Aviation Spotters Online http://aviationspottersonline.com Photography For The Aviation Industry Tue, 25 Jul 2017 14:03:01 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 http://aviationspottersonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/cropped-11667367_442417382605240_4991592252737306921_n-32x32.jpg Aviation Spotters Online http://aviationspottersonline.com 32 32 Honeywell Veteran brings its new tricks to town. http://aviationspottersonline.com/honeywell-veteran-brings-its-new-tricks-to-town/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/honeywell-veteran-brings-its-new-tricks-to-town/#respond Mon, 24 Jul 2017 13:47:17 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=65200 fbgzkpsstitfzqhi5hgk

Honeywell, a name ceremonious with aviation across the world for more ways than one. Producing aircraft engines, cockpit systems and displays, inflight entertainment, gas turbine auxiliary power units and avionics to name a portion of the company’s business.

Recently Honeywell brought a rare type to Melbourne as part of a demonstration tour of Honeywell’s ‘Power of Connected World Tour’, their Boeing 757-225, N757HW testbed. Honeywell is showing off their connected solutions to the airline market, which includes everything from the hardware that runs the Wi-Fi connections for services for passengers, to analytics for pilots and ground crews.

N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 9 (1 of 1)

N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 10 (1 of 1)

An extremely rare type in Australia with only one currently registered, the Boeing 757 was never adopted by the two major airlines Ansett and Trans Australian Airlines. Both operated the 727 and also the smaller 737 and went in different directions with the larger wide bodies with Ansett selecting the 767 and TAA the Airbus A300. With this variety the 757 sadly didn’t fit within the domestic fleet. Fast forward today with only one example VH-TCA, a Boeing 757-236PCF operated by Tasman Cargo Airlines as a Freighter.

In the early 1980’s Boeing was looking for a replacement for the hugely successful 727 to which airlines were looking to replace with a more fuel efficient and larger passenger carrying aircraft. Boeing set about to design a 150+ seat airframe and alongside it a 200+ which would later become the 767. The 757 and 767 were co-developed and therefore shared common technology. The first 757 rolled out of the Renton, factory in 1982 which brought about large advancements including the now familiar two crew flight deck and glass cockpits. Another major advancement was cross-crew training which allowed crew to fly both types once trained. The 757-200 carried up to 228 passengers in airline service and had a range of approximately 3,900 nautical miles (7222 kilometers).

On Nov. 28, 2005, Boeing completed the final aircraft after a 23-year production run, which was delivered to Shanghai Airlines, the airplane being the 1,050th Boeing 757 produced.

Some history of this particular aircraft, layed down as construction number 22194, it was to see service as part of the test fleet for the type at Boeing. The aircraft first flew on February 4th 1983 and was delivered to Eastern Airlines as N504EA on February 28, 1983. Withdrawn from use in January 1991, Airtours International Airways registered it as G-JALC on February 1, 1995. Honeywell International Incorporated gave it its current registration on October 4, 2005. It was flown to Pinal Airpark for painting on October 24, 2005 and made its first flight with three engines on December 20, 2008.

N757HW ASO (1 of 1)
A prominent feature of the aircraft is the pylon on the starboard side of the aircraft. This is used to test engines under development.
N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 6 (1 of 1)
The modifications to support the test pylon means some substantial Modifications are done internally to not only support the weight of the engine, but also the hydraulic, fuel feed and sensor test probes.
N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 12 (1 of 1)
Close up of the forward fuselage third engine pylon installation.

ASO was given exclusive media access to this lovely 35 year old aircraft on the Melbourne leg of it’s world tour. The aircraft undertook an hour long mission out of Melbourne International Airport to highlight the Connected Aircraft to interested airline and aircraft officials.

N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 17 (1 of 1)

N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 7 (1 of 1)
No inflight service here, the cabin is set up for engineers to monitor the various systems installed during a mission test.

Honeywell representatives highlighted the way the test bed is changing how paying passengers communicate on board their flights, and how the systems lighten pilot work loads with real time data.

N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 16 (1 of 1)
Real time weather updates are presented to flightcrew as part of the ‘Connected Airframe’.
N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 5 (1 of 1)
The 757s cockpit layout is relatively unchanged from its commercial passenger time.

Connected Weather enables real time weather reporting with updates from as far as 300 miles ahead of the aircraft. This alone will help reduce fuel bills for airlines by a huge margin. Pilots will be able to optimise the vertical profile of the flight which also helps in reducing emissions.

