Aviation Spotters Online

Aviation Spotters Online

All posts by Dave Soderstrom

Maligayang pagdating sa Melbourne, Cebu Pacific Air touches down



Cebu Pacific Air has launched its first service to Melbourne Airport, and is the 34th International Airline to operate to the airport.  The airline first launched in March 1996 adding to the huge growth in the low fare airlines models growing around the world. Currently  Cebu Pacific flies to 37 Philippine and 26 international destinations, spanning Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and USA.

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Tourist arrivals from the Philippines has become one of the fastest-growing source markets for Australia, with an average 16 percent increase over the past four years.
Today Cebu Pacific operates a fleet of sixty six​ aircraft. Broken down this includes some 48 Airbus aircraft which includes, four A321ceo, thirty six A320’s and eight A330s. The airline also flies eighteen ATRs, broken down this includes eight ATR 72-500 and ten ATR 72-600s.​
Arriving into Melbourne Airport at approximately 16:05 pm local time, Airbus A330-343 RP-C3347 touched down on runway 34 from Manila.
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The service will operate three times per week on the 436 seat configured aircraft. The flights will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The Manila-Melbourne flight 5J049 will leave at 6:05 am ETD, arriving at 3:50 pm ETA. The return flight Melbourne-Manila 5J050 will leave at 5:05 pm ETD, arriving at 11:15 pm ETA.
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The aircraft is powered by the Rolls Royce Trent 772B-60.
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Cebu Pacific livery is a welcome addition to the Melbourne Airport flightline.
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Airbus A330-343 c/n 1712, this 2016 build aircraft was delivered to the airline on the 12/12/16.
The aircraft was on the ground and turned around for the outbound flight as 5J050 for a departure and return to Manila at 17:41.
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Cebu Pacific is turned around with the help of Gate Gourmet and Aerocare handling catering and ground services respectively.
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Flight 5J050 heads for the runway on the return leg to Manila.
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Aviation Spotters Online again wishes to thank Melbourne Airport for their help and preparation of this article
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Army Museum of Aviation Oakey, telling the story of Army Aviation in Australia

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Enterance doors

A unique museum set a few kilometres away from the town of Oakey Queensland. Located at the Army Aviation Centre Oakey and telling the story of Australian Army Aviation is the Australian Army Flying Museum. Set on the historic Oakey Base, established during World War Two for the Number Six Aircraft Depot, the base was host to a variety of aircraft, for example Spitfires, Kitthyhawks, Beauforts and Wirraways. Built initially for aircraft repairs and servicing, post WWII the base was used for the disposal of aircraft and the breaking up of wartime airframes.

Today the base is host to most Army Aviation assets including the CAC Kiowa, Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawks, Eurocopter ARH Tigers and Eurocopter MRH-90 Taipans, which all call the base home. The Republic of Singapore also have a detachment of Eurocopter Super Puma helicopters operated by 126 Squadron that call the base home.

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Display aircraft

The Museum moved into its purpose built home in 2005 after being provided funding from the Australian Federal Government. It tells the story of aviation in the Army from its earliest roots through to today’s modern and well equipped aviation regiments.

The exhibits are well displayed and presented showcasing the humble beginnings of our pioneering days of early flight in Australia by the Australian Flying Corps. It is a unique place and one that you all should add to your list of museum’s in Australia to visit. I hope you enjoy the look around and photos of my visit.


The Deperdussin was the first monoplane used in Australia. In 1912 the Australian Government ordered two Deperdussin single seat trainers to supplement the B.E.2a that were ordered on the same day. Powered by a 35 Hirsepower Anzani Y type engine, the first one, C.F.S.4 was used for flying practice with the second, C.F.S.5 used for Taxiing instruction.

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The Deperdussin replica, which was built by Jack Gillies, portrays a 1910 model aircraft. It was built as a tribute to Jack’s father who was one of the first mechanics at the Central Flying School at Point Cook in 1914.

The Australian Flying Corps was formed in 1912 as a sub branch of the Australian Army. The Flying Corps were responsible for flying and operating aircraft during World War One. Flying types like the Bleriot XI, Bristol Boxkite, Bristol F.2 Fighter, Airco DH.5, Armstrong Whitworth F.K.3, Avro 504 as early examples, the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) initially used aircraft for reconnaissance and patrol work. As aircraft improved and developed, roles expanded into aerial bombing, ground attack, and troop re-supply. 

The AFC went and saw active service in Palestine and over in France. The Corps were finally disbanded in 1919, when the fledgling Royal Australian Air Force was to be established in 1921.

Bristol Boxkite

The Bristol Boxkite holds the distinction of being the first military aircraft to fly in Australia. On the 1st March 1914, C.F.S.3 took off from Point Cook flown by Eric Harrison. Nearly all of Australia’s first pilots gained their wings by flying this aircraft. A second Boxkite was ordered in 1914 and produced at Point Cook thus becoming the first military aircraft built in Australia, in 1915. This aircraft became, C.F.S.8, but it’s career was short lived and was destroyed in 1916.

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Bristol Boxkite
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Bristol Boxkite early days of Army Aviation

Sopwith Camel

The Sopwith Camel entered service with the Australian Flying Corps in 1917. Number 4 Squadron embarked for England on 17 January 1917, arriving at Plymouth on 27 March, and was sent for training at Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham. The squadron  was designated 71 (Australian) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps (RFC). It wasn’t until January 1918 at the squadrons base at Bruay, where operations in support of the British 1st Army that operations flying offensive patrols and escorting reconnaissance machines took place. Numbers 5, 6 and 8 Squadrons also flew the type in training roles. On display at the museum is a replica of the aircraft type, and is marked as E1416 an 1.F.1 model. The original aircraft was built by Ruston, Proctor and Co in Lincoln and served with 4 Squadron.

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Sopwith Camel
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Sopwith Camel A.1

Fokker DR.1

The Camel’s foe over the skies of the Western Front was the Fokker DR.1. The most famous example being the all red aircraft flown by Manfred Von Richthofen. It is now pretty much accepted by most that an Australian was responsible for shooting down the Red Baron – most likely Sergeant Cedric Popkin of the 24th machine gun company. Australian soldiers were the first to the crash site, and the first to lift souvenirs from his aircraft. On display at the museum is a replica that flew regularly in the 1990’s.  It was flown as part of the RAAF Museum collection from Point Cook. Powered by the Continental R-670 radial engine  it ended up in storage with the AWM in Canberra, ACT.

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Fokker DR.1 Triplane
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Fokker DR.1

Auster Mk III

Entering service with the RAAF in 1943 the Auster Mk.III was employed in the observation and communications roles. Some fifty six aircraft were delivered and in service until 1959. Many were flown by Army aviation personnel and these aircraft were the foundations of which the independence from the RAAF was formed. A11-41 was taken in charge by the RAAF in 1942 and was retired from service in 1959.

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Auster MkIII

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-19 Boomerang

Another Australian design on display is the CAC Boomerang. Used in the Army co-operation role as it was outclassed by modern day axis fighters, the Boomerang was known as the panic fighter. The was due to the aircraft being designed, built and flown in the space of five months. Imagine Boeing or Dassault doing that today! The aircraft was built around tried and proven components such as the Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engine, and many items that were already in production on the Wirraway. Two hundred and forty nine were produced at the company’s Fisherman’s Bend factory. The aircraft on display was an actual flying airframe, flying as VH-BOM. This is CA-19, A46-206,  is what remains of the aircraft acquired by Guido and Lynette Zuccoli in 1989, who had the aircraft restored by Sanders Aircraft at Chino. During WWII the aircraft had served with 83 Squadron RAAF coded MH-Y. 83 Squadron initially provided home defence for Brisbane before moving to Milingimbi and then Gove in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately Guido was killed in a flying accident on March 6, 1997, his wife Lynette, maintains most of the family’s fleet even today. The aircraft was donated to the museum in 2007.

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Milingimbi Ghost
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CA-19 Boomerang, A46-206
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CA-19 Boomerang

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-25 Winjeel

In 1948 the Commonwealth Aircraft Company (CAC) began a new design to replace the now obsolete Wirraway and Tigermoth trainers. The RAAF requirement for a three seat trainer saw the prototype fly in February 1951 and a redesigned second prototype was trialed, flying in 1955. Sixty two production CA-25 aircraft were built and saw service until retirement in 1994. The type was also employed in the Forward Air Control (FAC) role where Army pilots flew and trained in this role. On display at the museum is A85-432.

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A85-432 is on display at the museum.
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Bell 47 Sioux

The introduction of the Bell 47 into the Australian Army was an important milestone in the service. It saw the Army achieve rotary aircraft independence from the RAAF. Some sixty five aircraft, comprising of three different models, saw service with the Army. The type was in service from 1960-1977.  Of the sixty five, thirty seven of them went to war in Vietnam. Flying as part of 161 Reconnaissance Flight, they flew some 43,911 hours and 66,069 sorties. Eight were written off or shot down in operations. On display is A1-720, a B-47G3-B1 which was taken on strength in 1968 and then flown in combat operations between 1968 and 1969.

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Bell-47G3-B1, A1-720

Cessna O-1 Birddog

The Australian Army was loaned two Cessna O-1 Birddogs. In 1967 161 Reece Flight operated them. Some 921.35 hours were flown by the two aircraft. They were flown alongside the Cessna 180s on visual reconnaissance flights, night flying missions and Search and Rescue (SAR) among others. In 1970 the remains of a crashed Birddog were recovered to 161 Reece Flights operating base at Nui Dat. Many favours and exchanges took place including the swapping of a HR Holden staff car for parts and components to get the aircraft, now named ‘Bunny II’ to operational configuration. The huge undertaking was a success when it was test flown by Charlie Brewster. The aircraft was then shipped back to Australia and did fly on a few occasions. Retired from flying the aircraft tells an exciting and uniquley Aussie story of ingenuity and perhaps a bit of rule bending.

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Cessna O-1 Birddog
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Basic cockpit of the Cessna O-1 Birddog
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Cessna O-1 ‘Bunny II’

Bell UH-1H Iroquois

Two of the famous Bell product, the Iroquois, are on display at the museum.  The Iroquois is one of only a few airframes to have been operated by all three flying branches within the ADF, the Air Force, Navy and Army. The first “B” model example entered service in 1962, operated by the RAAF in the Search and Rescue role (SAR). The Army took over operating the type from the RAAF in late 1989 with 25 of the improved and larger H models. 171 Squadron of the 5th Aviation Regiment flew the type until retirement in 2007. On display at the museum is A2-649 and 149.

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9 Squadron received A2-149 and A2-110 due to the the loss on operations of A2-381 and A2-769 in 1969. It completed several tours with the Peace Monitoring Group, Bougainville. The aircraft finished its service with 171 Squadron – 1st Aviation Regiment.
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The aircraft is display in its Bushranger configuration which included twin M-60s on mounts.
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Delivered in 1967, as a UH-1D model it was subsequently upgraded to UH-1H, standard. 

Delivered in 1967, as a UH-1D model it was subsequently upgraded to UH-1H, standard. It was to be allocated A2-166 but it was never applied. Delivered directly to 9 Squadron in Vietnam. It flew in operations as part of the United Nations Emergency Force II 1976-79. Based in Ismailia, Egypt. Painted overall white Served in the Sinai with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in 1982-1986. Transferred to Army Aviation in 1989 and flying with 171 Squadron of the 1st Aviation Regiment. It also flew several missions with the Peace Monitoring Group, Bougainville, 04/98 to 19/07/01. Operation Bel Isi Painted overall red to distinguish from the ex-RAAF Iroquois flown by PNGDF.

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GAF Nomad

The Australian built and designed Government Aircraft Factory Nomad entered service with the Australian Army in 1975. An initial batch of eleven short fuselaged N22 versions were allocated and flown by No 173 (General Support) Squadron and the School of Army Aviation at Oakey. The Nomad has a history well known in Australian aviation circles and that’s all I will say about it. On display at the museum is A18-307. The aircraft was accepted by the RAAF in 1977 and was flown to Oakey to join 173 Support Squadron in 1978.  It’s last flight was in 1994 and after some time as an instructional training aid it joined the fleet at the museum. Outside is a second example of the Nomad, more on this later.

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GAF Nomad A18-307
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GAF Nomad A18-307
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Nomad cockpit
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Cessna 180

Another Army Aviation type that did go to war was the Cessna 180. Seven of them deployed to South Vietnam with 161 Reece Flight from September 1965 until February 1971. Three were lost in crashes and or destroyed while on deployment. Their tour of duty ended in 1971 when the type was replace by the Pilatus Porter. On display a the museum is A98-045 a C-180D model.

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Cessna 180 A98-045
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Cessna 180

CAC Kiowa (Bell 206B-1)

In the late 1960s the Australian Army had a requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) to replace the Bell 47G Sioux.

Come February 1971 the Australian Government announced an order for seventy five examples of the Bell OH-58A Kiowa. The government chose the 206B-1 version, which was a military variant of the civilian 206A Jet Ranger with an upgraded engine and lengthened rotor blades. To aid operating in unprepared areas, the Kiowa would be fitted with higher skids, and other items like radios, suitable for ADF operations.

With the ADF heavily involved in the War in Vietnam, in 1971, 161 (Indep) Recce Flt, had taken delivery of eight Bell OH-58A Kiowas on lease through the US Army. Back home the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was to manufacture the new Kiowas. The first twelve Kiowas were built in Bells factory in knock-down form with re-assembly completed at Bell Helicopter’s facility at Brisbane Airport. The first Australian built machines were produced under the CAC designation of CA-32, the first of which (A17-013) was first flown from Fishermans Bend Victoria on 20 March 1973. Today the Kiowas continue to be operated in smaller numbers by the School of Army Aviation at Oakey for training purposes and operational tasks by 162 Recce Squadron in Townsville and 161 Recce Squadron in Darwin. The Kiowa is now in its twilight in Army service and will be replaced EC-135T2+ in the training role in the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) program based at HMAS Albatross, Nowra NSW.

