The latest Bell 412 helicopter has arrived for the NSW Rural Fire Service to be reconfigured in time for Australia’s next bushfire season.
The aircraft will serve NSW’s rapid aerial response for regional communities in the state and other emergency services such as search and rescue missions.
On 25 January, a No.36 squadron C-17A Globemaster III aircraft landed in the RAAF Base Richmond after ferrying the helicopter from the United States, according to a press release.
It was previously operated by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.
It is the third addition to the fleet of Bells, following two previous aircraft that were delivered by the Royal Australian Air Force in 2020, bouncing off the back of the Black Summer bushfires.
“The RAAF’s delivery of these helicopters is a good illustration of how Defence capability can enable other government agencies and state emergency services,” said Commander Air Mobility Group, Air Commodore Carl Newman.
“In recent years at RAAF Base Richmond, we’ve provided airbase support to these emergency services, and witnessed firsthand the benefit these aircraft make to disaster-relief operations.”
According to the press release, carrying the three-tonne helicopter onto the C-17A required its rotor blades to be disassembled and loaded on-board separately.
For unloading, the Bell 412’s landing skids were separately attached to a wheel-dolly which allowed for it to safely transfer off the C-17A cargo ramp, ensuring no parts of the helicopter’s fuselage was scraped in the process.
The aircraft’s arrival almost a year ahead of the next fire season boasts of the government’s proactive approach in firefighting-readiness, after the Black Summer bushfires put into question Australia’s sovereign capabilities.
While improvements have been made since, other states such as Victoria continue to experience insufficiencies within its firefighting fleet.
As Victoria enters a high-risk fire season, it still has no active night-time aerial firefighting capabilities while its Chinook is still under review for approved operation in the dark.