Using Honeywell’s JetWave Satellite system enables passengers to have Wifi connectivity at speeds equivalent to those from home.

N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 20 (1 of 1)
Prospective clients, spent time with the Honeywell engineers and representatives, to gain a better understanding of the potential of the systems usage during the flight which saw us track from Melbourne to Launceston and return.

While on board ASO was able to experience the high speed connectivity to the point where I broadcasted live on our Facebook page.

Interview with Rachel on board the Honeywell connected 757

Posted by Aviation Spotters Online on Sunday, 23 July 2017

Arriving back into Melbourne after our flight, we did a pass around the bay before tracking back to the airport.
 N757HM Honeywell 757 2 ASO 18 (1 of 1)
Melbourne was the second to last leg of the tour after the crew and aircraft has visited, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, India, China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, with just one more stop in Canberra.
N757HW makes a missed approach on runway 27 this afternoon. Photo credit to James Pentland.


I was certainly a great experience to see the latest Next-Gen Cockpit Technology and use the latest WiFi Passenger technology in flight.
ASO wishes to thank Honeywell for their fantastic help and cooperation in the preparation of this article.
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RAAF F/A-18A Hornet Display Mattara Festival 2015. http://aviationspottersonline.com/raaf-fa-18a-hornet-display-mattara-festival-2015/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/raaf-fa-18a-hornet-display-mattara-festival-2015/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 04:48:22 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=65195 Some more footage from the vault, this time it’s the F/A-18A Hornet display for the Mattara Festival over Nobbys Beach back in 2015. As you can see the weather wasn’t kind, but the then current solo display pilot “Bung” sure doesn’t let the local crowd down. Sit back and enjoy the ride on board with him.

The link for Motty’s photo’s from the day- /wp-content/gallery/matara-hornet-2015


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Dry Season Thunder- a week in Exercise Diamond Storm 2017 http://aviationspottersonline.com/dry-season-thunder-a-week-in-exercise-diamond-storm-2017/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/dry-season-thunder-a-week-in-exercise-diamond-storm-2017/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 10:56:15 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=62471 17F_1160
The ‘burn’

Over the last few weeks the tempo has ramped up to the final days of Exercise Diamond Storm 2017 which has been held in the Northern Territory. During just one week ASO was able to attend photographic and video opportunities arranged by RAAF Public Affairs Office to capture various aspects of the exercise operations based at both RAAF Darwin and RAAF Tindal. Additionally we also were able to capture some rarely seen action within the actual exercise area, from ground level to 20,000ft.

VMFA-242 ‘Bats’ F/A-18D’s
Holding position

The initial influx of foreign aircraft began during the last week of May 2017 with USAF KC-10A Extenders from 60th/349th Air Mobility Wing – arriving with the USMC F/A-18D Hornets from VMFA-242 ‘DT’ “Bats” MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. This is the first time the ‘Bats” have deployed to Darwin. Darwin is familiar with the KC-10A as they call in several times a year.

USAF KC-10A Extender from 60th/349th Air Mobility Wing – Travis AFB
USMC F/A-18D Hornet from VMFA-242 ‘DT’ “Bats” MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

Deployment support for them were USAF C-17 from 204th Airlift Sqn 15/154th Wing and an Omni Air International 767-300 in from MCAS Iwakuni. Omni Air International are a familiar sight in Darwin, having brought many Marines to Darwin for the USMC Rotational Force-2017. Darwin will continue to see these come and go as they are the mainstay of many US Forces deployments to Australia.

USAF C-17 204th Airlift Sqn 15/154th Wing.
Omni Air International 767-300 N477AX in from MCAS Iwakuni.

The first week of June saw the arrival of the Royal Australian Air Force into Darwin – 2OCU F/A-18A/B ‘Classic’ Hornets from RAAF Base Williamtown New South Wales,  and 1Sqn with their F/A-18F Super Hornets from RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland.

RAAF F/A 18 Classic Hornet A21-116.
RAAF F/A18F A44-202 from 1 Sqn.

Support for the deployment was provided by 33 Sqn KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), C-17 Globemaster III from 36 Sqn and C-130J Hercules from 37Sqn bringing the last of personnel and equipment from RAAF Base Williamtown.