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A17-001 is the first Australian Army Kiowa. Built at Bells factory, it was delivered on the 22/11/71 and handed over to the Army at Brisbane Airport.
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Bell OH-58A Kiowa

Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter

Nineteen Pilatus Porters were ordered for the Australian Army. Six were deployed to South Vietnam with 161 Independent Recce Flight. A14-680, -681 and -686, travelled to Vietnam aboard HMAS Sydney and they arrived at Vung Tau on 28 November 1969. The last operational flight of a Porter in Vietnam was carried out on 13 Dec 1971, after which the Porters were prepared for their eventual return to Australia in early Jan 1972. The Pilatus Porters remained in service with the Australian Army Aviation Corps until 17 October 1992, when the aircraft were officially retired from service and were listed for sale. Three Porters are preserved in Australia. A14-690 was allocated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra for eventual static display while A14-652 is on display at the museum. A third airframe A14-704 is on display at the RAAF Heritage Centre Amberley.

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Delivered to the 1st Aviation Regiment at RAAF Base Amberley Qld on 16/02/68 after a 16-day flight from Stans in Switzerland. In July 1969 the aircraft was deployed to LAE in PNG for service with 183 (Indep) Recce Flight. The aircraft was withdrawn from service in 1992. It became part of the museum collection in 1994.

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The PC-6 is powered by a 550 shaft horse power Pratt and Whitney PT6 turbine engine fitted with a constant speed propeller unit with reverse pitch capability.

Boeing CH-47D Chinook

In 1995 the Australian Army received four ex RAAF CH-47C helicopters which were converted to CH-47D standard with two new build CH-47D-LR numbers 201 & 202 joining directly from Boeing in 2001. The Army deployed to Afghanistan between 2006 and 2013 where the Chinooks were flown in support of the joint operations. A15-102 was destroyed in May 2011 and A15-103 on June 2012.

In November 2011 two ex US Army CH-47D’s were acquired, A15-151 & 152, which were delivered in June 2012. In 2016 the Delta model was replaced by the newer and more powerful F or Foxtrot model. Ten of them are in service with the 5th Aviation Regiment based in Townsville, QLD.

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A15-104 was delivered on the in March 1995, and was previously A15-004. The aircraft was flown in operation in the Gulf during Operation Bastile and Falconer during 03-04/2003. The aircraft is named ‘Crux Australis’.
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Chinook cockpit
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Chinook A15-104 passenger and cargo compartment
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Formerly A15-004
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A15-104 on display

Outside displays:

The outside display is on the active base side with two more exhibits. There is no access to these exhibits at this stage.

GAF Nomad

A18-300 is the second Nomad pre-prototype, VH-SUR. The aircraft featured tail modifications to increase the fin area and raise the rudder, and was displayed at the 1972 Farnborough Air Show. It was leased to the Army as A18-002 but crashed in 1973. After being repaired at the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) as VH-SUR, it was returned to the Army in 1976 as an instructional airframe at No 5 Base Workshops.

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A18-300 Army Nomad ASO (1 of 1)

De havilland DHC-4A Caribou

The RAAF took delivery of twenty nine Caribou’s starting in 1964. Flying with number 38 Squadron the type saw service in Vietnam where they soon began flying as ‘Wallaby Airlines’ and also where it’s Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) capabilities were put to great use. Some 79,739 sorties and 47,000 flying hours were flown during combat operations. The type continued in RAAF service until 2009 until it was finally replaced by the Alenia C-27J Spartan. A4-195 has became part of the museum’s collection in 2015.

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45 years of operations in the RAAF
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A4-195 RAAF DHC-4 Caribou

I thoroughly recommend a visit to this museum to see this very unique collection and the comprehensive history of Army Aviation in Australia. The museum can be found at Museum Drive, Oakey Airport, Queensland.

A link to the website is here: http://www.armyflyingmuseum.com.au/


Wed – Sat

10am – 3pm


Sunday, Monday & Tuesday

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Airnorth celebrate their 40th anniversary in aviation.


A significant milestone for Australia’s Airnorth today. The airline celebrated its 40th anniversary thus becoming the second oldest airline operating in Australia behind the National carrier QANTAS. 

The airline started operations in 1978 as a charter airline flying throughout the Northern Territory. From these humble beginnings the airline introduced scheduled services in 1981. At this time, the airline’s fleet included the first turbine powered aircraft in the Northern Territory, a Beechcraft King Air as well as a single example of the ubiquitous and immortal Douglas DC-3. Airnorth had a ticketing alliance with Ansett Airlines until the airlines collapse in 2001. Soon after this Airnorth partnered with  QANTAS, which continues today. The airline moved into the jet age, in 2007, with the arrival of the 76-seat Embraer E170LR. Today the airline flies, five of the type along side seven Embraer EMB-120s and three Metro 23s.

Home base – Darwin, N.T

Airnorth is owned by the world’s largest helicopter operator the British owned, Bristow Group. Today the airline employs some 300 staff . The airline services 20 destinations across two countries, with over 220 scheduled weekly departures as well as chartered flights.

Having flown the airline recently, I can say from experience the airline is a very professional outfit and the E-170 is a great aircraft to fly on. So enjoy our photos celebrating this great airline.

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Fairchild Metro
Embraer EMB-120
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Embraer EMB-170LR
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E-170LR Melbourne
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Departing Melbourne Airport

Aviation Spotters Online wishes the airline and its staff another happy 40 years! 



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Australian Fire Season 2017/18 Overview

Fire Season 2017-18 Overview

Aerial Fire Fighting in Australia

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This fire season has again brought out the importance of the fleet of Aerial Fire Fighting appliances. They work alongside the men and women on the ground operating the trucks, bulldozers and importantly the fire hoses. No sooner had the 2017 season ended and the international aircraft and crews departed back to their home operating bases. They were soon back in action fighting fires across North America and Canada. In particular, we watched the TV as the most destructive period on record, which saw multiple wildfires burning across California. A grand total of 9,133 fires burned over 1,381,405 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. There is an enormous cost associated with the fires too with some $9.4 billion in insured property that has been damaged or destroyed. Not only is property destroyed but many lives have been lost over the years due to bushfires. In Australia we have seen the huge financial costs and deaths associated with large fires especially in recent times. Some of Australia’s largest and costliest incidents have been Black Saturday in Victoria 2009, Margaret River in 2011, Parkerville 2014, Esperance 2015, Yarloop/Waroona/Harvey 2016 in Western Australia and Canberra in 2003, The NSW/TAS fire season in 2013 was significant where over 500 buildings were damaged or destroyed around the state

As a country, we have grown our fire fighting resources as the urban sprawl continues to expand. The fire services call it the Rural Urban Interface or RUI. State governments have spent huge sums upgrading all aspects of fire fighting equipment. As new technology becomes more affordable and efficient to operate they are being put to work. The uses of drones, thermal imaging, satellite imaginary have all matured to be used on fire grounds. So to have the mix of fixed wing and rotary aircraft with the use of retardant in combating the fires.

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Firebird leads the air attack on a fire north west of Melbourne with AirCrane dropping and Bell 412 following in.

As proved in recent times here in Australia, having a wide and varied mix of aerial fire fighting aircraft allows the local government agencies to best make use of the tax payers dollars. These mix of fixed and rotary wing types are typically contracted through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) based in Melbourne, Victoria on behalf of the Australian jurisdictions. It issues contracts to local and overseas providers of these platforms. State governments and Territories also issue their own contracts, notably in Western Australia DFES has a mixture of NAFC and state contracted aircraft and helicopters.  The department managing it is the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions’ Parks and Wildlife Service (DBCA), which manages aerial firefighting operations for Western Australia. 

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Ag Air based at Stawell in Victoria had two Air Tractor AT-802As on contract, based at Casterton in Victoria.

The 2017/18 season has seen tenders open to qualified organisations for the provision of aviation services to support the control of bushfires and management of other emergencies across Australia.  The tender will see contracts awarded for three years plus two optional one year extensions of these services. This covers the 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/2021 seasons. The tenders this year has added requirements for some agencies which included; Specialist Intelligence Gathering (SIG), Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS), Winching/Rappelling and Aerial Burning (Aerial Ignition) operations. These operations are of course in addition to the firebombing, air attack supervision, incident observation (air observing) incident mapping, transport, and sling loads already being undertaken. Each state and territory has its own requirements and this is why tenders are issued in conjunction with the organisational structures, and specific requirements of the individual states and territories.

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The RJ85 team were kept bust throughout the season. While the aircraft is on contract to the Victorian government the aircraft was called to assist with fires in NSW and near the ACT. As this diagram shows the aircraft performed while being based in Avalon, Albury, Richmond and for the first time Dubbo. (Image provided by FieldAir)
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Coulson S-61 conducting a night filling trial. (Image courtesy  EMV & Coulson)
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Firebird 307 conducts the drop operations as Helitak 345 drop on a fire at the You Yangs in Victoria.

Aerial Fire Fighting is a large part of many Australian Aviation business. With many local operators well versed in the how, what and where. The local operators have large fleets of both fixed and rotary wing types on contract across the country. Not only is there a huge capital cost in the airframes themselves, pilot training/currency, airframe maintenance, new equipment fit outs etc. These are done to secure a contract in a hotly contested field. Operators are now tailoring their business and aircraft to suit contract requirements, and be at the fore front of the new technologies  to give them an edge against the competition.

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Right on target, Helitak 345 heads off to refill for the next drop.

Night Fire Fighting…..a new frontier

The single biggest and probably most significant event this fire season wasat Ballarat in conjunction with EMV, CFA, DELWP, NAFC, CASA, Coulson and Kestrel. Developing the night fire fighting capability will allow the undertaking of night filling (hover fill and ground fill) and water drops onto active fire fronts, this change in aerial fire fighting operations should significantly assist ground crews after dark, when previously aircraft would need to be on the ground by last light.

Pilots flying with Night Vision goggles, operating alongside the S-76 which acts as the Supervision aircraft which has an air attack office on board, are able to operate longer and at times when active fire fronts still require fire bombing.  The agencies and operators will now integrate the night fire fighting operations in the 2018-19 fire season. The trial was successful and CASA has now approved Coulson Aviation and Kestrel Aviation to undertake night firebombing operations.

ASO has been provided with images and video of this trial and its huge implications for future fire fighting operations. All images are courtesy of Emergency Management Victoria, via Wayne Rigg.

Kestrel’s Helitak 346 prepares to launch during the trials.
Before each trail, all agencies involved with trial were briefed.
Helitak 347 prepares for launch
Helitak 347 completes a drop on a simulated fire during the trials



Helitak 346 makes drop on a simulated fire.

See the link below from EMV to see the night trials video.

The NAFC issued tenders to suit the various types of fixed wing aircraft it can mobilise. The types are broken down into five fixed wing types which are based on their water holding requirements. Fixed wing aircraft used for fire bombing will be assigned a type number based on their water carrying capacity and design features, as specified below:

Type Engines Water carrying capacity
1 Multi engine Greater than 11,356 litres
2 Multi engine Between 11,356 and 6,813 litres inclusive
3 Multi engine Less than 6,813 litres
4 Single engine Greater than 2,270 litres
5 Single engine Less than or equal to 2,270 litres

Rotary wing aircraft are also broken down into four distinct types.

Type Internal payload Water Carrying capacity
1 2,268 kg or greater 2,650 litres or greater
2 Between 1,134 kg and 2,267 kg inclusive Between 1,135 litres and 2,649 litres inclusive
3 Between 544 kg and 1,133 kg inclusive Between 380 litres and 1,134 litres inclusive
4 Less than 544 kg Less than 380 litres

Air Attack History

Despite Australia entering the aerial fire fighting game over 50 years ago, it was the United States Air Force and United States Forest Service which were the first to experiment with military aircraft dropping water-filled bombs. The bombs were unsuccessful, and the use of internal water tanks was adopted instead. With large numbers of surplus Word War II and Korean War era aircraft available it was no surprise that airframes like the Consolidated PBY Catalina, Grumman TBM Avenger, Grumman F7F Tigercat, North American B-25, Douglas A-26, Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, Boeing B-17, Lockheed P2V Neptune’s and Douglas C-54s were for a long time the mainstay of the aerial fire fighting fleet, newer purpose-built tankers have since come online.

Today’s modern fire fighting machines in use include modified airframes from roles such as Agricultural spraying and Passenger airliners. These sorts of previous roles provide the fire fighting aviation community with well built and suitably affordable airframes to modify. The well established Aerial Agriculture manufactures, like Air Tractor and Thrush in the United States have taken their proven Ag designs and turned them into extremely capable fire fighting airframes.

There is, as mentioned a large requirement for post airliner service use of airframes when they retire from passenger hauling. Many overseas operators have taken to modifying types like the BAe-146, RJ-85 MD-87, DC-10, Lockheed C-130 and even the ‘Queen of the Skies’ the mighty Boeing 747-400.

International companies helping out

American operators are once again across Australia this fire season. All have brought some of the best fire fighting equipment fielded yet. Operators including 10 Tanker, who have brought the huge Douglas DC-10 to New South Wales on contract to the NSW RFS. Helimax Aviation who in conjunction with local operator United Aero have brought out the Boeing Vertol CH-47D Chinook again on a call as required contract. Erickson Inc, who celebrated 20 years of Air Crane operations in Australia this year has six of the S-64Es across Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Also returning for another season and on an as required contract was Timberline Helicopters which brought the UH-60 Blackhawk into the country to be operated alongside local operator Pay’s.

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N5630J ‘Thing 2’ at work near Williamtown.
N948CH Helimax CH-47D ASO Wang 2018 5 (1 of 1)
N948CH at rest at Wangaratta.
N957AC Erickson S-64E ASO 7 (1 of 1)
Helitak 342 fighting fires North of Melbourne.
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N522AX after completing a drop near RAAF Williamtown, while operating from RAAF Richmond.

The Canadians are also in force across Australia. Several operators and their equipment are in use. These operators including, Wildcat Helicopters, Valhalla Helicopters, Great Slave Helicopters. Alongside the season regulars like Coulson Aviation and Conair with their varied fleets and crews with extensive experience not only on home fires, but in Australia also. One such example is Wildcat Helicopters. They have brought three of their Bell 412s into the country this season. Based in West Kelowna, British Columbia the company was founded in 1998, by husband and wife Mike and Cheryl Michaud as a general aerial service company. As Wildcat Helicopters has expanded, it’s services have grown to become more specialised. In 2004, it was decided to focus the company on the fire fighting market. Today is one of the largest private helicopter companies in Canada. The company operates 11 medium lift aircraft and have a staff of fifty. It’s has a fleet of five Bell 412 helicopters and also has six Bell 212s. Four aircraft are equipped with rescue hoist-and-winch systems. The company had sent three of their Bell 412SP’s to Australia to operate with locally based Camden Operator United Aero. C-FWTQ, C-GBND and C-FWTY were seen in action across New South Wales this season.

