130’s being in short supply Davis-Monthan AMARC inventory list has 309 of them in storage. Some are later models to be returned to service if required and lots of spare parts. Sourcing a used C-130 from Davis-Monthan for conversion to a fire tanker, US government approval should be relative simple exercise for an Australian Government organization. To speed the process up NSW engage the RAAF to fast track the procurement process from the US government by lobbying Canberra for alternative access to an RAAF C-130 if the US government surplus aircraft falls through.

    • Tony

      says:

      Bill, I also got the negative comments a few years back when I suggested the RAAF C130’s be used for temporary fire fighting using the proven US pallet system. Then the “reasoning” was that the pilots were not trained for low level! Then the RAAF donated their surplus C130’s to Indonesia free of charge. The RAF are disposing of their short body C130J’s but no interest apparently shown by Australia. Now Rob identifies the surplus C130’s in the US.
      Looks like opportunities are being lost.

  • James

    says:

    @ Rob

    I think Bills point isn’t about “ownership.” It’s about the fact that if the RAAF has available machines and crew, why can’t a roll on roll off system be used? Makes sense.

  • Ronald Spencer

    says:

    Instead of the RAAF practicing low level cargo drops maybe as we the taxpayers own the aircraft and pay the crews and their maintenance people they could learn to drop water for their employers

  • Richard Bradfield

    says:

    Its always amazed me why Australia has not had its own fleet of Water bombers. How much do the States pay each year to bring in Aircraft and crews from overseas?Is it the fact of Politics in Australia, each State does its own thing instead of the Federal Government taking control. If it had then those C130s would not have gone to Indonesia. At least now NSW is taking the plunge, and certainly will be cheaper in the long run to have its own Aircraft.

  • Adrian P

    says:

    The Federal Government is preparing to spend $17 billion on 72 F-35 aircraft (which may never be used in anger). but spend peanuts on something that happens every year. It appears that the defence force is there to protect us from an enemy that can not be named but not forest fires. What better training could there be than practice flying through smoke to make an accurate drop plus why not use Wedgetails for command and control.

  • Lee

    says:

    Sorry to say, that there is NO operational or legal reason why RAAF C-130’s cannot be used for fire fighting purposes. This very publication has run articles in the past discussing early experiments the RAAF conducted with Ro-Ro fire fighting units back in the early 80’s. There was much comment after the disastrous Sydney fires of January 1994 but nothing happened. That same event saw Army and Navy helicopters used for transport and fire spotting. The time for looking at purchasing at least a couple of removable fire fighting systems for the C-130J has come, it just needs political will to do so.

  • Tony

    says:

    Everyone knows the airforce don’t fly on weekends

  • Trevor

    says:

    Big boys toys, specticles for the evening news to make Joe Public feel like their elected representatives are actually doing something.
    The CSIRO did extensive studies on wather bombing from fixed wing aorcraft and found it to be of very limited effectivness.
    The South Australian Fire services evaluated water bombing from fixed wings aircraft and found again it was of very limited effectivemess uless it could be done within the first 30 minutes.
    It would take nearly that time to get the 737 into the air.
    The Koreans have just bought 2 skycranes fitted with water cannons so they now have an effective airborne tanker that can directly attack a fire.
    This is what we need, not a jet where the pilots need spotter planes to tell them when to release then have a very long turn around for the second drop by which time any benefit from the first is lost.

    People who have not done physics have troubles visualizing just how much heat comes off a large fire front which can easily boil water at 100 yards.

    So what we really need is a fleet of heavy lift helicopters, fitted with snorkels for refilling and both bulk drop & water cannon so the pilots can do precision water delivery without needing 2 more aircraft to direct them & hoping that they hit the right spot.
    Well as much precision a you can get directing a 6″ stream of water from a bouncing platform a few hundred feet away.
    Try and find some footage of the actual water drop showing just how much effect it had on the fire.
    Apart from dropping retardant near the fence lines of properties that border forest, not really much use and of course nearly impossible to dump a load in the bottom of a deep gulley from, a jet.

    As for using the armed forces, they are already doing this and have been doing so for a very long time.
    Mostly as logistical support.

