Queensland has finally taken delivery of its gigantic Q400MR firefighting aircraft – which can carry 10,000 litres of water or retardant.
The aircraft touched down at its new base at Bundaberg Airport earlier this week as part of a $15 million, five-year leasing deal.
Bundaberg mayor Jack Dempsey, who implemented the project, told the ABC the new plane can reach Proserpine in northern Queensland, Tambo in western Queensland and Coffs Harbour in NSW within an hour of departing.
The tanker arrived from Canada and its crew were immediately placed into quarantine for two weeks.
Previously, the state only had the option to borrow similar-sized aircraft from interstate and that was dependent on availability.
The Q400MR is hailed by manufacturers Conair as “the most advanced emergency response airtanker available” and is certified for use on unpaved airports, all weathers and can also take passengers and cargo.
It will be used by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and comes as Australia has seen the first bushfires of the season begin in the NT.
“Bundaberg has a proven record of supporting aerial firefighting efforts when crews working from the area set a record for the most water bombers filled in one day,” said Dempsey.
“At the height of the Gregory River fires, a total of 114 planeloads of water and foam left the airport in December last year.”
Earlier this year, a new paper by former senior fire and emergency service leaders argued the country needs to radically change its bushfire strategy to concentrate on extinguishing blazes when they’re still small.
The investigation, written by the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) group, argued Australia must invest in automated sensors that can allow for the immediate deployment of firefighting aircraft.
“This is a major change in our approach and requires significant investment in early detection and rapidly deployable aerial and ground firefighting forces,” the report argued.
“To match the escalating threat and cost of bushfires, Australia must upgrade its firefighting capabilities.”
Australian Aviation has also revealed that there were more accidents and safety incidents involving aerial firefighting aircraft in the financial year covering the last bushfire season than any in the previous 20.
The findings form part of an ATSB submission into the so-called bushfire royal commission, created in the wake of the “Black Summer” bushfire crisis.