C-FWTQ Wildcat Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
C-FWTQ was one of three Bell 412 Helicopters brought in by Wildcat Helicopters this season.
C-GBND Wildcat Bell 412 ASO (1 of 1)
Wildcat Helicopters Bell 412 C-GBND awaiting assembly at the Camden operations base.

Valhalla Helicopters returned again this season with three of their fleet. Bell 205 C-GRUV, C-FPSZ and Bell 212 C-GLFT. They were shipped to Albion Park in Southern NSW. Valhalla commenced operations in the spring of 2003, and is owned by Blair Savege. In 2010, the company developed an international presence by creating a sister company, Valhalla Helicopters Pty Ltd, with a base of operations at the Illawara Airport. The companies commitment to operations in Australia saw Blair, complete the training, exams and proving flights with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to secure his Australian commercial helicopter license, in order to fill the position as Chief Pilot for Valhalla Helicopters Pty Ltd Australia.

C-GRUV Valhalla Helicopters Bell 205 ASO (1 of 1)
Valhalla Helicopters Bell 205 C-GRUV flying as ‘Helitak 253’, this season on a call as required contract operated from Illawarra Regional Airport in Southern New South Wales.
C-GLFT Valhalla Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 2 (1 of 1)
Valhalla Helicopters Bell 212, C-GLFT under assembly at Albion Park NSW.
Fire Article 2018 Valhalla (1 of 1)
Two machines are seen here later in the season stationed at Mudgee Airport in NSW.

Great Slave Helicopters, another Canadian operator based at Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. The company was established in 1984 and toady with their varied fleet today offer a wide range of services. Mining exploration and fire suppression, heli-sking, air ambulances and military support missions are some of the missions undertaken by GSH. The company is subsidiary of the Discovery Air Inc Group, flying types like, Bell 205, 206, 212, 407 along with BK117, AS350 and 335s. Jayrow Helicopters based at Moorabbin in Victoria have contracted C-FNTR this season to fly on a call as needed contract as Helitak 237.

C-FNTR Great Slave Helicopters Bell 205 ASO (1 of 1)
Great Slave Helicopters Bell 205, C-FNTR on standby in Bendigo.

Conair also based in British Columbia has been operating fire fighting equipment for more than 40 years. Having operated types like Douglas DC-6, Lockheed Electras, and Convair 580s. The company was at the fore front of development of the BAe-146/RJ fire fighting conversions. In 2009 the company flew a fully ballasted and instrumented BAe-146-200 to test the concept. The company selected the modernised version the RJ-85 as there is enough airframe life for 25 odd years of service. Working in conjunction with the manufacturer (BAe) the two companies developed the external tank modifications which envelopes the fuselage. The 11,350 litre tank capacity fitted with a constant flow firebombing system, is located centrally so as to have no pitch issues when on a bombing run. Conair in partnership with locally based Victorian operator FieldAir again teamed up on contract to the Victorian State Government with the BAe RJ85. The aircraft provides excellent low speed and high speed performance thanks to its fowler flaps. This season as it had previously the aircraft was called upon to operate against the fires in New South Wales.

C-GVFK Conair RJ-85 ASO 4 (1 of 1)
Bomber 391 rests at is Avalon Airport operating base.

Coulson Aviation was established in 1985 and are based in Port Alberni British Columbia, Canada. The company traces its roots back to the family business of logging in British Columbia, Canada. The company has continued to grow and now has a large fleet of aircraft which are deployed across Canada, USA and Australia. As its operations grew, so did the need to establish a local entity in Australia so in 2010 Coulson Aviation PTY was established in Australia to coordinate its operations. The company now has three Lockheed C-130 airframes converted to fire bombers, with a forth due to begin flight testing later this year.

N130FF Coulson C-130Q ASO 2018 (1 of 1)
N130FF arrives at Avalon Airport ahead of standing up for the 17/18 Season.
N405LC ASO (1 of 1)
Due to the delay of N130FF in arriving in Victoria, N405LC stood in until the it could make it into the country.

Coulson provided several fire attack airframes this season. The New South Wales Rural Fire Brigade had Lockheed L-100-30 N405LC, at its disposal this season based at RAAF Richmond north of Sydney. The Country Fire Service in Victoria contracted C-130Q N130FF for the season as well as two Sikorsky S-61s C-FIRX and N161CG. Imported late in the season was Sikorsky S-76 C-FIRW, for use in the night fire fighting trials.

C-FIRX Coulson S-61N ASO (1 of 1)
Helitak 347 spent most of its season based at Colac in South West Victoria

New operators in the game…..

A new company on the scene in the future will be StarFlight Australia. The company plans to bring ten Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters into Australia, with options for an additional 10 aircraft. A refurbishment program which is to be undertaken in Brisbane by Sikorsky, will see the ten ex-US Army Black Hawks, brought up ‘to as new’ condition and re-purposed specifically for aerial firebombing operations during future bushfire seasons around Australia and New Zealand and for year-round emergency services and disaster relief work. Starflight is the Australian division of, Kaan Air one of Europe’s leading helicopter utility operators and a helicopter manufacturer (OEM) distributor for Agusta-Westland and Russian helicopters. The company has significant operational experience in helicopter fire fighting, off-shore and Air Medical Service businesses

Image of the proposed StarFlight UH-60A Blackhawk

Fixed Wing fleet types within Australia.

Air Tractor Fleet

In Australia many types operate as well established platforms. Local operators employ large numbers of the rugged and suitably capable Air Tractor. This season some forty examples were either on contract or available on an as required contract across the country. Twelve alone were on contract in Victoria from operators including Field Air, Ag Air, Pay’s. Western Australia had eleven on contract this season through Dunn’s. Most numerous in the fleet are the AT-802F and AT-802F FireBoss float equipped version. The Air Tractor with its 3200 litre tank capacity, agility and robustness make it an extremely capable weapon of attack. This past season saw the “harvest bomber” concept demonstrated to good effect again in Victoria . Field Air had two AT- 802s in the programme – situated at Ouyen and then across to Kerang as the harvest progressed. Ag Air was also involved with two 802’s based at Nhill for the harvest period. A rotor wing aircraft was also stationed in the Mallee for the harvest period.

Fire Article 2018 6 (1 of 1)
Field Air’s ‘Bomber 715’ a AT-802A was noted at Ballarat with spray booms attached prior to having them removed for the fire season.
VH-YRY AGAIR AT-802 Casterton FB ASO 2 (1 of 1)
AGAIR’s AT-802 VH-YRY on standby at Casterton.
Fire Article 2018 4 (1 of 1)
Ag Air’s AT-802 Bomber 357 sits at rest at Mount Gambier Airport in South Australia
VH-LIH Pay's AirTractor 802A (1 of 1)
Pay’s Air Service’s AT-802 noted at Goulbourn NSW on contract.
Airtractor 802 VH-NTM from Aerotech, N.T
Air Tractor AT-802 VH-NTM from Aerotech, N.T Seen conducting a drop on a fire on the outskirts of Darwin Airport.

Air Tractor AT-802 Overview:

  • Single Engine Air Tanker
  • Call sign “Bomber”
  • Single pilot crew 3200 litre capacity
  • 7250 kg gross weight
  • Drop speed 200 km/h
  • Cruise speed 350 km/h
  • 11 m length, 18 m wingspan,
  • P&W PT6A turboprop engine 1350-1600 HP
  • Fuel consumption 280 litres/h of Jet A1
  • Gen II Fire Retardant Dispersal System
  • Fire retardant or fire suppressant
  • 4+ Radios &
  •  Satellite tracking

Pay’s Air Service operate three of the Fire Boss version alongside seven fixed undercarriage versions. 

VH-FBV Fireboss Wayne Rigg (1 of 1)
VH-FBX scooping water on the lake to fight the Peat fire in South Western Victoria this year. (Image courtesy, Wayne Rigg EMV)
VH-FBX Pay's AT802A Fireboss ASO (1 of 1)
The shear size of the Fireboss is evident here.
VH-FBX Pay's Fireboss AT-802A ASO 3 (1 of 1)
VH-FBX from Pay’s was stationed on contract at Albury Fire Base.
VH-FBX Pay's Fireboss AT-802A ASO 5 (1 of 1)
Powered by the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F which delivers 1,600 Horse power @ 1,700 RPM.
Fire Article 2018 (1 of 1)
Filling Scoop in the retracted position.
Fire Article 2018 2 (1 of 1)
Filling scoop deployed, which allows the filling of the 3028 Litres of water for fire use.
VH-FBZ Pays Air Tractor 802 Fireboss (1 of 1)
VH-FBZ preformed a water drop at the Scone Airshow this year.
Part of the Dunn Aviation Fleet head out to a fire not far from their Jandacot Base. (Image from Brenden Scott)

Air Tractor AT-602

VH-FHA Air Tractor AT602 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-FHA an AT-602 its self a smaller version of the AT-802 is owned by Fred Fahey and flies as Bomber 225 on behalf of the New South Wales Fire Service.

Cessna 208 Caravan

The Cessna Grand Caravan continues to prove its versatility on the fire ground. The type flies mainly in the air supervision role and also acts as transport for fire officials and other crews to quickly get on scene as required.

VH-TWX ACENA Cessna 208B ASO (1 of 1)
VH-TWX, or ‘Birddog 375’ sits at the ready at Firebase Albury

208B Grand Caravan Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft
  • Single engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, nine passengers
  • 3950 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 300 km/h
  • 12.7 m length, 15.8 m wingspan,
  • 675 HP Pratt & Whitney PT6A-114A Turbo shaft engine
  • Three bladed constant speed reversible propeller
  • Fuel consumption 175 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • Up to 6 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

The lead in aircraft type for the Large Air Tankers  and Very Large Air Tankers is the Rockwell Aero Commander. It’s main role is to direct the activities of the air tankers by both verbal target descriptions and by physically leading the drop profile to show the airtanker where to fly and to identify hazards and landmarks. In some circumstances the Turbo Commander can be used to lead the airtanker through its drop pattern and generate a smoke marker trail at the required drop location. The on board air attack supervisor will direct air tankers where and how to drop their load on the fire. .Other roles include the ability  to supervise aerial fire fighting operations and to collect intelligence information about a fire and pass it on to the incident management team.

VH-LVG AGair Commander ASO (1 of 1)
VH-LVG which is part of the AG Air fleet, seen here prior to being deployed to Sydney to support the VLAT DC-10 at RAAF Richmond.

Commander Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft.
  • Twin engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, 5 passengers
  • 4650 kg gross weight
  • Typical cruise speed 500 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude 18,000 feet
  • 13.5 m length, 14.2 m wingspan
  • 2 x 717 HP Garrett TPE 331-10 engines
  • Fuel consumption 300 litres/h of JetA1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • More than 3.5 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking
  • Smoke trail generator

Beechcraft B-200 King Air

In recent years the uptake of fire scanning has grown. The B-200T King Air operates alongside other fire fighting aircraft to support fire fighting crews on the ground. Carried on board the aircraft are sophisticated communication and tracking equipment that keep the aircraft in constant contact with other aircraft and the fire agency crews managing fires on the ground.

When fire scanning the aircraft flies over a fire area at high level, imaging the fire and its surrounding terrain with sensitive thermal and visual sensors. Processing systems on board the aircraft combine the image data with GPS, inertial measurement systems and terrain elevation data. This processing geo-rectifies the image to make it usable in mapping software and geospatial information systems . The combination of thermal and visual sensors used and the geo-rectification process creates images that are easy for fire fighters to interpret and for them to understand where the fire is and what it is doing. A broadband satellite data communication system enables rapid transfer of processed and raw data from the aircraft to users on the ground regardless of the aircraft’s location. The Victorian and NSW Governments both contracted, through NAFC, one Beechcraft King scanning aircraft.
VH-LAB AIR AFFAIRS Beechcraft B200T ASO (1 of 1)
VH-LAB which is part of the Air Affairs fleet based at Nowra in NSW.

B-200T King Air Overview

  • Call sign “Firescan”
  • Primary role: Fire Scanning
  • Other roles:Reconnaissance / utility
  • Twin engined turboprop
  • Single pilot, one system operator
  • Operating speed 245 Knots ( 450 km/h)
  • 1300m Runway required normal ops
  • 6100 kg maximum take-off weight
  • 13.3 m length, 16.8 wing span
  • Two P&W PT6A-42 turboprop engines
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • Infrared and multispectral line scanner
  • Satellite broad band data transmission
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Cessna 337

Also flying in the Birddog role is a number of Cessna 337s. These aircraft provide great fire observation platforms. Several are on an as required contract for the fire season.

VH-ZEV Cessna 337 (1 of 1)
Aerovision based in Ballarat operate VH-ZEV a Cessna 337 as Birddog 373. The vision from the cabin windows makes it an excellent observation platform. (Image courtesy Wayne Rigg EMV)
VH-IOK Cessna 337G AGAIr ASO (1 of 1)
VH-IOK is a Cessna 337G, part of the AGAir Fleet. It flies as Birddog 372

Cessna 337 Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft.
  • Twin engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, 5 passengers
  • 4650 kg gross weight
  • Typical cruise speed 500 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude 18,000 feet
  • 13.5 m length, 14.2 m wingspan
  • 2 x 717 HP Garrett TPE 331-10 engines
  • Fuel consumption 300 litres/h of JetA1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • More than 3.5 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking
  • Smoke trail generator

Gippsland GA-8 Airvan

The Gippsland GA-8 Airvan is an indigenous Australian design. The Airvan first flew in 1995 and was designed to fill a market niche perceived by the manufacturer between the Cessna 206 and Cessna 208 models.  Currently a single Airvan has been modified by Griffith based operation, Skycroppers for Fire Mapping role. The incorporation of real time mapping technology technology into the airframe allows the fire line perimeter to be digitally outlined. This in turn gives an accurate measurement of acreage within the fire perimeter.

VH-VEX Skycroppers Gippsland GA-8 Airvan (1 of 1)
VH-VEX owned by Skycroppers in Griffith sits on the ground at Essendon.