    What all this talk is masking is the NSW RFS has been a dismal failure from it’s inception.
    IT is a very much top down top heavy beauraucry designed to cover the back sides of the culpiable
    It has only achieved one of it’s goals, no volunteers have been killed because a fire over ran then and no one knew they were there.
    OTOH a couple of maps mounted on steel sheets with fridge magnet fire trucks and a better radio communications system would have done the same for 3% of the costs.
    Further more HQ would not continually be refusing to allow local brigades doing the hazard reduction that they know needs to be done and HQ would not be preventing local brigades from taking up the defensive positions that they know will be needed the sending them to locations for publicity value as was the case with the Leura fires

  • I AGREE THERE SHOULD MORE AIR CRAFT FOR FIGHTING BUSH FIRES THEY COULD BE USED FIRST UP SO THE FIRES CAN BE CONTROLLED
    HELICOPTERS ARE TO SMALL THE STATE GOVERMENTS SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST 3 LARGE BOOMERS BASED AT RAAF AIR FIELDS IN THERE STATES THEY CAN BE MAINTAINED AND CONTROLLED BY RAAF AND HAVE PRIVATE PILOTS TO FLY THEM IT NEEDS FINANCE FROM THE FED GOV IN STEAD OF LEASING OFF OTHER CONTRIES AUSTRALIA NEEDS STAND UP AND SHOW LEADER SHIP BECAUSE THE FIRES ARE GOING TO GET WORST OVER THE YEARS TO COME

  • Lee McCurtayne

    says:

    We all sit here at the crossroads of our existence, yes we have to realise that ground assets are inadequate to deal with bushfires that are becoming more frequent, more virulent, more unstoppable. The time has come to at least have the same if not more large air assets. America has 23 large 737 water bombers, we have 1 and a lot of very small water units.
    Climate change now demands we change our strategies, the Insurance industry demands we change. The time has come for those who want to live in bush zones to also have vegetation restriction with in an agreed distance from their homes, businesses and sheds.
    There is a lot of measures that local and state government can implement to make the change. Cool burning must be mandatory, grass and leaf litter prohibition around properties re possible with gravel over the danger areas. High forest needs to have an exclusion zones with gravel once again. There are plenty of spark arresting net systems that are laid over dried cover to stop cinder attack. Properties backing on bush land need to have an exclusion zone behind them.
    These are simple yet highly effective asset protection measures. These are cost effective, smart and a hell of a lot cheaper than aerial assets. We have to change our perception that “It won’t happen to me” or worse still “ I never thought this could happen” Sorry! It’s here, it’s now and it’s going to get worse..
    It’s time our politicians make this happen, not put it in a bottom draw soon as it rains. We are getting less and less rain, [email protected] the hell up.

  • Bernard

    says:

    I take the point made about water evaporating well before it reaches the fire due to radiant heat. What about the RAAF dropping blocks of ice out the back of its hercs? They might hit the intended target areas more accurately? ?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NSW to acquire its own large air tanker

written by australianaviation.com.au | December 17, 2018
Boeing 737 ‘Gaia’ is on contract to the NSW RFS. (Defence)

The New South Wales state government plans to acquire its own large air tanker (LAT), which will be the first of its kind to be permanently based in Australia.

Until now both the NSW and Victorian state governments have leased air tankers from overseas – six are currently in Australia for the 2018-19 fire season comprising one Boeing 737, two Lockheed C-130s and three Avro RJ85s.

Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant said NSW would acquire its own LAT as well as two fixed-wing “scanning aircraft”.

Advertisement
Advertisement

“This major funding injection will fortify our fleet into the future and provide year-round long-range aerial firefighting capabilities to complement our existing aviation resources,” Grant said on November 16 (we missed the announcement at the time, but thought it still worth reporting on – Ed).

“With longer bushfire seasons comes the increasing threat of severe fires, which is why the NSW government is leading the way by providing our firies with the very best resources to help protect lives and properties.”

The LAT would also be available for other state government jurisdictions to use, Grant said.

https://twitter.com/troygrant/status/1063310068362358785

PROMOTED CONTENT

Given the $26.3 million budget, the large air tanker is likely to be a converted secondhand aircraft, according to fireaviation.com contributor Bill Gabbert.

“I don’t see how the LAT could be new,” he wrote in a December 14 post.

But options could include a converted secondhand Bombardier Q400 turboprop, or an Avro RJ85 or Boeing 737 jet airliner.