RAAF KC-30A A39-004
A41-210 C-17 Globemaster III loaded with cargo.
RAAF C-130J with personnel and spares from RAAF Williamtown.

Additional participants such at the RAAF 2 Sqn E-7A AEW&C Wedgetail and 5 Flight Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, plus 32Sqn Beechcraft King Air 350 and 10Sqn AP-3C Orion aircraft have been operating in northern skies during the exercise. Flying in the background and not seen by the public as often as other aircraft – the play an critical role in gathering and communication of real time situational information.

RAAF E-7A Wedgetail from 2 Sqn at RAAF Williamtown.
RAAF 5 Flight Heron RPV A45-253 from RAAF Amberley.
RAAF Beechcraft King Air 350 A32-349 32Sqn
RAAF AP-3C Orion from 10 Sqn with a number detached to

Continuing the Jet Air Support contract, non-military services were provided by four Learjet 35A/36A from Air Affairs in Nowra, NSW. The Learjets flew Tactical Missions in both adversary and counter offensive roles. It was great to see them back again in Darwin

Learjet VH-LFA from Air Affairs Australia – into Darwin
VH-SLF departing for the ExDS17 airspace

The view from most Air Traffic Control towers is pretty spectacular for the general public, and Darwin Tower is no different. The Tower and surrounding airspace is controlled by the personnel from RAAF 452 Sqn – both civilian and military traffic. 452Sqn work hand in hand with the Exercise Airspace Controllers making the transition to and from the battle space as efficient as possible.

452Sqn – Air Traffic Control from Darwin Tower

ASO was fortunate to spend the last daylight hour of the day on the mesh platform surrounding the Control Room. The platform affords a view of the runways, taxiways, operations facilities and beyond – right to the Darwin City skyline and Arafura Sea. The first wave out of the OLA’s were the Classic Hornets.

AWIC F/A-18’s from 2OCU taxi out for night exercise.
A21-16 taxi for sunset departure.
A21-7 afterburner launch

The launches went on until well after sunset – both RAAF Super Hornets and USMC Classic D models.

AWIC17 Tower visit (4 of 43)
A44-220 into the evening light.
AWIC17 Tower visit (28 of 43)
In and outbound
AWIC17 Tower visit (37 of 43)
Strobing out
AWIC17 Tower visit (43 of 43)
A “Bat” heading out for the night.
Two F/A-18F’s from 1 Sqn line up.

Early in the week ASO also visited RAAF Base Tindal, a leisurely 330km south of Darwin. Once on base having passed through security, we were escorted to the the grassed area next to taxiway Romeo. We could hear them idling in the OLA’s and it wasn’t long before the engine pitch changed and they left the OLA’s. Emerging from the scrub and taxiing out of the heat haze, they all passed right in front of where we were standing meters from the taxiway.

Taxi from OLA – RAAF Tindal
A21-34 – RAAF Tindal
A21-109 taxing out at RAAF Tindal.
A21-109 taxing out at RAAF Tindal.
Steely eyed – RAAF Tindal
AWIC17 Tindal (10 of 34)
To the holding point Runway 14

A quick trip up to near the 5000′ marker and we were able to capture the waves of Hornets lining up on Runway 14, then rapidly tacking off to the south-east. Leaving between the waves of F/A-18’s a lonely 32Sqn King Air 350 took off flying north towards Darwin. Even as we were getting back into the ute we could still hear them climbing away into the distance. It’s a sound most aviation photographers never get tired of hearing.

Waiting to line up Runway 14 Tindal.
A21-43 lifting off Runway 14
AWIC17 Tindal (15 of 34)
Gear up on A21-34
A21-18 launching Tindal.
AWIC17 Tindal (21 of 34)
A21-25 following up
AWIC17 -Tindal A21-109 launching on different coloured notes

Next on the list was a stop and a photo session in an OLA where A21-17 greeted us. These days it is not that unusual to see multiple tail identifications on one RAAF Base as squadrons freely swap aircraft between themselves to meet operational requirements, and in this case A21-17 was wearing the 3 Sqn livery.

A21-17 at Tindal – a 3Sqn Aircraft, fitted with 77Sqn Armed aircraft flag in a 75Sqn OLA – what diversity.
A21-17 Tindal OLA-8
AWIC17 Tindal (32 of 34)
A21-17 Tindal OLA-8

Having OLA 8 to ourselves we managed some walk-around photography and chatted casually with the two 75Sqn RAAF Techo’s manning the OLA. We climbed into the ute just as some of the previously launched Hornets were returning to base.