Gippsland GA-8 Airvan Overview:

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 7 passengers
  • Max takeoff weight: 1,814 kg (3,999 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: 340 L (74.8 Imp Gallons)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Textron Lycoming IO-540-K1A5 air-cooled flat-six, 220 kW (300 hp)
  • Maximum speed: 241 km/h (150 mph; 130 kn) at 1,525 m (5,000 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 222 km/h (138 mph; 120 kn) at 3,050 m (10,000 ft)
  • Range: 1,352 km (840 mi; 730 nmi)
  • Endurance: 6 hr
  • Service ceiling: 6,100 m (20,000 ft)

American Champion 8GCBC Scout

The Scout is used heavily in Western Australia in the Fire Spotter Role. Several are on contract to the Parks and Wildlife Department in the state.

Department Of Parks And Wildlife Fire Mgmt Service, VH-KTG heads out on another Patrol form Jandacot. (Image from Brenden Scott)
Department Of Parks And Wildlife Fire Mgmt Service VH-PWC heads out for a fire spotting mission. (Image from Brenden Scott)
  • Call sign “Fire Spotter”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Top speed: 225 km/h
  • Range: 684 km
  • Cruise speed: 180 km/h
  • Weight: 635 kg
  • Engine type: Lycoming O-360

Douglas DC-10 (Very Large Air Tanker- VLAT)

The DC-10 airtanker has been used by fire agencies in both North America and Australia. Its primarily use if for line building with fire retardant on larger fires. The DC-10 typically operates with a ‘lead plane’ or Birddog that flies ahead of the DC-10 during the firebombing drops and directs where the load is to be placed. The DC-10 can only operate from a limited number of larger airports across Australia like Richmond and Avalon as examples. With a full 43,900 litre retardant load on board and when the mercury reaches as high as 45 degrees Celsius the aircraft requires a runway length in excess of 2,000m. The DC-10 requires more consideration of runway and taxiway pavement strengths and clearances than other fire fighting aircraft due to its heavy loadings. On board the aircraft are sophisticated communication and tracking equipment that keep the aircraft in constant contact with other aircraft and the fire agency crews managing fires on the ground and in the air.

The N.S.W Government has contracted, through the NAFC, one DC-10 this season. N522AX or Bomber 912 was given a uniquely Australian name when it arrived in the country. At the launch event for the NSW fleet the aircraft was christened, in honour of renowned Australian aviator Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE after one of our most famous female aviatrix. 

Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_0460-ASO

Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_0564-ASO

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The firebombing system is a derivative of Erickson Aircrane helicopter tank specially modified to suit the DC-10.

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rfs media launch 17-11-03 059
Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant and Treasurer and Member for Hawkesbury Dominic Perrottet where among the dignitaries a the naming ceremony at RAAF Base Richmond.

Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_4728-ASO

Douglas DC-10 Overview:

  • Type 1 VLAT airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Crew of two pilots and one flight engineer
  • 5 tanks, underslung, constant flow firebombing system
  • 43,900 litre retardant capacity
  • Drop speed approximately 280 km/h
  • Typical cruise speed 650 km/h (loaded), 830 km/h (empty)
  • Typical cruise altitude 12,500 ft (loaded), 27,000 ft (empty)
  • Typical runway required 2,000+m
  • 55.5m length, 50.4m wingspan
  • 190,500kg Maximum takeoff weight
  • 3x General Electric CF6-50C2 turbo fan engines
  • Fuel consumption 9,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

BAe RJ85

Conair in conjunction with Ballarat based company Field Air have again contracted a single BAe RJ85 to operate as part of Victoria’s LAT aircraft operation. Conair operate several of the RJ85.

Fire Article 2018 RJ85 2 (1 of 1)

C-GVFK Conair-FieldAir RJ-85 ASO 2 (1 of 1)
This season the RJ85 worked from Avalon, Albury, Richmond and for the first time Dubbo.
Fire Article 2018 RJ85 (1 of 1)
Victorian Minister of Emergency Services, James Merlino and Craig Lapsley, Emergency Management Commissioner listen to one of the RJ Crew, explain how the application of the RJ’s technology on the fire ground.

RJ85 Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Two pilots when firebombing
  • Conair constant flow firebombing system 11,350 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 680 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 18,000 feet
  • Typical runway required 1,650m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m
  • 28.6 length, 26.3m wingspan
  • 42,200 kg gross weight
  • 4 x Honeywell LF507-1F turbo fan engines
  • Fuel consumption 3200 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Lockheed Martin C-130Q

N130FF Coulson C-130Q ASO 9 (1 of 1)

Fire Article 2018 C-130Q 2 (1 of 1)

Fire Article 2018 C-130Q 4 (1 of 1)
N130FF’s analogue flight deck.

C-130Q Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing Other roles: Transport
  • Two pilots and one flight engineer
  • RADS-XXL constant flow firebombing system
  • 15,450 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 545 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 12,500 feet
  • Typical runway required 1,600m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m
  • 30.3m length, 40.4m wingspan
  • 68,000 kg gross weight
  • 4 x 4,500HP Allison T56-A-16 turbo prop engines
  • Fuel consumption 2,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Lockheed Martin L382-30

Fire Article 2018 L-100 4 (1 of 1)
Water tank hoses on the ready.

L-382G which is the civilian versions of the military, Lockheed C-130H-30. Coulson was contracted by the NSWRFS to deploy this aircraft at RAAF Richmond on the outskirts of Sydney. N405LC ‘Bomber 132’ is designed and certified modification to the L100 to integrate a 4,300 US gallon firebombing system. This system is a derivative of the well regarded Aero Union RADS 1 firebombing tank. A 15,450 litre load of fire retardant solution can be carried on board the aircraft. The GPS linked computer controlled firebombing system delivers a constant flow of fire retardant or suppressant to the target area. The flexibility of the L100 design is a reason why it’s a successful fire fighting platform with a full retardant load on a 45 degree Celsius day the aircraft requires a 1,950m runway. Shorter runways can be utilized with a lighter load or on cooler temperature days. The aircraft is able to stay in communication with both air and ground support equipment, oil the fire ground thanks to its sophisticated communication and tracking equipment. Due to the nature of the large fires in California in the USA. EMV Victoria placed the L100 on contract until the C-130Q could arrive in country.

Fire Article 2018 L-100 3 (1 of 1)
A noticeable difference between the two Hercules variants is the cockpit layouts. the L-382 has large digital displays, something the C-130Q is due to receive when it undergoes a refit.
Fire Article 2018 L-100 2 (1 of 1)
A New South Welshman in Victoria.

L100-30 Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport
  • Two pilots and one flight engineer
  • RADS-XXL constant flow firebombing system 15,450 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 545 km/h Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 12,500 feet T
  • Typical runway required 1,600m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m 34.4m length,
  • 40.4m wingspan
  • 68,000 kg gross weight
  • 4 x 4,500HP Allison 501‐D22A turbo prop engines
  • Fuel consumption 2,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios,
  • Satellite tracking

Rotary Fleet Types

Sikorsky S-61

Coulson again were contracted to operate two S-61s in Victoria this season. Helitak 348 N161CG was based at Mansfield and Helitak 347, C-FIRX was based at Colac and took part in the night fire fighting trials.

Fire Article 2018 Coulson (1 of 1)
Helitak 347 conducts a night filling exercise as part of the tests for CASA approvals. (photo courtesy of EMV & Coulson)

C-FIRX Coulson S-61A ASO (1 of 1)

S-61N Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Coulson single line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to eighteen passengers
  • 4000 litre firebombing tank
  • 9980 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 225 km/h
  • Five bladed main rotor
  • 21.95m length, 18.9m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 1500HP General Electric CT58-140 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 625 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Sikorsky S-64E Aircrane

For the fire season in Australia for 2017/18 Erickson-Kestrel put six S-64E Aircranes to work. Two in Victoria one each at Essendon, Helitak 341 ‘Gypsy Lady’ N189AC, Moorabbin Helitak 342 ‘Ichabod’ N957AC. Bankstown, New South Wales had Helitak 747 ‘Olga’ N6962R and Helitak 741 ‘Delilah’ N194AC (this airframe later located to Kestrel’s home base of Mangalore to operate in Victoria). The South Australia government deployed Helitak 734 “Elsie’ N218AC from Brukunga in the Adelaide Hills for operations in the Mount Lofty Ranges. In Western Australia Helitak 739 ‘Georgia Peach N154AC was deployed at Serpentine for its contract to the Western Australian Government.

N189AC Erickson S-64 ASO Sunbury 2 (1 of 1)
The underside of N189AC, an Erickson S-64 which was fighting a fire in Sunbury Victoria.

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Kestrel EMV Day ASO 6 (1 of 1)

Erickson S-64E Skycranes Bankstown 2017 ASO (1 of 1)
Two Erickson S-64E Skycranes were based at Bankstown in NSW this season.

Fire Article 2018 11 (1 of 1)

N194AC Erickson S-64E ASO (1 of 1)
Helitak 344 located to Kestrel’s home base in Mangalore after finishing its contract in NSW.

S-64E Aircrane Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Heavy lifting
  • Twin engine heavy helicopter
  • Two pilots for firebombing operations
  • 7560 litre firebombing tank
  • 7700 kg realistic external load
  • 19090 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 215 km/h
  • Six bladed main rotor
  • 26.8m length, 22.0m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 4500HP Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A-4A turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 1985 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Sikorsky S-76A

A single example of the Sikorsky S-76A is in use this season as part of the joint  Night Fire Suppression Operations trial. Development of this capability will allow the undertaking of aerial fire fighting during the evening and into the night as well as potentially early in the morning. The trial is informing regulatory approvals required by the Civil Air Safety Authority (CASA) as well as identifying the systems of work that would underpin future operational use of the capability.

The  focus of the trial has been to demonstrate key aspects of night aerial fire fighting. This includes the ability to hover fill a water bombing helicopter from an unlit open water source using night vision imaging systems which includes the use of night vision goggles. The S-76 helicopter operates in an“over watch” capacity to identify hazards, identify the target priority and provide high- level overview of the water bombing operations. To enable a water drop, laser designated fire targets from the nose mounted gimble infrared camera, using the night vision technology is being employed. The S-76A  also carried an agency Air Attack Supervisor to coordinate with ground crew as well as providing tactical direction.
 This trial operation which was launched by Emergency Management Victoria, (EMV) has been monitored by other state fire agencies.

C-FIRW Coulson S-76A ASO 6 (1 of 1)

C-FIRW Coulson S-76A ASO 7 (1 of 1)

Coulson Aviation is now approved to undertake night hover fill and fire-bombing using NVIS technology as part of the Air Operators Certificate. The approvals represent a first of type decision for CASA and will shape future approvals for other operators as well as informing overseas air regulator decision where companies are seeking recognition of approvals made by the Australian Air Safety Regulator.

Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk

Pay’s Air Services again brought the converted ex US Army UH-60A Blackhawk to work in the country. Deployed from Pay’s Scone base in the New South Wales the aircraft was seen at work across New South Wales and Victoria. Operated in conjunction with Timberline Helicopters based at Sandpoint, Idaho in the USA, the helicopter N5630J in its extremely attractive blue and orange livery operated this season as Helitak 260. Earning the nickname ‘Thing 2’, the Blackhawk with its 3,400 Litre multi-shot Bambi Bucket, the aircraft was extremely valuable fighting fires across NSW. Eventually company owner Brian Jorgenson will have 6 of the UH-60s in this configuration and working. A the end of the season the Blackhawk went to work on a new ski lift in Victoria lifting the equipment into place. 

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UH-60A Blackhawk Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing
  • Crew: 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 2,640 lb (1,200 kg) of cargo internally
  • Length: 64 ft 10 in (19.76 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 53 ft 8 in (16.36 m)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 23,500 lb (10,660 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshaft, 1,890 hp (1,410 kW) each
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 3400 litre firebombing bucket

Boeing CH-47D

Helimax Aviation’s Boeing CH-47D Chinook, N948CH started life as a United States Army CH-47C and was delivered as 74-22293. In 1990 it was upgraded to CH-47D standard. The Army sold the helicopter via auction in 2014. N948CH is one of 6 CH-47s currently in the fleet. For a detailed examination of the CH-47 please follow the link to our story: http://aviationspottersonline.com/when-the-chook-comes-to-town/

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Helimax’s CH-47D N948CH Helitak 279 on standby at Wangaratta.

CH-47D Chinook Specifications

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 98 ft 10 in (30.1 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 60 ft per disk (18.3 m)
  • Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lbs (22,680 kg)Maximum speed: 140 knots
  • Cruise speed: 130 knots
  • Range: 400 nm
  • Endurance: 4 hrs
  • Service ceiling: 18,500 ft

MBB/Kawasaki BK 117

Several examples of the BK-117 were on contract this season. Operated mainly on contract to the NSW RFS, the BK-117 is an extremely versatile machine.

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Two of United Helicopters BK-117s at their Camden base.
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VH-VRP Kawasaki built BK117 B-1 or ‘Helitack 201’ is a 1990 build.

BK-117 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport,utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 270kg 75m ‘Breeze Eastern’ HS-20200 rescue hoist
  • Single pilot, up to eight passengers
  • 900 litre firebombing bucket
  • 3500kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 215 km/h
  • Four bladed composite main rotor
  • 13.0m length, 11.0m
  • rotor diameter
  • 2 x 750HPHoneywell LTS101-850B-2 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 300litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Bell 212

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VH-NNN Helitak 331, a Bell 212 operated by Kestrel Helicopters sits on standby at the Shepparton Fire Base.
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Jayrow Helicopters Bell 212, VH-JJK Helitak 339 working on the Mt Cottrel Fire.

Bell 212 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Two line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to fourteen passengers
  • 1477 litre firebombing tank
  • 5090 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 185 km/h
  • Two bladed main rotor
  • 17.4m length, 14.6m rotor diameter
  • 1800HP Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3BFTwin-Pac engine
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 214B Big Lifter

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McDermott Helicopters Bell 214B Big-Lifter VH-SUM flying as Helitak 335 out of Bendigo Fire base.
C-FXNI / Hwlitak 677, Bell 214B-1 Big Lifter of McDermott Aviation (leased from East West Helicopters, Salmon Arm, BC, Canada) Image by Brenden Scott
McDermott Helicopters Bell 214B Big-Lifter N254SM Helitak 673. Image by Brenden Scott.

Bell 214 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: passenger / cargo transport
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to 14passengers
  • 2650 litre firebombing tank capacity
  • Cruise speed 240 km/h
  • Two bladed main and tail rotors
  • 6300kg maximum take-off weight
  • 17.7m length, 14.7 rotor diameter
  • 2950HP Lycoming T55-08D
  • turbo shaft engine,
  • Fuel consumption
  • 600 litres/h ofJet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • satellite tracking

Bell 412

VH-NSC Canberra Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
A new comer to the fire fighting world is this airframe. Originally operated for the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Aeromedical Service by CHC Helicopters. It is now part of the Canberra Helicopters group and has been fitted out for the fire fighting attack role. Noted here at Wagga Wagga in NSW.