“Coulson and Conair, both Canadian companies which are currently converting these models, would probably be happy to make a sale,” Gabbert said.

“A new C-130 or LM-100J would be out of the question at their budget. Used C-130s are difficult to find and the cost can be higher than retired airliners.”

In the meantime further leased large air tankers may be on their way to Australia for the current fire season. The federal government has announced a one-off boost of $11 million for the National Aerial Firefighting Centre to deliver “more large specialist firefighting air tankers to communities across Australia, bringing our total contribution to $25.8 million this financial year”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a December 4 statement.

The NSW LAT announcement was made while marking the arrival of the world’s first Boeing 737 firebomber in Australia.

VIDEO – the NSW Rural Fire Service marks the arrival of the 737 large air tanker Gaia for the 2018-19 fire season.

Named Gaia, the aircraft is operated by Coulson Aviation and is a converted ex-Southwest Airlines 737-300 fitted with Coulson’s RADS-XXL/2 4,000 US gallon fire retardant-dropping system. According to Coulson’s website, converting the 737 took three years and 43,000 man hours.

“The new Gaia aircraft can carry more than 15,000 litres of fire retardant to drop strategically over fire grounds as the frontline response continues, providing an invaluable support,” NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

The 737 was used in action for the first time on November 22, alongside C-130 and RJ85 LATs, to fight fires near Port Stephens north of Newcastle.

https://www.facebook.com/nswrfs/videos/2224749961182275/

“These large air tankers are incredibly effective,” NSW RFS Inspector Rolfe Poole said.

“We’ll always need boots on the ground but what this aerial support does is support those firefighters on the ground by knocking down the firefront,” Poole said, according to the Port Stephens Examiner.

“Using flame retardants from the air, we are able to get in front of the fire and slow its progress.”

The NSW RFS large air tankers C-130 Hercules ‘Zeus’, RJ85 ‘Boomer’ and Boeing 737 ‘Gaia’ at RAAF Base Richmond. (Defence)

 

Steer your own in-flight experience – available on print and digital Whether our classic glossy magazine in your letterbox, daily news updates in your inbox, peeling back a few layers in the podcast or our monthly current affair reports, you can count on us to keep you up to date. Sign up today for just $99.95 for more exclusive offers here. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.

13 Comments

  • Bill

    says:

    There’s, what, 12 C-130s at RAAF Richmond (not all flying at once obviously) and a bunch of army helicopters at Holsworthy and navy ones at Nowra. Surely it would be cheaper and easier to request that the federal government put some of these aircraft online for firefighting purposes over the fire season. There’s RO/RO systems for the C-130 and bami buckets for the helicopters that can lift more than most civilian helicopters except for the Skycrane.

    • Rob

      says:

      You cannot use the RAAF’s C-130’s because they belong to the RAAF and not to be used by others.
      As for C-130’s being in short supply Davis-Monthan AMARC inventory list has 309 of them in storage. Some are later models to be returned to service if required and lots of spare parts. Sourcing a used C-130 from Davis-Monthan for conversion to a fire tanker, US government approval should be relative simple exercise for an Australian Government organization. To speed the process up NSW engage the RAAF to fast track the procurement process from the US government by lobbying Canberra for alternative access to an RAAF C-130 if the US government surplus aircraft falls through.

    • Tony

      says:

      Bill, I also got the negative comments a few years back when I suggested the RAAF C130’s be used for temporary fire fighting using the proven US pallet system. Then the “reasoning” was that the pilots were not trained for low level! Then the RAAF donated their surplus C130’s to Indonesia free of charge. The RAF are disposing of their short body C130J’s but no interest apparently shown by Australia. Now Rob identifies the surplus C130’s in the US.
      Looks like opportunities are being lost.

  • James

    says:

    @ Rob

    I think Bills point isn’t about “ownership.” It’s about the fact that if the RAAF has available machines and crew, why can’t a roll on roll off system be used? Makes sense.

