An Antonov An-124 has taken off from Wellcamp Airport, loaded up with Australian water-bombing helicopters and headed for Greece to assist with the country’s raging wildfires.
The aircraft was chartered from Russian airline Volga-Dnepr by Sunshine Coast company McDermott Aviation, just days after Greece’s government requested its assistance in combating the nation’s extensive wildfires.
Australian Aviation photographer Lenn Bayliss was onsite to capture the aircraft’s arrival.
The An-124, registration RA-82047, landed at Wellcamp on Wednesday where the first two Bell 214B aerial firefighting helicopters, along with supplies, were loaded.
The Antonov then took off from Wellcamp just after 10:20am on Thursday morning, en route to Perth where it will collect a further two McDermott Aviation Bell 214B firefighting helicopters. From there, the aircraft will head off to Greece, via Sri Lanka, and is due to touch down on Saturday.
According to McDermott Aviation, seven crew, which included pilots and engineers, are present to accompany the helicopters in the aircraft, and similarly aid in the overseas firefighting mission.
It is expected that all four helicopters, which will join two others already deployed to Greece by the company, will be reassembled within 48 hours of landing in Athens, and ready to join the firefighting efforts.
The six Bell 214B’s are expected to remain in Greece for at least two months before redeploying back to Australia, ahead of the local fire season at home.
McDermott aviation owns and operates 13 Bell 214B ‘heavy lifter’ helicopters, making it the world’s largest Bell 214B operator.
The company says the Bell 214B is the largest, most powerful single engine twin blade helicopter ever manufactured.
The helicopters have been deployed to aid Greece as it faces what its Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called a “natural disaster of unprecedented proportions”.
Currently, over 580 wildfires burn across “all corners” of the country, according to the Prime Minister, as the country experiences one of its most intense heatwaves in decades.
There have been dozens of organised evacuations, the largest of which took place on the island of Evia just days ago.
The Greek government has been publicly calling for additional assistance in aerial firefighting capabilities.
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