In early 2018, Kestrel conducted night firebombing capability development trials and in early March 2018 integrated its Operational Test and Evaluation Phase into the Night Firebombing Trials coordinated by Emergency Management Victoria. Kestrel is the first operator in Australia to conduct live fire suppression at night from a Bell 412 Helitak and has attained unrestricted approval to conduct night aerial firebombing from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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VH-KHU is one of two ex Japanese, Tokyo Metropolitan Police airframes operated by Kestrel Aviation. Seen here at its home base at Managlore in Victoria. KHU represents one of two recently NVIS (Night Vision Imaging System) modified aircraft in the Kestrel fleet.
VH-KHU is seen involved in the Night Fire Fighting trials earlier this year. (Image from Kestrel Aviation)
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VH-KAC part of the Kestrel Aviation group was on standby at Ballarat for some of the season.

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VH-XCN part of the large Kestrel Aviation fleet, is a new comer to the fire bombing role having previously operating for Lifeflight in the aeromediacal role. the aircraft was fitted with a Conair 85-KE firefighting belly tank, among other equipment.

Bell 412 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 270kg, 75m ‘Goodrich’ winch or two line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to eleven passengers
  • 1400 litre firebombing tank
  • 5400 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 225 km/h
  • Four bladed main rotor
  • 17.1m length, 14.0m rotor diameter
  • 1800HP Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3BF Twin-Pac engine
  • Fuel consumption 410 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 204/UH-1 Overview

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Pay’s UH-1E operating as Helitak 221.
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Part of the Touchdown Helicopters fleet based in the Illawarra VH-OXT is a UH-1H.
  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to eleven passengers
  • 1290 litre long-line firebombing bucket
  • 4300 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 185 km/h
  • Two bladed main rotor 17.3m length
  • 14.6m rotor diameter
  • 1400HP Pratt and Whitney T53-13B turbo shaft engine
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 206L-3 LongRanger Overview:

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Aerial Agriculture’s Jetranger VH-ONR, flying as Firebird 233
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Kestrel Helicopters Bell 206, VH-JOW flying as Firebird 309.
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Heli Surveys, Bell 206B VH-BHF, flies as Firebird 298.
Bell 206 Longranger VH-XXJ from North Australia Helicopters
North Australia Helicopters, Bell 206 Longranger VH-XXJ.
  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, six passengers
  • 1800 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 220 km/h
  • Two bladed main and tail rotors
  • 13.0 m length, 11.3 rotor diameter
  • Rolls Royce / Allison C30P Turbo shaft engine
  • Fuel consumption 140 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 650 HP available at take off
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

AS350B3 Squirrel Overview:

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VH-ZHG is operated by EPS helicopters and is seen with its long line deployed operating as Park Air 3.
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VH-PHU is a an AS530 BA operated by Professional Helicopters as Firebird 323 and was seen here at Mangalore this season.
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AS350 B2 Firebird 310 VH-LEY is owned by Forest Air and was part of the fleet based at Colac in Victoria.
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Canberra Helicopters VH-LVM an AS.350.B2, at rest in Canberra displays its sling load bucket it uses for its fire deployments.
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VH-ICM and AS350 B2 operated by Lake Macqurie Helicopters flies as Firebird 288.

AS350B3 Squirrel Overview:

  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, supervision, winching
  • Other roles: Reconnaissance, utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to five passengers
  • 1100 litre firebombing tank or bucket
  • 2800 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 200 km/h
  • Three bladed composite main rotor
  • 12.9m length, 10.7m rotor diameter
  • Turbomeca Arriel 2D turbo shaft engine 847 HP available at take off
  • Fuel consumption 160 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Eurocopter AS355F1 Twin Squirrel

VH-ELP Rotorlift AS350 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-ELP owned by Rotorlift in Tasmania operates Firebird 705, which is outfitted for sling load bucket operations.
  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary roles:Supervision, firebombing
  • Other roles: Reconnaissance,utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to five passengers
  • 680 litre firebombing tank or bucket
  • 2400 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 230km/h
  • Three bladed composite main rotor
  • 12.9m length, 10.9m rotor diameter
  • 2x Rolls Royce Allison 250-C20Fturbo shaft engines
  • 840HP available at take off
  • Fuel consumption 220litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Airbus Helicopters AS365 Dauphin

The Dauphin is a unique helicopter in the fire fighting fleet. It has several attributes which make it highly useful in an emergency situation, with its high transit speed, large cabin for passengers, and powerful engines for lifting its an extremely adaptable type. The ability to winch fire crews into areas also is another useful capability. McDermott Aviation operates several of the type and these have been seen in New South Wales and Queensland.

Mc Dermott Aviation/Helilift Eurocopter AS365 N3 Dauphin, N38MD
McDermott Aviation/Helilift Airbus Helicopter AS365 N3 Dauphin, N38MD operated as Helitak 429 when on contract.

 Airbus Helicopters AS365 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter 270kg 100m ‘Air Equipment’ Winch
  • Single pilot, up to eight passengers
  • 1025 litre firebombing bucket
  • 4250 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 260 km/h
  • Four bladed composite main rotor
  • 13.7m length, 11.9m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 750HP Arriel 1C2 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

MBB Bo-105LS

In 1984, the Bo-105LS was developed with the enlarged fuselage of the Bo 105CBS combined with more powerful Allison 250-C28C engines to increase the maximum take-off weight as well as hot-and-high flight performance; the Bo-105 LS was manufactured under a cooperative arrangement with Eurocopter Canada.

VH-XRG, FIREBIRD 625 Eurocopter Bo-105LS-A3 of Heliwest

MBB Bo-105LS Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Crew: 1 or 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 4
  • Max. takeoff weight: 2,500 kg (5,511 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Allison 250-C20B turboshaft engines, 313 kW (420 shp) each
  • Cruise speed: 204 km/h (110 knots, 127 mph)

Aviation Spotters Online, wishes to thank all the pilots, crew and companies who have taken the time to work with us on this article. It is dedicated to all the fire Fighting personal, both paid and volunteer who go above and beyond to protect Australian’s from fire. Fly safe and see you for the next overview.


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Wings Over Illawarra 2018 – Defence Showcase


ADF Showcase

It was the largest contingent of Australian Defence Force aircraft and helicopters at a Wings Over the Illawarra ever! The Royal Australian Air Force presented examples of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, Lockheed Martin C-130J, Boeing P-8 Poseidon, Alenia C-27J Spartan, McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-18A Hornet, BAe Hawk-127 and the Pilatus PC-9A.

The Royal Australian Navy contributed by showcasing the Eurocopter EC-135T2+, Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, Bell 429 and the Airbus Helicopters MRH-90 Taipan. 

The Army also participated with an example of the Sikorsky S-70A-9 Blackhawk present.

This huge level of commitment by the ADF to showcase these machines was a huge effort by the airshows organisers. It is a huge credit to the team to get them all. Aviation Spotters Online present you the first of a series of article covering this great event. Here is the ASO team’s overview of the ADF aircraft and helicopters on display during the event.

Boeing C-17A Globemaster III

A huge favourite of many airshow regulars is the always impressive RAAF C-17A Globemaster III.

Based at RAAF Base Amberley, eight C-17As are flown by 36 Squadron, and provide a logistics support to the ADF operations overseas. This includes operations in the Middle East, Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian operations in Japan and New Zealand as examples. The first RAAF example arrived in 2006,and has been a huge force multiplier to the RAAF.

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Alenia C-27J Spartan

The RAAF ordered ten Alenia C-27J Spartans in 2012, to replace the DHC-4 Caribou which was retired in 2009. The C-27J Spartan is a battlefield airlifter. It fills the gap between the CH-47F Chinook and the C-130J Hercules. The aircraft are based at RAAF Richmond and flown by 35 Squadron. Once the new facilities are completed the squadron and the fleet will move to RAAF Amberley.  The type is equipped with the engines and various other systems also used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules. Powered by two Rolls-Royce AE2100-D2A turboprops, which deliver some 3,460 kW (4,640 hp) each they are connected to 6-bladed Dowty propellers. The RAAF displayed A34-009 at WOI.





Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules

A fleet of twelve C-130J Hercules are operated from RAAF Base Richmond in New South Wales. Operated by No. 37 Squadron the fleet entered service in 1999, replacing the C-130E models. The RAAF has flown the A, E, H and J model since the A model entered service in 1958. The J model introduced major changes which included a new two-crew flight deck and four Allison AE2100D3 turboprops (4,590 shaft horsepower each) driving 6-blade variable-pitch propellers.

The ‘J’ can seat 120 passengers, or 92 ground troops, or 64 paratroopers, or 74 stretcher patients and two medical attendants. No 37 squadron has a long and proud history. The Squadron was formed at RAAF Laverton, in Victoria in July 1943, and first equipping with Lockheed C-60 Lodestars that it operated across Australia, New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. The squadron later equipped towards the end of the war with the  Douglas C-47 Dakota. The Squadron disbanded in 1948, later reforming in 1966 with the C-130E. A97-440 was the aircraft displayed at the event.


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Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk

The latest aquistion to the Royal Australian Navy is the latest in submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk. Twenty four of these state of the art helicopters are now in service having replaced the previous, S-70B-2 Seahawk fleet. The MH-60R is  a huge technology jump from the older model, it is equipped with a highly sophisticated combat system designed which allows the employment of the Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and the Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedo. The primary missions of the ‘Romeo’ helicopter is anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. Secondary missions include search and rescue, logistics support, personnel transport and medical evacuation.

Flown by No 725 Squadron which is one of the Navies oldest squadrons, established  in 1958 the Squadron has flown a variety of types. Including Douglas C47A Dakota, Auster J5-G Autocar, Hawker Sea Fury Mark 11, Fairey Firefly AS-5 and Fairey Gannet AS1. After a brief period of disbandment the Squadron recommissioned on 1 November 1962 flying the Westland Wessex 31A helicopters. The squadron again decommissioned on 27 December 1975. On 13 December 2012, 725 Squadron would again recommission as the new training squadron for the Romeo aircraft while 816 Squadron will be the operational support squadron.

The Navy brought the Romeo to display at WOI and certainly put the helicopter through its paces. The display by the crew certainly entertained the crowd. N48-022 was the aircraft displayed at WOI.



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Boeing P-8 Poseidon

The latest in maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and response roles aircraft, the Boeing P-8A Poseiden was displayed at WOI for the first time this airshow. Eventually 15 of these highly sophisticated aircraft are set to join the RAAF based out of RAAF Base Edinburgh, it forms part of Australia’s future maritime patrol and response strategy. Replacing the

The P-8A Poseidon has advanced sensors and mission systems, including a state-of-the-art multi-role radar, high definition cameras, and an acoustic system with four times the processing capacity of the AP-3C Orions. The aircraft is based on the proven design of Boeing’s 737-800. The airframe has been modified to include the following; a weapons bay, under wing and under fuselage hard points for weapons and strengthening for low its low level operations.

The first aircraft arrived in Canberra on 16 November 2016, the seventh example is due in the country very shortly. A47-002 was the aircraft displayed.

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RAAF Roulettes

The integral part to the RAAF’s pilot training is the Pilatus PC-9A. The PC-9/A is designed by Pilatus Switzerland and was built under license by Hawker de Havilland in Sydney. The RAAF became the first customer to specify the advanced electronic flight information system (EFIS) ‘glass’ cockpit. The first RAAF aircraft, A23-001, flew on 19 May 1987. The RAAF ordered sixty seven examples of the aircraft. By 1989 the type was active in training ADF pilots. After successful screening completing the Basic Flying Course at the ADF Basic Flying Training School. Graduates then undertake the Advanced Flying Training Course with Number 2 Flying Training School at RAAF Base Pearce. Pilots fly 130 hours in the PC-9/A, and proceed to a flying squadron once their wings have been earned.

The PC-9/A is also based at RAAF Base East Sale. It is used to teach qualified RAAF pilots to become flying instructors. Qualified instructors who conduct this course are eligible to fly with the Roulettes.

 There are four modified aircraft which fly with 4 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown. These aircraft fly in the Forward Air Control (FAC) mission. Painted tactical grey they are fitted with smoke grenade dispensers for target marking. They are used to train ADF Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (formerly forward air controllers) who coordinate air support to troops on the ground.

Now in the very twilight of the types career, the PC-9A has been the mount of the Air Force’s aerobatic display team, the Roulettes, since 1990.









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RAAF BAe Hawk-127

The Air Force’s Lead in Fighter prepares qualified Air Force pilots for conversion to F/A-18A and F/A-18B Hornets and F/A-18F Super Hornets. First entering service to replace the CAC built MB-326H ‘Macchi’ in 2001. Currently they are being upgraded under the AIR 5438 Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Program. Thirty Three Hawk 127  were ordered, twelve of which were produced in the UK and 21 in Australia. The Hawk is flown and based at two seperate squadrons in Australia. No 76 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle, and No 79 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce near Perth. A27-13 and 32 were the two aircraft on display during the event.PM.WOI2018.Sat.HAWK (6)

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RAAF F/A-18A Classic Hornet

The RAAF provided two McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A ‘Classic’ Hornets at WOI. Now in the twilight part of their fleets careers, the Hornet still has that sleek, agile and go fast or go home look about it. The two aircraft both A models, A21-16 and A21-33 are both veterans of missions in the Middle East, dropping ordnance as part of the Joint Coalition operation Okra.

Some seventy five F/A-18A and two seat B models were ordered, with deliveries commencing in 1985. Now after thirty three years of service the fleet, and its operational squadrons, have begun winding down and transitioning to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II. 3 Squadron has withdrawn the type from service leaving No 77, 75 and 2OCU continuing to fly the type until sufficient numbers of F-35s are in the country. The first F-35A aircraft is scheduled to be accepted into Australian service in late 2018 and the first squadron, No 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

At WOI it was display pilot FLTLT Matt “Traylz” Trayling, flying the Hornet and showing the crowd what the aircraft is capable of. His display was a combination of tight turns, high energy manoeuvres and of course NOISE!!! A21-16 and 33 were the two aircraft on display.