AWIC17 Tindal (33 of 34)
ACMI wingtip pod.

It was back to the Flight Line office to sign out and admire some of the squadron paraphernalia in trophy cases and up on the walls. This year is the 75th Anniversary of 75 Squadron and it was pleasing to see the entrance to the ops area displaying a welcome sign celebrating this event. The squadron has come a long way from the 25 P-40 Kittyhawks used to form up the squadron in March 1942. It was a little amusing that not only out Hornet, but the memorial Mirage tail on display was also 17 (A3-17)

AWIC17 Tindal (1 of 1)
Welcome to 75Sqn – 75th Anniversary 1942-2017.

One of the natural features of the Top End this time of year is the fantastic sunsets Darwin experiences. RAAF Public Affairs Office out-did themselves this year by arranging for a strip side mass launch photographic opportunity at RAAF Base Darwin.

First off the mark for sunset launches were the Learjets.
AWIC17 Dusk Take off (1 of 16)
VH-LFA taxi for departure

Split into two groups we were provided different perspectives of Classic, Super and Learjet departures, with a USMC KC-130J Hercules thrown in for something different. The first group positioned themselves at the end of the runway –  in this position it was perfect for using the sun, which was close to the horizon providing a brilliant light for silhouetting aircraft and their occupants.

AWIC17 Dusk Take off (4 of 16)
A21-112 on Alpha
AWIC17 Dusk Take off (5 of 16)
Taxi to holding point
AWIC17 Dusk Take off (3 of 8)
Classic silhouette
AWIC17 Dusk Take off (6 of 16)
Waiting clearance

Once lined up on Runway 29 it wasn’t long before the throttles were pushed to the max delivering some great afterburners and heat plumes.

AWIC17 Dusk Take off (7 of 16)
112 with burners lit
AWIC17 Dusk Take off (12 of 16)
Hazing Darwin Tower

The second group was positioned at the 7000′ marker near the lift off point, but managed to catch a little taxiway action as well.

A21-47 lifting the nosewheel.
A21-116 sunset backdrop.

A short lull between F/A-18 waves and a USMC KC-130J managed to depart from midfield.

USMC KC-130J from VMGR-234 ‘QH’
A ‘Ranger’ from VMGR-234.
A21-105 sunset lift off.
AWIC17 Dusk Take off (6 of 6)
Pairs into the burn

The last rays of sunlight seemed to fade so quickly as we captured our final pics before nightfall before mustering back at the old HQ building and departed the base. There was some really amazing light to backdrop the AWIC aircraft heading out for night operations.

AWIC17 Dusk Take off (15 of 16)
Last light

AWIC17 Dusk Take off (14 of 16)

On Thursday ASO’s two Marks departed Darwin for a 10 hour round trip to a location in Bradshaw Field Training Area. The Bradshaw Field Training Area is located over an area of approximately 900,000 hectares, 150 kilometers west of Katherine and 270 kilometers south of Darwin. It hosts military activities by both the Australian Army and the Australia-US Joint Combined Training Center and in this year is a battle space for Exercise Diamond Storm.

AWIC17 Down South (16 of 90)

Finally, positioned at a vantage point, we waited for the first pass by low level traffic. We didn’t have to wait long before the sound of approaching low level jets grabbed our attention. Looking horizontally and sometimes downwards on passing fast jet aircraft back-dropped by the ancient Northern Territory landscape, is definitely a unique experience.

AWIC17 Down South (17 of 90)
AWIC17 Down South (5 of 90)
A21-34 on a low sweep
AWIC17 Down South (23 of 90)
Looking into the ‘office’
AWIC17 Down South (25 of 90)
Banking outbound

While photo stills were being captured, video footage was being committed to memory card as the jets roared past. But that wasn’t all, shortly the sound of 4 Allison turboprops filled the air. A 37Sqn C-130J Hercules appeared at low level and repeatedly flew past our position banking as it passed by. Amazing indeed, in a bush setting quite far from the nearest town.

AWIC17 Down South (60 of 90)
Unmistakable sound – 4 x Allison turbo props
AWIC17 Down South (88 of 90)
Low level – nothing out of the ordinary
AWIC17 Down South (77 of 90)
Pulling up to meet the camera

Repeated passes by A97-465 offered some spectacular angles of a C-130J at low level – each pass different to the last.