  • Ronald Spencer

    says:

    Instead of the RAAF practicing low level cargo drops maybe as we the taxpayers own the aircraft and pay the crews and their maintenance people they could learn to drop water for their employers

  • Richard Bradfield

    says:

    Its always amazed me why Australia has not had its own fleet of Water bombers. How much do the States pay each year to bring in Aircraft and crews from overseas?Is it the fact of Politics in Australia, each State does its own thing instead of the Federal Government taking control. If it had then those C130s would not have gone to Indonesia. At least now NSW is taking the plunge, and certainly will be cheaper in the long run to have its own Aircraft.

  • Adrian P

    says:

    The Federal Government is preparing to spend $17 billion on 72 F-35 aircraft (which may never be used in anger). but spend peanuts on something that happens every year. It appears that the defence force is there to protect us from an enemy that can not be named but not forest fires. What better training could there be than practice flying through smoke to make an accurate drop plus why not use Wedgetails for command and control.

  • Lee

    says:

    Sorry to say, that there is NO operational or legal reason why RAAF C-130’s cannot be used for fire fighting purposes. This very publication has run articles in the past discussing early experiments the RAAF conducted with Ro-Ro fire fighting units back in the early 80’s. There was much comment after the disastrous Sydney fires of January 1994 but nothing happened. That same event saw Army and Navy helicopters used for transport and fire spotting. The time for looking at purchasing at least a couple of removable fire fighting systems for the C-130J has come, it just needs political will to do so.

  • Tony

    says:

    Everyone knows the airforce don’t fly on weekends

  • Trevor

    says:

    Big boys toys, specticles for the evening news to make Joe Public feel like their elected representatives are actually doing something.
    The CSIRO did extensive studies on wather bombing from fixed wing aorcraft and found it to be of very limited effectivness.
    The South Australian Fire services evaluated water bombing from fixed wings aircraft and found again it was of very limited effectivemess uless it could be done within the first 30 minutes.
    It would take nearly that time to get the 737 into the air.
    The Koreans have just bought 2 skycranes fitted with water cannons so they now have an effective airborne tanker that can directly attack a fire.
    This is what we need, not a jet where the pilots need spotter planes to tell them when to release then have a very long turn around for the second drop by which time any benefit from the first is lost.

    People who have not done physics have troubles visualizing just how much heat comes off a large fire front which can easily boil water at 100 yards.

    So what we really need is a fleet of heavy lift helicopters, fitted with snorkels for refilling and both bulk drop & water cannon so the pilots can do precision water delivery without needing 2 more aircraft to direct them & hoping that they hit the right spot.
    Well as much precision a you can get directing a 6″ stream of water from a bouncing platform a few hundred feet away.
    Try and find some footage of the actual water drop showing just how much effect it had on the fire.
    Apart from dropping retardant near the fence lines of properties that border forest, not really much use and of course nearly impossible to dump a load in the bottom of a deep gulley from, a jet.

    As for using the armed forces, they are already doing this and have been doing so for a very long time.
    Mostly as logistical support.

    What all this talk is masking is the NSW RFS has been a dismal failure from it’s inception.
    IT is a very much top down top heavy beauraucry designed to cover the back sides of the culpiable
    It has only achieved one of it’s goals, no volunteers have been killed because a fire over ran then and no one knew they were there.
    OTOH a couple of maps mounted on steel sheets with fridge magnet fire trucks and a better radio communications system would have done the same for 3% of the costs.
    Further more HQ would not continually be refusing to allow local brigades doing the hazard reduction that they know needs to be done and HQ would not be preventing local brigades from taking up the defensive positions that they know will be needed the sending them to locations for publicity value as was the case with the Leura fires

  • I AGREE THERE SHOULD MORE AIR CRAFT FOR FIGHTING BUSH FIRES THEY COULD BE USED FIRST UP SO THE FIRES CAN BE CONTROLLED
    HELICOPTERS ARE TO SMALL THE STATE GOVERMENTS SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST 3 LARGE BOOMERS BASED AT RAAF AIR FIELDS IN THERE STATES THEY CAN BE MAINTAINED AND CONTROLLED BY RAAF AND HAVE PRIVATE PILOTS TO FLY THEM IT NEEDS FINANCE FROM THE FED GOV IN STEAD OF LEASING OFF OTHER CONTRIES AUSTRALIA NEEDS STAND UP AND SHOW LEADER SHIP BECAUSE THE FIRES ARE GOING TO GET WORST OVER THE YEARS TO COME

  • Lee McCurtayne

    says:

    We all sit here at the crossroads of our existence, yes we have to realise that ground assets are inadequate to deal with bushfires that are becoming more frequent, more virulent, more unstoppable. The time has come to at least have the same if not more large air assets. America has 23 large 737 water bombers, we have 1 and a lot of very small water units.
    Climate change now demands we change our strategies, the Insurance industry demands we change. The time has come for those who want to live in bush zones to also have vegetation restriction with in an agreed distance from their homes, businesses and sheds.
    There is a lot of measures that local and state government can implement to make the change. Cool burning must be mandatory, grass and leaf litter prohibition around properties re possible with gravel over the danger areas. High forest needs to have an exclusion zones with gravel once again. There are plenty of spark arresting net systems that are laid over dried cover to stop cinder attack. Properties backing on bush land need to have an exclusion zone behind them.
    These are simple yet highly effective asset protection measures. These are cost effective, smart and a hell of a lot cheaper than aerial assets. We have to change our perception that “It won’t happen to me” or worse still “ I never thought this could happen” Sorry! It’s here, it’s now and it’s going to get worse..
    It’s time our politicians make this happen, not put it in a bottom draw soon as it rains. We are getting less and less rain, [email protected] the hell up.

  • Bernard

    says:

    I take the point made about water evaporating well before it reaches the fire due to radiant heat. What about the RAAF dropping blocks of ice out the back of its hercs? They might hit the intended target areas more accurately? ?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NSW to acquire its own large air tanker

written by australianaviation.com.au | December 17, 2018
Boeing 737 ‘Gaia’ is on contract to the NSW RFS. (Defence)

The New South Wales state government plans to acquire its own large air tanker (LAT), which will be the first of its kind to be permanently based in Australia.

Until now both the NSW and Victorian state governments have leased air tankers from overseas – six are currently in Australia for the 2018-19 fire season comprising one Boeing 737, two Lockheed C-130s and three Avro RJ85s.

Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant said NSW would acquire its own LAT as well as two fixed-wing “scanning aircraft”.

Advertisement
Advertisement

“This major funding injection will fortify our fleet into the future and provide year-round long-range aerial firefighting capabilities to complement our existing aviation resources,” Grant said on November 16 (we missed the announcement at the time, but thought it still worth reporting on – Ed).

“With longer bushfire seasons comes the increasing threat of severe fires, which is why the NSW government is leading the way by providing our firies with the very best resources to help protect lives and properties.”

The LAT would also be available for other state government jurisdictions to use, Grant said.

https://twitter.com/troygrant/status/1063310068362358785

PROMOTED CONTENT

Given the $26.3 million budget, the large air tanker is likely to be a converted secondhand aircraft, according to fireaviation.com contributor Bill Gabbert.

“I don’t see how the LAT could be new,” he wrote in a December 14 post.

But options could include a converted secondhand Bombardier Q400 turboprop, or an Avro RJ85 or Boeing 737 jet airliner.

“Coulson and Conair, both Canadian companies which are currently converting these models, would probably be happy to make a sale,” Gabbert said.

“A new C-130 or LM-100J would be out of the question at their budget. Used C-130s are difficult to find and the cost can be higher than retired airliners.”

In the meantime further leased large air tankers may be on their way to Australia for the current fire season. The federal government has announced a one-off boost of $11 million for the National Aerial Firefighting Centre to deliver “more large specialist firefighting air tankers to communities across Australia, bringing our total contribution to $25.8 million this financial year”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a December 4 statement.

The NSW LAT announcement was made while marking the arrival of the world’s first Boeing 737 firebomber in Australia.

VIDEO – the NSW Rural Fire Service marks the arrival of the 737 large air tanker Gaia for the 2018-19 fire season.

Named Gaia, the aircraft is operated by Coulson Aviation and is a converted ex-Southwest Airlines 737-300 fitted with Coulson’s RADS-XXL/2 4,000 US gallon fire retardant-dropping system. According to Coulson’s website, converting the 737 took three years and 43,000 man hours.

“The new Gaia aircraft can carry more than 15,000 litres of fire retardant to drop strategically over fire grounds as the frontline response continues, providing an invaluable support,” NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

The 737 was used in action for the first time on November 22, alongside C-130 and RJ85 LATs, to fight fires near Port Stephens north of Newcastle.

https://www.facebook.com/nswrfs/videos/2224749961182275/

“These large air tankers are incredibly effective,” NSW RFS Inspector Rolfe Poole said.