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A21-16 flies with a special anniversary tails promoting 75 years of the Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit based at Williamtown currently.
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A21-16 proudly displays its 27 mission tally.
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The back up aircraft A21-33 was also on display with 2OCU crew and pilots talking to the public.
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The business end of the Hornet. The aircraft is fitted with a M61 Nose-Mounted 20mm Cannon. Of note is the deployed Air to Air refuelling probe.

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Canadair CL-604 Challenger

The RAAF operates three of the Canadair CL-604 Challengers. Based at Fairbairn in the Australian Capital Territory, they are operated by No. 34 Squadron. Delivered in 2002 they compliment the larger Boeing Business Jets also operated by the Squadron. The type is operated to provide transport for the Australian government as required. A37-002 visited WOI.

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RAN EC-135T2+

The EC-135T2+ is the type operated a part of the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, Southern NSW. Operated by No 723 Squadron fifteen examples are flown and managed with assistance from Boeing Australia. The HATS concept is designed to teach joint Navy and Army crews to operate and train before advancing to other types within the ADF fleet.  During WOI N52-010 was on static display for the entire event.

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RAN Bell 429 Global Ranger

Operated by the Navy’s 723 Squadron in Nowra, the type is operated to screen junior aircrew and help improve and maintain their skills. Crews then hone their skills before they start flying the MH-60R Seahawk or the MRH-90 helicopters. Four examples are flown by the squadron. N49-218 was on static display at WOI.

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RAN MRH-90 Taipan

The RAN and the Army has ordered a total of  forty seven of this multi-role battlefield and maritime support helicopter. The Multi Role Helicopter (MRH) was ordered to replace the ADF‘s fleet of Black Hawk and Sea Kings. Six examples are pooled with the Army. Flown by 808 Squadron from HMAS Albatross at Nowra the type was introduced to the squadron in 2013.  A40-16 was the aircraft on display during the WOI event.

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Army S-70A-9 Blackhawk

Now nearing the end of their operational service. The Army took delivery of some thirty nine examples of the Blackhawk with production of the type undertaken at the Hawker de Havilland factory. Initially they went into service with 9 Squadron RAAF, with them transferring to the the Army Aviation Corps and flown by the 5th Aviation Regiment based at Townsville Queensland and the Army School of Aviation at Oakey Queensland. A25-112 was the aircraft on display at WOI.

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Aviation Spotters Online wishes to congratulate the organisers of the airshow and the Australian Defence Force services for their support and great displays.

Please click HERE to see ASO’s full gallery of WOI’s ADF Showcase

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Yarram Centenary of Flight Airshow

The Yarram Aero Club wanted to celebrate an important part of the districts history during World War One. What was the occasion? It was 100 years since the first operational military flight in Australia. These flights were conducted from Yarram in a FE2B aircraft out into Bass Strait looking for the German raiding ship the Wolf. This operation was flown by Capt Frank McNamara VC. from the Australian Flying Corp. The German raider SMS Wolf menaced our shorelines and led to aerial patrols from Yarram.

The flying displays were again coordinated by the man behind many airshows around Australia. Paul Bennet and his amazing crew. Aviation Spotters Online brings you the Video and Photography overview of the days events.

Opening the show was of course the man himself Paul Bennet with a staggering display. Following the parachutists down, one flying a huge Australian flag as the National anthem was played. Paul has been performing at airshows since 2005, and has won numerous aerobatic competitions during that time. In 2008 he was crowned the Australian Advanced Aerobatic Champion. In 2009 Paul was crowned the Australian Unlimited Aerobatic Champion, receiving the Phillips Cup. In 2011 and 2012 Paul won Unlimited in both the Queensland and Victorian State Championships.

Paul has flown over 700 performances at over 300 displays, in front of several million fans. He is one of only a handful of Australian Pilots to hold a ground level aerobatics approval.

Wolf Pitts

Opening the show was of course the man himself Paul Bennet with a staggering display, following the parachutists down, one flying a huge Australian flag, as the National anthem was played. 

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Cessna 152

A familiar type noted across the world, and a type which many many pilots have earned their wings. Gerrard Lappin put the Cessna 152 through its paces preforming some great manoeuvres. 

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CAC Wirraway

VH-WWY ex Royal Australian Air Force CA-3 A20-81. Not quite as is seems, painted as A20-176. This aircraft is owned by Paul Bennet. Ben Lappin gave the aircraft a spirited performance, which allowed for some great views of the aircraft. 

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Pilatus PC-21

Royal Australian Air Force Pilatus PC-21 First public aerial display. The Air Force has ordered 49 Pilatus PC-21 aircraft to serve with the No.1 Flying School (1FTS) at East Sale, the Central Flying School’s Roulette’s display team. Four will be modified for No.4 Squadron to operate in the Forward Air Control role at Williamtown, two for the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Edinburgh South Australia. The remaining airframes will be allocated to the No.2 Flying Training School (2FTS) at RAAF Pearce in Western Australia. To date 12 PC-21s are in the country, and this display formation was the first public display of the PC-21 in Australia. What was of note during the display is the unique sound from the aircraft.

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Douglas C-47B

The airshow was very fortunate to have the support of a semi local identity. ex former Royal Australian Air Force Squadron Leader and Trans Australia Airlines pilot Jeff Trappett. Jeff brought this aircraft and showcased his Sabre later in the day. This aircraft has some interesting history to it. Delivered to the United States Army Air Force as 44-76336 on February 12, 1945. It was immediately transferred to the Royal AustralianAir Force until transfer to No 1 Squadron and based in Malaya – October 24, 1953. It was modified for the Psychological Warfare role where loudspeakers were attached and broadcasted messages to enemy troops

After four more years in uniform it was sold off on August 13, 1958. Sold to Adastra Airways Pty Ltd as VH-AGU, it continued to fly with the airline until sold again, this time to East West Airlines. The airframe was modified to accomodate a radar and was fitted out with Interscan Instrument Landing System – for performance testing.  Again it was sold on, in 1979 and went through a host of owners until finally being purchased in 1993 by it’s current owner, Jeff Trappet. Jeff has spent a lot of time overhauling the airframe and repainting it in the USAF “Spooky” AC-47 Gunship colour scheme. Flown by Jeff Trappet and Gerard Lappin, the glorious noise of P&W R-1830’s in stereo, are always a welcome sound at airshows.

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Rebel 300

The Rebel 300 is a Unlimited aerobatic monoplane powered by a 300hp Lycoming engine. It was originally designed by Zivko Aeronautics who later redesigned the aircraft to become the Edge 540 which is now synonymous to the Red Bull Air Race series. Different to the Edge the Rebel is lighter in design and utilises a slightly longer wooden wing which helps with energy retention and cornering ability. Glenn Graham did high energy display with the aircraft.

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De Haviland DH.82A Tigermoth

Alan Adams, flew DH.82 Tigermoth  VH-SSI which is an ex RAAF example, A17-637. This particular aircraft was originally built to serve in the South African Air Force as DX835. It never left the country and served with the RAAF.

The DH 82A, was selected as the basic trainer for the Empire Air Training Scheme and the first RAAF aircraft, A17-1, was delivered in May 1940.

In Australia, the local de Havilland Company built 1,085 Tiger Moths of which 732 were delivered to the RAAF and the remainder were shipped overseas to other training schools. As well as acquiring a number of RAF-serialled Tiger Moths, the RAAF also impressed 21 civilian versions including some of the original DH 82 Tiger Moths with Gipsy III engines. Altogether 861 Tiger Moths appeared on the RAAF register.

Although primarily employed as trainers, a few Tiger Moths were camouflaged and used operationally with army co-operation units in New Guinea. The Tiger Moth remained in RAAF service for almost 17 years, and several Tiger Moths were also transferred to the RAN after World War II. Eventually, on 9 January 1957, the last ten RAAF Tiger Moths were flown from Point Cook to Tocumwal for disposal.

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8KCAB Decathlon

The Super Decathlon was designed principally as an aerobatics competition aircraft. However, these days with the development of more powerful and advanced aerodynamic designs in the same class, the Super Decathlon is used predominantly for aerobatics as well as tail wheel endorsement training.

The original design consisted of a welded chrome-molybdenum steel tube structure covered with fabric with the wings being made of aluminium ribs attached to two wooden spars also covered with fabric. American Champion Aircraft saw there was a requirement for an aircraft that was simple, less costly to build, economical to operate, reliable and easy to fly in today’s General Aviation scene that wasn’t being filled by the current manufacturers and began manufacturing new aircraft in 1990.

The latest incarnation of the Model 8KCAB from American Champion Aircraft, the ‘Super Decathlon’, was born. All aircraft are effectively individually hand-built in their factory in Rochester.

Ben Lappin certainly entertained the crowd with the low flying and skills in this performance.

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Grumman Avenger

VH-MML Launches for its display. It is an ex United States Navy Bu 53857 TBM-3E Avenger. Part of the Paul Bennet Airshows stable, the aircraft is certainly one of the loudest radial performers on the airshow circuit. 

Currently painted in markings of VT.8 that flew from USS Bunker Hill part of CVG-8 (Carrier Air Group 8) commencing March 1944.

On March 30 and the April 1 1944, VT-8 was involved in operations against the Japanese held islands of Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai in the Caroline Islands. One month later VT-8 attacked the Japanese island fortress of Truk then Santawan, Ponape and the airfield complex at Hollandia in New Guinea before its participation in the Marianas Campaign between June 12 and August 10 1944. The Marianas Campaign also included the Battle of the Phillipine Sea and the Battle of Leyete Gulf.

Between June 19-20 1944 VT-8 participated in the Battle of the Phillipine Sea, the largest Carrier to Carrier battle in history. Bunker Hill formed part of Task Group 58.2 consisting of Bunker Hill, Wasp, Cabot and Monterey and part of the larger Task Force 58. This battle was a crushing victory for the US forces that all but destroyed the Japanese carrier fleet.

From October 23–26 1944 Bunker Hill participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, possibly the largest battle in the history of naval warfare. VT8 attacked targets on Okinawa and Formosa in November 1944 before Bunker Hill withdrew for overhaul.

The Grumman Avenger was the heaviest single engine aircraft of WWII and was first shown to the public at the factory on the afternoon of 7 December 1941 – Pearl Harbour Day. The Avenger last military use was by the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force between 1950 – 1960.

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T-28 Trojan

Another aircraft from the Paul Bennet Airshows fleet is the T-28 Trojan. It was designed to replace the NAA T-6 and SNJ Texan in the USAF and US Navy.

The early variants were (T-28A) powered by an 800hp Wright R-1300 in the hope to mimic performance of early jet aircraft with slow spool up time. The T-28B introduced the 1,425hp Wright R.1820 power plant. The T-28C was a dedicated carrier landing aircraft fitted with a tailhook.

The T-28D was a dedicated counter insurgency aircraft fitted with six underwing hardpoints. It was utilised by the USAF SOS units in Vietnam, with the Vietnamese Air Force and Royal Lao Air Force.The T28 was utilised by the US Navy, US Marines and also the US Coast Guard for training into the early 1980s. The last training flight by the US Navy was with VT-27 in early 1984.

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Pitts Model 12

The Pitts Model 12 (aka Monster Stinker) is a large fully aerobatic biplane designed around utilising the 360hp Russian M14P radial engine and can be built from plans or purchased in kit form.

This aircraft was Curtis Pitts’ last design and was completed in 1995. It is a great aircraft for aerobatics and touring, being to hold more luggage and better range than the conventional Pitts design. Tim Dugan took the Pitts up for its display, putting on a very impressive aerobatic performance.

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CAC-27 Sabre

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation took the North American F-86F redesigned and built to suit the RAAF’s requirements. Powered by a licence-built version of the Rolls-Royce Avon R.A.7, rather than the General Electric J47. Because of the engine change the type is sometimes referred to as the Avon Sabre. To accommodate the Avon, over 60 percent of the fuselage was altered and there was a 25 percent increase in the size of the air intake. Another major revision was in replacing the F-86F’s six machine guns with two 30mm ADEN cannon, while other changes were also made to the cockpit and to provide an increased fuel capacity.

Flying at the airshow was Jeff Trappet’s and currently, Australia’s only flying Avon Sabre A94-352. This particular airframe flew as part of the Black Diamonds Aerobatic Team (75 Squadron) the Black Panthers Aerobatic team (76 Squadron) and the Red Diamonds again part of (76 Squadron). After RAAF service it was  allocated to the TNI-AU Indonesia. It crashed on take off at Denpasar Bali on its delivery to the Indonesian’s. Jeff acquired the aircraft and flew following its restoration in 2013.

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CAC-18 Mustang

VH-JUC ex Royal Australian Air Force A68-105 Mk.21 painted as a 3 SQN RAAF KH677, The aircraft is owned by Judy Pay. Bernie Heuser put on a beautiful display and lets be honest we all sigh for a Merlin!

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Again Mark and Dave would like to thank the Yarram Centenary of Flight Airshow team, Paul Bennet Airshows for their assistance and hosting of ASO at the event. This was a fantastic display and a well organised show, well done to the organisers and volunteers.

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China Airlines upgrades its services to Melbourne and Brisbane with the Airbus A350

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Yesterday saw China Airlines change its aircraft type to its Melbourne and Brisbane ports from the Airbus A330-300 to the latest generation airliner, the Airbus A350-941. Thus making all ports to Australia which includes Sydney, served by the Airbus A350. The airline has twelve currently in service. A further two are to be delivered.

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Landing on runway 27, the first of China Airlines Airbus A350’s arrives at Melbourne.
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B-18909 is the ninth Airbus A350 delivered to the airline.

Arriving on Runway 27 at approximately 12:03pm at Melbourne’s International Airport the carrier was given the traditional water cannon salute by Airservice’s, Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) tenders.

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Airservice’s, Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) tenders, provide a water canon salute.
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China Airlines is a member of the Skyteam Alliance.
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A359 marks the spot.

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The first service was operated by B-18909  serial number 0138, which was delivered to the airline on the 14th of September 2017.

The Airlines’ Airbus A350-900s are configured with 306 seats.  Comprising of 32 in business class with direct aisle access for every passenger, 31 in premium economy in a 2-3-2 layout and 243 in economy at nine-abreast.

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Business Class offering from China Airlines in the Airbus A350
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China Airlines Premium Economy seating in a 2+3+2 arrangement
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Economy class seating in a 3+3+3 abreast arrangement.