AWIC17 Down South (83 of 90)
A97-465 rolling in from the other direction
AWIC17 Down South (84 of 90)
Eye to eye
AWIC17 Down South (85 of 90)
Ramp open wide

AWIC17 Down South (32 of 90)

While some members of ASO were out bush on Thursday, the RAAF PR team arranges for a full day of visits to operational locations in RAAF Base Darwin. The first was a photo opportunity at an OLA with two F/A-18’s parked within, A21-39 a single and A21-102 a dual seat version.

A21-39 and A21-102 – Darwin OLA.
A21-39 veteran with theater markings.

From the OLA, we were driven to the Military Hard Stand where a RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) awaited us on the apron. Essentially a modified Airbus A330, the KC-30/A is a veteran of RAAF overseas deployments and is often in high demand. The crews and aircraft are well regarded by coalition forces for their versatile boom and drogue refueling capability, and have topped up many different types of aircraft during operations.

A39-004 RAAF KC-30/A MRTT – RAAF Darwin.

KC-30/A pilot FlLt Nic escorted us a round the outside of the aircraft and then up to the forward crew area where he spent some time explaining the intricacies of the boom/drogue operator,s position. He operated the camera joystick to demonstrate the field of view the operator has, explaining that the screens provide not only low light night capability, but also 3D to provide depth of perception when using the boom.

A39-004 – one of two drogue refuelling wing pods.
External visual sensors (cameras) that assist the refueling operator to smoothly transfer Avtur.

One interesting point is that the MRTT will carry and use the same specific fuel type required by the ‘receivers’. This is due to the fact that as it draws fuel for its own engines and the air to air tanking system from the standard Airbus fuel tanks – no additional fuel capacity is fitted.

Boom neatly tucked away.

The third event organized was a trip to the Darwin Air Traffic Control Tower on the opposite side of the base. Meeting at the base, we signed in and ascended to the top level by elevator. Again a brilliant view across the base and beyond as Lears and 1 Sqn Super Hornets roared off into the hazy afternoon.

A44-218 retracting the u/c.
A44-211 – Darwin CBD skyline behind.

With some aircraft out flying already, maintenance crews take the opportunity to tow aircraft between OLAs, sometimes for maintenance, engine runs or arming.

A21-117 being towed to an OLA

To end the day off , 1 Sqn had prepared a F/A-18F Super Hornet to be available for us to photograph. Due to the sensitive nature of some specific aircraft systems and hardware we were only permitted to take external photographs. A44-214 was parked at the end of the line next to a USMC KC-130J.

A44-214 at the end of 1SQN flightline.

Air Force Security (AFSEC) teams were observing us and at one point came over to check that we were in possession of the correct permit documentation to take photo’s – ofn course we were but it was good to see them applying the rules.

A44-214 and 32 Sqn KingAir 350

ASO were part of the small contingent of media who were able to experience an air to air refueling flight in one of the RAAF’s KC-30/A MRTT tankers, which was scheduled to top up aircraft involved in the AWIC exercise. Leaving mid morning, the KC-30, A39-004 initially climbed and held station before moving into the assigned flight level block for refueling operations.

RAAF KC-30A MRTT A39-004 lifting off for tanking operations during Diamond Storm.
Looking back over the township of Darwin.
Looking back over the township of Darwin.

Once established in the pattern, several flights of Hornets moved into proximity then lined up ready to tank. Tanking two at a time, one each from the reel hose and drogue/basket pod mounted on each wing, they maintained station and provided the perfect opportunity to take both still and video photography.

A21-16 2OCU 75th Anniversary Tail getting ready.
A21-16 2OCU 75th Anniversary Tail getting ready.
A21-111 & A21-117 2OCU tailed Hornets line up for their turn.
A21-111 & A21-117 2OCU tailed Hornets line up for their turn.

With each pair transferring the required amount they disengaged the basket and moved away to allow the next pair in to top up. During the sequences a Super Hornet from 1 Sqn took also slipped in to take on some fuel.

The final aircraft performed a few practice approaches for some of the pilots to hone their skills, and so by the time all had broken formation with the MRTT, a total of approximately 80 tonnes of Avtur had been transferred to the fighters.