“We’ll always need boots on the ground but what this aerial support does is support those firefighters on the ground by knocking down the firefront,” Poole said, according to the Port Stephens Examiner.

“Using flame retardants from the air, we are able to get in front of the fire and slow its progress.”

The NSW RFS large air tankers C-130 Hercules ‘Zeus’, RJ85 ‘Boomer’ and Boeing 737 ‘Gaia’ at RAAF Base Richmond. (Defence)

 

Steer your own in-flight experience – available on print and digital Whether our classic glossy magazine in your letterbox, daily news updates in your inbox, peeling back a few layers in the podcast or our monthly current affair reports, you can count on us to keep you up to date. Sign up today for just $99.95 for more exclusive offers here. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.

13 Comments

  • Bill

    says:

    There’s, what, 12 C-130s at RAAF Richmond (not all flying at once obviously) and a bunch of army helicopters at Holsworthy and navy ones at Nowra. Surely it would be cheaper and easier to request that the federal government put some of these aircraft online for firefighting purposes over the fire season. There’s RO/RO systems for the C-130 and bami buckets for the helicopters that can lift more than most civilian helicopters except for the Skycrane.

    • Rob

      says:

      You cannot use the RAAF’s C-130’s because they belong to the RAAF and not to be used by others.
      As for C-130’s being in short supply Davis-Monthan AMARC inventory list has 309 of them in storage. Some are later models to be returned to service if required and lots of spare parts. Sourcing a used C-130 from Davis-Monthan for conversion to a fire tanker, US government approval should be relative simple exercise for an Australian Government organization. To speed the process up NSW engage the RAAF to fast track the procurement process from the US government by lobbying Canberra for alternative access to an RAAF C-130 if the US government surplus aircraft falls through.

    • Tony

      says:

      Bill, I also got the negative comments a few years back when I suggested the RAAF C130’s be used for temporary fire fighting using the proven US pallet system. Then the “reasoning” was that the pilots were not trained for low level! Then the RAAF donated their surplus C130’s to Indonesia free of charge. The RAF are disposing of their short body C130J’s but no interest apparently shown by Australia. Now Rob identifies the surplus C130’s in the US.
      Looks like opportunities are being lost.

  • James

    says:

    @ Rob

    I think Bills point isn’t about “ownership.” It’s about the fact that if the RAAF has available machines and crew, why can’t a roll on roll off system be used? Makes sense.

  • Ronald Spencer

    says:

    Instead of the RAAF practicing low level cargo drops maybe as we the taxpayers own the aircraft and pay the crews and their maintenance people they could learn to drop water for their employers

  • Richard Bradfield

    says:

    Its always amazed me why Australia has not had its own fleet of Water bombers. How much do the States pay each year to bring in Aircraft and crews from overseas?Is it the fact of Politics in Australia, each State does its own thing instead of the Federal Government taking control. If it had then those C130s would not have gone to Indonesia. At least now NSW is taking the plunge, and certainly will be cheaper in the long run to have its own Aircraft.

  • Adrian P

    says:

    The Federal Government is preparing to spend $17 billion on 72 F-35 aircraft (which may never be used in anger). but spend peanuts on something that happens every year. It appears that the defence force is there to protect us from an enemy that can not be named but not forest fires. What better training could there be than practice flying through smoke to make an accurate drop plus why not use Wedgetails for command and control.

  • Lee

    says:

    Sorry to say, that there is NO operational or legal reason why RAAF C-130’s cannot be used for fire fighting purposes. This very publication has run articles in the past discussing early experiments the RAAF conducted with Ro-Ro fire fighting units back in the early 80’s. There was much comment after the disastrous Sydney fires of January 1994 but nothing happened. That same event saw Army and Navy helicopters used for transport and fire spotting. The time for looking at purchasing at least a couple of removable fire fighting systems for the C-130J has come, it just needs political will to do so.