From its humble beginnings flying one Douglas C-54 and two Consolidated Catalina’s when the airline was formed in 1959. Today the airline boasts a fleet with some 86 aircraft. The airlines flies a very modern fleet which consists of Boeing 737-800, 747-400, 777-300ER, Airbus A330-300, A350-900 and 18 747-400Fs in its freight division. The airlines flies to over one hundred and fifty destinations around the world.

The airline’s return flight CI57 departed Melbourne at 2320 the same day.  China Airlines now joins Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways which all serve Melbourne with the Airbus A350.

Who will be next? Will it be a home grown airline? Time will tell.

Again Aviation Spotters Online wishes to thank Melbourne Airport and China Airlines for its support in preparing this article.





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Tyabb Airshow War and Peace 2018

Tyabb Header SHot (1 of 1)It was a hive of aerial delights and activities at Tyabb Airport South East of Melbourne on Sunday the 11th March. The Peninsula Aero Club one again held a fantastic Airshow. Some amazing aircraft were on display including some real rarities as well.

The team at the Peninsula Aero Club at Tyabb Airport are a real community minded lot. They proudly support their local community service clubs with the proceeds of the air shows staged at the airport. . The 2018 Airshow saw the proceeds going to the charity, Riding for the Disabled (RDA). RDA Victoria is a not for profit organisation that enables individuals with a variety of disabilities, ages and backgrounds to develop independence, a sense of freedom and to reach their equestrian goals, through adaptive coaching techniques and equipment. 

Mark and Dave are pleased to present you this over view of the days events. Thanks to the PAC for the invitation to cover the event.

The Airshow’s director Paul Bennet who got things fired up in his Wolf Pitts Pro.

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Always putting on a great display was the Southern Knights display team. Flying the ubiquitous North American T-6 Harvard/Texan the four ship display shows the performance and grace of these classic trainer design.

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VH-NZH is an ex New Zealand Air Force Harvard as its registration implies. Built as an AT-6C Harvard Mk II for the USAAF as 41-33767, for forwarding to the RAF as EX794. It was however, shipped to New Zealand in August 1943 and became NZ1051. It served with the RNZAF until 1978.
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VH-YVI owned by Stephen Deeth. Ex USAF 51-15202, after service with the USAF she moved onto serving with the Italian Air Force as MM53652.
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VH-NAH ex Royal New Zealand Air Force T-6D NZ1056. This aircraft is owned by Alan Pay based at Tyabb Victoria
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VH-XSA is an ex South African Air Force 7667 SNJ-4. This beautiful aircraft is owned by Judy Pay.
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Heading to the top.

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The solo display was preformed by Scott Taberner in VH-XSA. Looking as smart as ever in its South African Air Force early livery.

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Doug Hamilton flew Judy Pay’s immaculate VH-NZH
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Guy Bouke flew VH-NAH
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Scott Taberner flew VH-XSA
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Stephen Death flies his own T-6 VH-YVI.

Paul Bennett the Airshow’s director was the next to display, and it sure did blow people away literally!

The pages of history were turned back as the crowd watched the launch of three World War One fleet. Two Sopwith Pups and a Sopwith Snipe launched into the blue skies to show the flying characteristics of these fantastic aeroplanes. These well built replicas look amazing in the sky.

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Nick Cauldwell launches his Snipe in front of the Pup.

 The white example is the RAAF Museum’s Sopwith Pup. Constructed by the Transavia company in Sydney in 1979. An Armstrong Siddley Genet Major radial engine is in place of the original rotary engine. It is finished in the colours of a training aircraft used by No 8 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps during World War One.

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The second example of the Sopwith Pup was constructed alongside the RAAF Museum’s example at Transavia. It is owned by David Marshall from Riddles Creek.

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The progression from World War One to the 1930s designs from the famous De Havilland factory saw the populous  Tigermoth design launch with a three ship display.

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Lovely three ship formation.
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Jim Wickem, put the Robinson R22 VH-VLM through a very spirited display.

The man making Airshows in Australia popular again by putting on spirited displays is Paul Bennet. His team of pilots and ground crew, show an aircraft performance and characteristics extreamlly well through their airmanship. Paul flew his Wolf Pits Pro.  It has the highest performance for an aerobatic biplane in the world. Utilising the latest design concepts and light weight materials , it was designed and hand built by Steve Wolf from the United States. Powered by a 400hp Lycoming engine and a empty weight of 1200lbs (450kg) the Wolf Pitts is capable of a cruise speed of 185kts (340 km/hr) and a top speed of 224kts (414 km/hr). Flown in conjunction with Ben Lappin and Glenn Graham in the specially modified Pitts S1-S was Paul’s first aircraft. They have been modified, by installing Prescion Wings, a carbon fibre propeller and a ‘modified’ Lycoming IO-360 engine.

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PT-22 flown by Scott Taberner always looks perfect when ever on display.
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Boeing Stearman VH-PUD was flown by Mick Poole.

The Trainer display was again a big part of the show with three, CAC Winjeels, two NZAI CT-4s and for this years display the RAAF Museum’s latest flying exhibit the North American Harvard.

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VH-FTS ex Royal Australian Air Force A85-439 CA-25 Winjeel. This aircraft is owned and operated by the RAAF Historic Flight based at Point Cook Victoria.
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VH-HOY- ex Royal Australian Air Force A85-450 owned by Matt Grigg from Ballarat
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VH-WJE- ex Royal Australian Air Force A85-427 owned by Matt Henderson from Kyneton.
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Matt Denning in his CT-4 VH-CTQ displays the original yellow and green livery the CT-4s were delivered to the RAAF in. Thus earning the nickname ‘plastic parrot’.
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VH-HVD ex Royal New Zealand Air Force, Harvard III NZ1075. This aircraft is now part of the RAAF Museum Heritage flight.

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Trainer Heritage flight, not something you see every day.
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Matt Henderson preforms the solo display in his WInjeel A85-427.
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Thirteen times National Aerobatic Champion Chris Sperou, was another participant. Chris continues to fly and preform amazing airmanship with the Beechcraft. Making it very mesmerising, not bad for a man in his 80’s!

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Chirs loops the Pitts Special “Super Stinker” around the Beechcraft.
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Paul Bennet’s Grumman Avenger VH-MML Launches for its display. It is an ex United States Navy Bu 53857 TBM-3E Avenger. Converted into a Fire bomber in the early 60’s she flew in this configuration till purchased and restored to its Navy configuration by Steve Searle.

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The display was flown by Ben Lappin.
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The Royal Australian Air Force provided a Pilatus PC-9A A23-050 for a solo display.

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The Vietnam era was well represented with four aircraft from the era flown. First up was the two Cessna O-1 Birddogs owned by Rob Fox (from Flightpath magazine) and Matt Henderson, (though flown on in the display by Michael Dalton from Kyneton).

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VH-FAC ex United States Air Force and O-1G 51-12134 Birddog. Being a Vietnam Veteran it came to Australia in 1989.
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VH-FXY ex United States Army O-1G 51-12471. Also a Vietnam Veteran she came to Australia in 1989. Owned by Rob Fox this aircraft also flew with the South Vietnamese Air Force and is still painted in its original colours.

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Glenn Graham launches for his display in the Rebel 300 VH-TBN. Flying as part of the Paul Bennet displays, Glenn put on a fantastic display, with some amazing manoeuvres.

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VH-NAW ex US Navy (Bu-138278) It finished its military service in the mid 1980’s and was imported into Australia in 1988. Owned and operated by Judy Pay from Tyabb.
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VH-CIA owned by Michael Murphy and flown by Steve Deeth launches the T-28D version.

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Eastern Block Trainers display

Four examples of training aircraft from the other side of the pond were put through their paces. Examples of the Tak-52TW, Yak-52 and two Nanchang CJ-6s put on a great formation display.

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Jim Wickham prepares to depart, in his Yak 52TW VH-WKO
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John Vevers, the PAC president launches in his Yak-52, VH-YUC.
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VH-ALO part of the Warbird Adventure Flight fleet launches. This 1988 built Nanchang CJ-6 is one of over 40 examples flying in Australia.
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Combat Adventure Flights is another company which flies the Nanchang where you can experience mock dog fighting. VH-NNM is seen launching with smoke on.

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VH-WWY ex Royal Australian Air Force CA-3 A20-81. Not quite as is seems, painted as A20-176. This aircraft is owned by Paul Bennet and is seen ready to depart for its display with fellow CAC product the Boomerang from the Temora Aviation Museum.

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VH-MHR ex Royal Australian Air Force CA-13 A46-122 Boomerang. Owned by the Temora Aviation Museum
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The ‘Panic Fighter’ never fails to impress with its sight, howling sounds and agility when displayed.
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Australia’s first indigenous fighter type, and also the first mass produced aircraft in Australia built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
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Ben Lappin brings in the magnificent looking Wirraway.

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On display all the way from its home base at Nowra was the Royal Australian Navy’s latest helicopter. One of twenty four MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ models. They have replaced the replace the sixteen Seahawk S-70B-2 helicopters.

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Operated by the Navy’s 816 Squadron as Tiger 22.

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I make no apologies for the next lot of photos. I’m allowed to indulge in one of my favourite aircraft. Both examples were built up the road at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation facility at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne.  Flying publicly for the first time was Peter Gill’s beautiful example, A68-199. Formerly registered VH-BOZ the aircraft has been restored to flight as VH-URZ. After RAAF service it was one of the two flown by the Illawarrra/Fawcett Aviation on drogue towing operations. In 1979 it was impounded by Customs after an attempt was made to export it along side the Australian War Memorials BF-109.

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Nick Caudwell at the controls of 199 prepares the aircraft for display.

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Darcy O’Connor warms up Mustang A68-105 VH-JUC, is flown with a colour scheme in honour of 3 Squadron RAAF when it was operating in Scilly during World War Two.

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Two CAC built Mustangs in formation, something that hasn’t been seen for a while.

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Not only a rare aircraft in general, Australia’s and the worlds only flying Lockheed Hudson was a welcome participant at the airshow. Presented by the Temora Aviation Museum, the aircraft made a glorious site and sound.

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It’s airliner roots are shown in this view with the large passenger windows evident.
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Bomb bay doors open pass

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VH-KOY ex Royal Australian Air Force A16-112 Mk.III Hudson. One of two Hudson restored by the Long family and today the ONLY FLYING Hudson in the world. Painted as A16-211 ‘Tojo Busters’.

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Painted in its original, 8th Fighter Squadron, USAAF 49th Fighter Group, like it was when this aircraft on February 14, 1944 was shot down over Papua New Guinea.

A special pairing flight launched in the late afternoon. Doug Hamilton in his P-40N VH-PFO and long time Australian Airshow display aircraft Spitfire Mk.VIII, VH-HET owned by Temora Aviation Museum.


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Painted as the personal mount of Royal Australian Air Force, Wg. Cdr Bobby Gibbes of 80 Wing RAAF, based on Morotai in 1945. The aircraft’s serial number is A58-758 however it is marked as A58-602.

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The finale of the show was the Balbo. A flight of aircraft types flying together that hasn’t been seen before. The Avenger, Hudson, Spitfire, Mustang, Boomerang, Trojan and Kittyhawk all flew together and what a sight and sound it was.

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Listen and turn the sound up in the video clip below, from Mark Pourzenic.

Static Display Aircraft.

The RAN provided a second helicopter for the show which was very popular. The Bell 429 is one of four of the type operated by 723 Squadron based at Nowra.  N49-047 was the aircraft on display.

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Another CAC Winjeel on the display line was VH-WMK, A85-423.

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Another CAC product this one though is the last of its line. CA-36 Pazmany was the last fully built airframe built under the CAC name. An aircraft your author has a bit of experience with as I was part of the recovery team from The Australian National Aviation Museum who purchased the aircraft and returned it to flight status.

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ASO wishes to again thank the great people at the PAC for the organisation and professionalism of a truly well run event. We look forward to the next one!

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When the Chook comes to town.


This fire season, a return of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook has seen it working on fires in New South Wales and Victoria. The Chook returned to be operated by Helimax Aviation Inc, in conjunction with local Camden based operator United Aero Helicopters, under a non-contracted call as required arrangement.

N948CH Helimax Aviation Boeing CH-47D ASO (1 of 1)
N948CH is seen soon after arriving at its Camden Home base for United Aero.

Helimax Aviation Inc. is based in Sacramento, California and has been serving the utility industries since 1996. The company prides itself on the variety of its work as well as the quality. It has a wide and varied fleet of helicopters to suit its customer’s requirements, which include examples of Airbus Helicopters AS350B3E, Boeing CH-47D Chinook and Sikorsky S-61N. The fleet is varied to allow for many different operations, including passenger transport, forestry fire fighting, precision long-line lift operations, to name just some of the capabilities.

Helimax Aviation’s Boeing CH-47D Chinook, N948CH started life as a United States Army CH-47C and was delivered as 74-22293. In 1990 it was upgraded to CH-47D standard. The Army sold the helicopter via auction in 2014. N948CH is one of 6 CH-47s currently in the fleet. This isn’t the first time Helimax and United Aero have flown the CH-47 in Australia. In 2016, N947CH was operated successfully and flew in the Wye River and Separation Creek fires that decimated 116 homes along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.

CH-47D 2
N947CH as seen in 2016

Operations in Australia 2017/18

Operating in Australia this season, the aircraft has been allocated the ‘Helitack 279’ callsign. The helicopter is flown during fire operations with a crew of three. Pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer who monitors internal operations. Ground crew is typically 5 engineers and a fuel truck driver. Once the Chook had arrived in Melbourne in November, it was quickly assembled and flown to the United Aero base at Camden. By December 2017, the aircraft was deployed at a single fire in N.S.W (where it dropped 232,000 litres of water in a staggering seventy-five minutes!). She was then moved to operate in Wangaratta in Victoria in early 2018.

N948CH Helimax CH-47D ASO Wang 2018 (1 of 1)

While most firefighting aircraft have some sort of under slung tank fitted, the CH-47D is fitted with a synthetic long line, slung Powerfill BBXHL7600 Bambi bucket. The bucket fills to a maximum of 2000 gallons or some 7570 Litres making it a type 1 helicopter. To classify as a type 1 the aircraft needs to carry more than 2650 Litres of water in operations. All helicopter types are assigned a type designation based on their internal payload and water carrying capacity. The Bambi bucket has its own internal pumps to allow for filling in shallow dams and streams where it is unable to submerge the bucket fully. It takes around 70 seconds when using the five pumps. It takes 5 seconds when its fully submerged. The crew carries a spare bucket for all operations should one fail in some way. This classification puts it in the same category as the Erickson Air Crane.