A21-118 & A21-113 F/A-18B Hornets 2OCU.
A21-118 & A21-113 F/A-18B Hornets 2OCU.
The line up begins to refuel these "thirsty fighters"
The line up begins to refuel these “thirsty fighter”

Call sign "Hawkeye" 4 ship from 2OCU.
Call sign “Hawkeye” 4 ship from 2OCU.

Call sign "Hawkeye" 4 ship from 2OCU.

During the transfer ex F/A-18A Hornet Solo Display Pilot FLTLT Matt “Traylz” Trayling was on on board as the knowledge base for any questions being asked along with the Commanding Officer for 28Squadron –  just keeping an eye on proceedings.

77SQN A21-7 & ARDU A21-32 F/A-18A Hornets.
77SQN A21-7 & ARDU A21-32 F/A-18A Hornets.
Refuelled and about to go back into the fight.
Refuelled and about to go back into the fight.
2OCU aircraft ready to go back into the fight.
2OCU aircraft ready to go back into the fight.

Come for a ride on board with the Royal Australian Air Force from taking off to refueling with the KC-30A.


In the final week of the exercise I was afforded a rare chance to ride with the crew of an Air Affairs Learjet during a Tactical Mission in the Bradshaw exercise area. We were a ‘Red” team element and maneuvered in two separate engagement scenarios. Something that I won’t forget for some time to come. For more on this pax ride and some air to air pictures between two Learjets, please click the following link  Air to Air Learjet flight

Lears on approach
Air Affairs learjets – RAAF Darwin

To complete the AWIC training phase of Exercise Diamond Storm ASO was on hand in several locations to catch the now famous “Dawn Strike”, a mass flyover as the sun broke over RAAF Base Williamtown on Friday morning.

AWIC17 Dawn Strike (23 of 27)
Inbound at speed
A21-109 landing after Dawn Strike

For those in attendance it is one of the premier low level flyovers performed by the RAAF. This isn’t actually a public display, but the final part of offensive v.s counter-offensive aircraft mixing it up after overnighting at RAAF Amberley, and before the AWIC detachment aircraft touchdown at home base. For a more detailed look at some fantastic early morning light on Hornets, Hawks, Wedgetail and Hercules aircraft, click HERE

A21-117 – home again.

Again RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal have been able to host another military exercise that brings many photographic opportunities to us at Aviation Spotters Online. We are always in appreciation of the efforts that the Royal Australian Air Force Public Affairs Office goes into allowing the media to attend special events. It allows us to share an insight into various aspects of exercise operations that the general public rarely gets to see.

Special Thanks to WgCdr Bruce Chalmers and his team, FlLt Nick, FlOff, Dea, Tracey and Stephanie in Darwin, FLt XXX and Sgt Andrew down in RAAF Tindal, plus 452Sqn team at ATC Darwin Tower. Thanks must also go to Fllt Nic and ‘Traylz” in respect to the Air to Air flight…. Always a highlight of any media experience, plus to Adam and Geoff from Air Affairs for the opportunity to fly with them on one of their Learjets.

Thanks also goes to the Crews, Techs  and Base personnel that escorted us and answered our questions when we paid them visits at OLA’s, Hardstands, Darwin runway and aircraft.

Looking forward to next time, as always.

Cheers….Mark,Sid and Mark

ASO photographer/videographer – NSW/NT/VIC

We use Nikon DSLR cameras, Nikkor VR lenses and Canon Video equipment.


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Virgin Australia launches Melbourne-Hong Kong Services with a special guest! http://aviationspottersonline.com/virgin-australia-launches-melbourne-hong-kong-services-with-a-special-guest/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/virgin-australia-launches-melbourne-hong-kong-services-with-a-special-guest/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 10:00:56 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=64021 Virgin_Australia_logo.svg

July 5th saw yet another International service launch from Melbourne International Airport.

And in what has become a common occurrence from the fantastic staff at Melbourne International Airport, the morning was launched a distinctive flair with a huge Chinese Dragon, drums and Chinese Lion following a procession of Virgin Australia staff into the terminal.

Virgin Australia launched its first Melbourne to Hong Kong service with the founder of the Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson being a part of the festivities. The Chinese Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo brought their fantastic Dragon along ,which was paraded to the drums into the terminal with Sir Richard bearing the head as the Dragon marched around. The 32-metre Dragon Yar Loong was pride of place in a traditional procession to celebrate the milestone for the airline.