  • Tony

    says:

    Everyone knows the airforce don’t fly on weekends

  • Trevor

    says:

    Big boys toys, specticles for the evening news to make Joe Public feel like their elected representatives are actually doing something.
    The CSIRO did extensive studies on wather bombing from fixed wing aorcraft and found it to be of very limited effectivness.
    The South Australian Fire services evaluated water bombing from fixed wings aircraft and found again it was of very limited effectivemess uless it could be done within the first 30 minutes.
    It would take nearly that time to get the 737 into the air.
    The Koreans have just bought 2 skycranes fitted with water cannons so they now have an effective airborne tanker that can directly attack a fire.
    This is what we need, not a jet where the pilots need spotter planes to tell them when to release then have a very long turn around for the second drop by which time any benefit from the first is lost.

    People who have not done physics have troubles visualizing just how much heat comes off a large fire front which can easily boil water at 100 yards.

    So what we really need is a fleet of heavy lift helicopters, fitted with snorkels for refilling and both bulk drop & water cannon so the pilots can do precision water delivery without needing 2 more aircraft to direct them & hoping that they hit the right spot.
    Well as much precision a you can get directing a 6″ stream of water from a bouncing platform a few hundred feet away.
    Try and find some footage of the actual water drop showing just how much effect it had on the fire.
    Apart from dropping retardant near the fence lines of properties that border forest, not really much use and of course nearly impossible to dump a load in the bottom of a deep gulley from, a jet.

    As for using the armed forces, they are already doing this and have been doing so for a very long time.
    Mostly as logistical support.

    What all this talk is masking is the NSW RFS has been a dismal failure from it’s inception.
    IT is a very much top down top heavy beauraucry designed to cover the back sides of the culpiable
    It has only achieved one of it’s goals, no volunteers have been killed because a fire over ran then and no one knew they were there.
    OTOH a couple of maps mounted on steel sheets with fridge magnet fire trucks and a better radio communications system would have done the same for 3% of the costs.
    Further more HQ would not continually be refusing to allow local brigades doing the hazard reduction that they know needs to be done and HQ would not be preventing local brigades from taking up the defensive positions that they know will be needed the sending them to locations for publicity value as was the case with the Leura fires

  • I AGREE THERE SHOULD MORE AIR CRAFT FOR FIGHTING BUSH FIRES THEY COULD BE USED FIRST UP SO THE FIRES CAN BE CONTROLLED
    HELICOPTERS ARE TO SMALL THE STATE GOVERMENTS SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST 3 LARGE BOOMERS BASED AT RAAF AIR FIELDS IN THERE STATES THEY CAN BE MAINTAINED AND CONTROLLED BY RAAF AND HAVE PRIVATE PILOTS TO FLY THEM IT NEEDS FINANCE FROM THE FED GOV IN STEAD OF LEASING OFF OTHER CONTRIES AUSTRALIA NEEDS STAND UP AND SHOW LEADER SHIP BECAUSE THE FIRES ARE GOING TO GET WORST OVER THE YEARS TO COME

  • Lee McCurtayne

    says:

    We all sit here at the crossroads of our existence, yes we have to realise that ground assets are inadequate to deal with bushfires that are becoming more frequent, more virulent, more unstoppable. The time has come to at least have the same if not more large air assets. America has 23 large 737 water bombers, we have 1 and a lot of very small water units.
    Climate change now demands we change our strategies, the Insurance industry demands we change. The time has come for those who want to live in bush zones to also have vegetation restriction with in an agreed distance from their homes, businesses and sheds.
    There is a lot of measures that local and state government can implement to make the change. Cool burning must be mandatory, grass and leaf litter prohibition around properties re possible with gravel over the danger areas. High forest needs to have an exclusion zones with gravel once again. There are plenty of spark arresting net systems that are laid over dried cover to stop cinder attack. Properties backing on bush land need to have an exclusion zone behind them.
    These are simple yet highly effective asset protection measures. These are cost effective, smart and a hell of a lot cheaper than aerial assets. We have to change our perception that “It won’t happen to me” or worse still “ I never thought this could happen” Sorry! It’s here, it’s now and it’s going to get worse..
    It’s time our politicians make this happen, not put it in a bottom draw soon as it rains. We are getting less and less rain, [email protected] the hell up.

  • Bernard

    says:

    I take the point made about water evaporating well before it reaches the fire due to radiant heat. What about the RAAF dropping blocks of ice out the back of its hercs? They might hit the intended target areas more accurately? ?

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