The helicopter maintains its triple hook system as fitted and used by defence forces around the world which operate the type. The centre cargo hook (which is the main hook used) allows for an under slung load of 26,000 lbs or 11,793 kg. It is hydraulically actuated. The forward and rear hooks have a maximum load of 17,000 lbs or 7711 kg each. If the forward and rear hooks are used in tandem on a single load, this is raised to 25,000 lbs or 11,339 kg maximum load.


N948CH Helimax CH-47D ASO Wang 2018 2 (1 of 1)

Inside the large fuselage, it’s very bare, with anything non-essential to fire fighting and operations removed. A 370L tank is mounted on the forward floor. This is used for mixing the Bambi bucket with liquid foam, which is a wetting agent should the fire require this. Mixed at a ratio of 0.2%, it is adjusted to suit the water volume in the bucket below. It is then pumped into the bucket and agitated from the natural wind effect whilst flying.

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Like most firefighting helicopters the CH-47 has enlarged windows with downward openings to allow the crew to look and monitor drops so as to hit the target. One is fitted on either side so both crew are able to look down on the drop.

N948CH Helimax Aviation Boeing CH-47D ASO 2 (1 of 1)

Flight Statistics

The engines that power the ‘Chook’ are the same model as fitted to the modern and in-production CH-47 ‘Foxtrot’ model. Powered by two Honeywell T55-GA-714A turboshaft engines with FADEC (fully automatic digital engine control), the engines are rated at 4,733 bhp (each). N948CH operates well below the maximum power setting when in normal flight operations – in fact, power is selected to 50% on both engines. Should the helicopter ever have to shut down an engine in flight in the event of an emergency, the helicopter can maintain flight as normal (depending on the altitude and conditions of course) with an increase to the engine that has no issue.

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The basic empty weight is approximately 24,000 lbs or 10,886 Kg. Fully loaded with 7,000 lbs of fuel it has a max gross weight of 50,000 lbs or 22,670 kg.

The CH-47 has a 140 kts max air speed (315 km/h), and has approximately a four hour endurance which in transit. This drops to around 2.5 hrs endurance during firefighting operations.

CH-47D Chinook Specifications
Crew: 3
Length: 98 ft 10 in (30.1 m)
Rotor diameter: 60 ft per disk (18.3 m)
Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lbs (22,680 kg)

Maximum speed: 140 knots
Cruise speed: 130 knots
Range: 400 nm
Endurance: 4 hrs
Service ceiling: 18,500 ft

ASO wishes to thank Helimax Aviation, United Aero Helicopters and Jeremy from Helimax for their assistance with the preparation of the article. Fly safe team.


N948CH Helimax CH-47D ASO Wang 2018 5 (1 of 1)

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Parks Aviation Museum -HARS, NSW, Rural Aviation Museum expands

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I recently was in New South Wales and made an effort to go and catch up with the team at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Parkes Wing.

As many of you, our readers will know HARS has its well established home at Albion Park south of Sydney in New South Wales. The not for profit agency has grown from its very humble beginnings where it had mainly wrecks and relics to the now three bay large scale hangars and facility with a huge collection of aircraft. Ranging from Tiger Moth to a 747 some of the aircraft at Albion Park include: Three C-47 / DC-3 aircraft including “Hawdon”, TAA’s first aircraft which ASO was very proud to be apart of the team who delivered the aircraft to the collection. ( see link here: http://aviationspottersonline.com/a-flight-back-in-time-flying-in-the-douglas-dc-3c-47-vh-aes-hawdon/)

Examples of the DC-4, Convair 440, Super Constellation and the afore mentioned Boeing 747-438, stand alongside other classics like the Catalina, two Caribou’s, three P-2 Neptune’s two are flyable. A single example of the CA-27 Sabre, Canberra, two Vampires, Mirage III, F-111C, Hunter, 707 nose section, Ceres, AP-3C Orion, Winjeel, two Kiowas, Drover and Harvards. Yes its a huge collection of mostly airworthy aircraft.

With this many airframes it wasn’t long before space became an issue. The Parkes annex was started initially as a flow over of un-restored airframes and future display items.

The Parkes Airfield was an active Royal Australian Air Force training base from 1940-1946. Home to the following, No8 Operational Training Unit which flew Wirraway, Oxford, Spitfire, Boomerang and Kittyhawk aircraft and No.87 Photo Reconnaissance Squadron which operated the Wirraway and Mosquito. No.1 Air Navigation School flying the Anson, No.2 Wireless Air Gunners School which operated the DC-2, Tigermoth, Wackett and Dragon. And Finally the Central Flying School briefly in 1944 which operated the Wirraway, Oxford, Boomerang, Kittyhawk and Beaufort.

The airfield’s deep wartime history marks the home of an aviation museum even more befitting.

At the time of my visit I was able to spend time with Dave, it must be the name? At the time of my visit I was able to spend time with Dave, whom is the collections chief museum engineer, who’s responsibility was to take charge of new acquisitions such as airframes and aircraft parts.

Lockheed SP-2H Neptune

Dave’s latest challenge is one of enormity, not just the physical size but the work needed to restore Lockheed SP-2H Neptune A89-272, truck it from its old Townsville base in Northern Queensland to Parkes and restore it. As this was the teams latest acquisition and one which required a Herculean effort to dissemble, truck and now reassemble and restore we thought we would spend some time with this airframe first.

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Defence Heritage Disposals issued an open tender for Aviation Museum’s to tender for this airframe in early 2017. Located at RAAF Townsville the former home of 10 Squadron which operated the Neptune from the base between 1962 until retirement in 1977 when replaced by the younger Lockheed brother the P-3 Orion.

10 Squadron History

10 Squadron was formed in 1939 and its personnel were soon deployed abroad in the United Kingdom flying Short Sunderland flying boats. Originally 10 Squadron was sent to train and bring back the flying boats to Australia. When war broke out these plans changed and it wasn’t until the end of hostilities the Squadron retuned to Australia and were disbanded in 1946.  The Squadron was soon reformed to operate the new maritime patrol aircraft the Avro Lincoln. The Lincolns were operated until their replacement by the Neptune’s of which 10 Squadron received twelve of  the new P2V-7 (later re-designated SP-2H).

As noted earlier 10 Squadron retired the Neptune in 1977 when it was replaced by the P-3 Orion. At this time the squadron and sister squadron 11 Squadron both relocated to RAAF Edinburgh. In recent times the Squadron has supported the Australian-led intervention into East Timor which occurred in 1999 and has contributed to the Australian maritime patrol detachment based in the Persian Gulf since 2003. This role has seen the squadron supporting coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq where missions were undertaken, like border protection duties, as part of Operation Resolute. 10 Squadron continues to operate the Orion until its future replacement the MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system, enters service.

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A89-272 was delivered to 10 Squadron in March 1962 at its Townsville operating base. Originally delivered in the dark blue with white top as seen in this photo from the Authors collection.

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A89-272 on display in its delivery scheme. Photo from Historic Australian Aircraft collection.

The aircraft became a gate guard to the base at Townsville and stood there until being damage by Cyclone Yasi in 2011. The RAAF combined parts from this airframe and A89-280 which then became the new gate guard at the airfield. As some parts of the airframe had become damaged from both weather and old age its actually surprising it wasn’t scrapped. However on close inspection the airframe will make a suitable static display and to this the HARS team have already recovered wanted and damaged parts from the USA which will make their way onto the aircraft during its restoration. As Dave showed me and explained its in far better condition then you would expect.

HARS Parkes Neptune (1 of 1)
Next to be reattached after some re-skinning and corrosion treatment is the rear tail group.

A89-272 is now the fourth Lockheed Neptune with the HARS group which includes, A89-273 (VH-IOY) which is airworthy , A89-281 a static display, and ex French Aeronavale (French Navy) 147566 VH-LRR which is also airworthy.

De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou

Another massive undertaking for the Parkes team was another ex RAAF aircraft recovery. Again the team was off to Oakey in Queensland to dissemble and recover DHC-4 Caribou A4-275. The aircraft arrived at the museum in 2016 where the volunteers have got the old work horse back together and looking its best in many years.  This Caribou was operated by both 38 and 35 Squadrons, and its final flight occurred in 2009. 

HARS Parkes Caribou 275 (1 of 1)

The airframe is very complete and brings the HARS fleet of Caribou’s to three and a half. Joining the two flying examples, VH-VBA A4-210 and VH-VBB A4-234, along with the fuselage of A4-179.

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The aircraft is extremely complete.

Convair 580

The next aircraft on display is Convair 580. This one is registered as VH-PDW. It was originally ordered new in 1953 by United Airlines in the USA as a CV-340 model, flying as N73136 ‘Maniliner Vancouver’. Its conversion to 580 standard was completed in in 1966 by Pacific Airmotive Corporation.  It was flown by several operators in Canada, before moving to Australia in 2007 to fly with Pionair Australia. It was retired in 2017 and is now part of the HARS fleet along side Convair 440 VH-TAA and also the soon to arrive C-131 from Arizona.

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The aircraft is maintained in an airworthy condition.
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VH-PDW was operating for Virgin Cargo prior to retirement.

PZL PS-11 Iskra

Another aircraft which in time will go on display is the Polish designed and manufactured PS-11 Iskra.This airframe was one of several which were imported into the country in the late 90s. This particular one hasn’t flown here yet.While being very complete it requires assembly after being transported from the main facility at Albion Park

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As we moved into the main display hangar which is currently jointly shared between the museum and a local Crop Dusting operation, we enter to see the variety of aircraft on display. As an annex to the main branch there is still some fantastic aircraft on display with several being very unique and one in particular very historic.

Lockheed 12A Electra

I’ll admit I was very excited to see the Lockheed 12A Electra, it was impressed into wartime service with the USAAF designated as a UC-40D flying as 42-38348. It was then issued to the RAF as LA623. After that it became part of famed Australian Sidney Cotton company Aeronautical and Industrial Research Corporation flying as G-AGWN.It came to Australia flying as VH-BHH in 1952 for Silver Airways. Its last commercial operation then registered as VH-FMS was flying as an air ambulance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the man, he was an Australian inventor, photographer and aviation and photography pioneer, responsible for developing and promoting an early colour film process, and largely responsible for the development of photographic reconnaissance before and during the Second World War. Cotton was recruited by Fred Winterbotham (then of MI6) to undertake clandestine aerial photography of the German military prior to the outbreak of war in Europe. Sidney had an amazing career and was friend of Ian Fleming the creator of James Bond. Its rumoured that some of Ian’s work was modelled on Sidney’s work as a spy.

HARS Parkes Lockheed Electra (1 of 1)

The aircraft had been part of the Melbourne Museum collection and has now passed on ownership of the airframe to HARS. There is a restoration currently under way on the airframe, with local school kids interested in learning aviation skills coming to work on and restore the airframe to display standards.

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Looking inside the cockpit of VH-FMS.

De Havilland DH-114 Heron

A common sight in the skies around Australia through to the 1980’s was the De Havilland Heron. Many were operated by various airlines. HARS Parkes have VH-NJI which is painted as VH-AHB in a Butler Air Transport scheme. This airframe came to Australia in 1991 to operate as part of the ironically named Heron Airlines based in Bankstown. Its flying career was short lived and was withdrawn from service in 1995. Prior to its Australian service it had flown with several operators including, Devlet Hava Yollari in Turkey, Royalair in Canada and Fiji Airways to name a few.

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The airframe is very complete and will make a great exhibit once fully assembled.

North American T-6 Harvard/Texan

It just wouldn’t be a museum with out an example of the Harvard/Texan on display. HARS Parkes have an active restoration under way. The fuselage of ex RAAF Museum Harvard NZ1060 which flew as VH-SFY marked as NZ934. This airframe suffered serious damage in 2004 when it was ground looped on landing following engine failure at West Sale. The aircraft is slowly being rebuilt and with enough money and resources it yet may fly again.

HARS Parkes Harvard (1 of 1)

Bell AH-1Q Cobra Gunship

HARS has one of four Cobra Gunships on display in Australia currently on display in Australia. Of the four, HARS has an example at both facilities, whilst the Darwin Av Museum and Vietnam Veterans Museum located at Phillip island in Victoria have examples displayed. On display is 76-22592 an AH-1P variant. The Cobra was never operated or flown by any ADF service however they came very close. In December 1970 the AH-1G Huey Cobra was selected to become part of 8 Squadron. Eleven were ordered and allocated the A16 prefix. Sadly the order was cancelled in 1971, forcing the RAAF and Army to soldier on with UH-H Hueys configured as Bushrangers as was developed in the Vietnam War.  The Cobra on display is very complete, with most systems intact,making it an almost complete airframe. After its service with the United States Army it was brought to Australia with the intention of getting one of the airframes airworthy which sadly didn’t eventuate and plans to do so are now on hold.

HARS Parkes Cobra (1 of 1)

GAF Jindivink

Next on display is the Australian designed and built Government Aircraft Factory Jindivink. A92-22 is one of the early Mk2 versions. Powered by a Rolls Royce Viper engine producing 1,640lb of thrust the Jindivink was a success for GAF who sold them to many defence forces around the World. Britain, US Navy and Sweden were among the users of the type. Some 182 were flown between the RAAF (161) and RAN (21) respectively.

HARS Parkes Jindivink (1 of 1)

Cessna 150E

The final full airframe exhibit is a vintage Cessna 150E VH-DML. This 1964 vintage Cessna holds the distinction of being owned and flown by Australia’s first female Aboriginal pilot Virginia Wykes. Virginia got her pilot’s licence in 1982, and has owned the aircraft since 1991. Now part of the displays at Parkes its a fitting tribute to the owner, who lived not far away, by plane. The HARS team plan to look after the aircraft and keep it in ground running condition.

HARS Parkes Cessna 150E (1 of 1)

As with most museum’s in Australia, they run on the smell of an oily rag. Money is always tight and so is help. If you can spare a few hours a week or weekend and help at your local museum, they would love to host you. You’ll be trained and guided in all sorts of work.

Aviation Spotters Online again wishes to thanks the HARS Parkes crew especially Dave my guide for the tour and also the laughs and jokes. I’ll be back soon and look forward to updating you all on the works.



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