VA Hong Kong 4 (1 of 1)
Yar Loong awaits its special guest.
VA Hong Kong 7 (1 of 1)
Not something you see everyday entering an airport terminal.

Once at the gate the dragon’s head was lifted, with Sir Richard revealing himself to the awaiting crowd of customers, staff and media.

VA Hong Kong 1 (1 of 1)
Surprise! Sir Richard Branson makes his entrance to the waiting media.
VA Hong Kong 2 (1 of 1)
Sir Richard said “I’ve been a lot of things in my time but never a Dragon, something I’m very honored to do”.

Sir Richard noted, “I am so delighted to see Virgin Australia fly to Hong Kong for the first time. Both Melbourne and Hong Kong are such vibrant, fantastic cities and to be able to connect them with the world’s best Business Class and the best cabin crew is truly exciting”.

VA HK (1 of 1)
Sir Richard and CEO of Virgin Group John Borghetti were proud of their airlines success and took questions from the media.

Virgin Australia Group CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti was also present today and was noted saying, “Today’s inaugural flight marks the start of Virgin Australia’s expansion into Greater China. Hong Kong’s diverse cultural fabric has long been a draw card for many Australians, as has its appeal as a stepping stone into Greater China. Through Virgin Australia’s direct services to Hong Kong and our partnership with Hong Kong Airlines, Australians can enjoy convenient travel to Greater China. “Virgin Australia is renowned for bringing choice and competition and since our flights went on sale we have seen our competitors discount their Melbourne-Hong Kong fares by as much as 34 per cent compared to before our fares were launched”.

The launch of today’s service is part of the much larger plan of Virgin’s which will hopefully, once service slots at Chek Lap Kok are secured, see flights from Sydney and possibly Brisbane to Hong Kong.

Airbus A330-243, VH-XFD operated the inaugural VA87  Virgin Australia service.

VH-XFD Virgin Airbus A330-243 ASO LR (1 of 1)
VH-XFD Virgin Airbus A330-243 takes the honor of operating the first flight.

Virgin will be flying the Airbus A330-200 and will operate five services per week to the city. The A330-200 fleet features the airline’s award-winning Business Class suites, ‘The Business’, which is recognised as the world’s best Business Class by Airline Ratings , as well as 255 economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.Virgin currently operates 6 of the type.

VA Hong Kong 13 (1 of 1)
VH-XFD lines up on runway 34 at the start of the flight to Hong Kong.

The service is operated in conjunction with part owner HNA Aviation, which will enable travelers to connect to 13 more destinations in mainland China through the HNA group of Airlines (including Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines).

VA HGK ASO 1 (1 of 1)
Capital Airlines is part of the HNA group of airlines and already has services to Melbourne.
VA HGK ASO 2 (1 of 1)
Hong Kong Airlines again part of the HNA group of airlines.

Velocity Frequent Flyer members will also be able to earn Velocity Points and Status Credits on these flights.

Aviation Spotters Online wishes to thank Melbourne International Airport for its corporation with assembling this article.

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BAE Systems’ upgraded Hawks take to the sky http://aviationspottersonline.com/bae-systems-upgraded-hawks-take-to-the-sky/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/bae-systems-upgraded-hawks-take-to-the-sky/#comments Wed, 05 Jul 2017 09:52:28 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=64655 The Initial Operating Capability for the Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Program (LIFCAP) was recognised at a ceremony at RAAF Base Williamtown today.Mottys-BAE-SYSTEMS-Hawk-LIFCAP-Milestone-76SQN-Williamtown-A27-16-0058-001-ASO

The Royal Australian Air Force’s pilots of the future are now flying the latest, digital standard of Hawk advanced jet trainer having accepted the first upgraded aircraft from BAE Systems. The first cohort from 79 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce has commenced training, taking advantage of enhanced training capabilities which make the RAAF’s fleet amongst the most advanced in the world.Mottys-BAE-SYSTEMS-Hawk-LIFCAP-Milestone-76SQN-Williamtown-A27-16-0012-001-ASO

Each upgraded Hawk provides new training capabilities including simulated radar, electronic warfare, digital mapping, ground proximity warning system and traffic collision avoidance. The upgrade also includes the replacement of two legacy synthetic training devices with three full mission simulators provided by CAE. The upgrade of the Australian Hawk fleet is delivering an enhanced training capability to prepare pilots for life in the cockpit of fast jet aircraft including F/A-18 A/B Classic Hornets, F/A-18F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and, when introduced into service in late 2018, the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.

RAAF Hawk returning for it's fast pass over the crowd and base.
A LIFCAP Hawk in action as part of the 2017 Dawn Strike.

BAE Systems’ engineering teams in Australia and the UK, together with CAE and Cubic Defense Applications Inc, have worked closely with the Commonwealth to deliver this enhanced capability. A joint team of BAE Systems and RAAF technicians has already completed the upgrade of 12 of the 33 fleet of aircraft. Once modified, all 33 aircraft will be almost identical to the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) of the UK’s Royal Air Force.

L-R, Wg CDR Carlos Almenara (A/OC 78WG), Gp Cpt David Langlois (OC TFSPO) and Mr Steve Sheard (Head of Engineering & Product Development, BAE UK) mark the achievement of this significant milestone for the BAE Hawk 127.

BAE Systems Australia Chief Executive, Glynn Phillips said: “The upgraded BAE Systems Hawk aircraft provides the RAAF with a leading edge capability and, coupled with the CAE full mission simulators, delivers a highly impressive Lead-In Fighter Training System (LIFTS) that will ensure Hawk retains its effectiveness into the next decade and beyond.

A27-16, one of the upgraded jets, on show at the ceremony.

“The upgrade brings the RAAF Hawk up to the same platform capability as the most modern Hawk aircraft around the globe; allowing for future shared development and potentially shared cost, across multiple users.”

Some of the key members of the LIFCAP program, L-R, Gp Capt Robert Denny (Acting/CDR ACG), Gp Capt Langlois, Mr Steve Sheard, Mr Steve Drury (Head of Aerospace, BAE Australia), AIR CDRE Greg Hoffman (DG ACS), Mr Steve Underwood (BAE Australia), Wg CDR Carlos Almenara, Mr Matt Hall (TFSPO)

Acting Commander Air Combat Group, Group Captain Robert Denney said: “The Initial Operating Capability for the Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Program (LIFCAP) represented an important milestone in developing Air Combat capability and was essential for providing the quality and quantity of pilots and air combat officers for the Air Force.

AWIC17 A27-16 Hawk (1 of 1)
A27-16 returning from the Dawn Strike last week.

“The LIFCAP introduces a major avionics upgrade to the Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter, three advanced full mission simulators and operational support systems which will ensure that the Lead-In Fighter Training System (LIFTS) is capable of producing sufficient, suitably trained aircrew to operate F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. A mid-life upgrade to the Hawk was necessary to ensure its continued viability, to decrease risk to operational conversion output and to provide the LIFTS with adaptability to support the training requirements associated with the new platforms.”

A27-27 was one of the development airframes for the LIFCAP program. Seen here during a flight past Tomaree Headland in 2015 

The upgrade of the aircraft has included full ground testing and developmental flight clearance by a joint RAAF/BAE Systems team beginning in 2014 at BAE Systems Australia at its Fast Jet facility at Williamtown, NSW and the fleet upgrade will be completed by early 2019.Mottys-Tomaree-LIFCAP-HawkK-008

Our thanks to the Royal Australian Air Force and BAE Systems for allowing us to cover this event.





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Dawn Strike 2017 – Hornets Return to Their Nest http://aviationspottersonline.com/dawn-strike-2017-hornets-return-to-their-nest/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/dawn-strike-2017-hornets-return-to-their-nest/#respond Sun, 02 Jul 2017 01:56:43 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=63285 The cold morning air was torn apart as wave after wave of aircraft roared low over the airfield in full afterburner before breaking off to land in a seemingly never ending stream.

Taxing out for the mass launch.
Taxing out for the mass launch.
Time to get into the fight.
Time to get into the fight.

After about an hour the first waves of jets started to return back to base

Coming in nice and low !
Coming in nice and low !

AWIC17 Dawn Strike




Last Friday morning (June 30th, 2017) a large crowd braved the cold, both on and off the base, for Dawn Strike, the culmination of the Air Warfare Instructors Course (AWIC) 2017.

The crowd is getting bigger every year.
The crowd is getting bigger every year.
The "Ecto" popped a few times.
The “Ecto” popped a few times.


AWIC17 Dawn Strike

AWIC17 Dawn Strike

Previously known as the Fighter Combat Instructor’s course (FCI) conducted by 2 OCU, which saw the best of the best fighter pilots trained to become the leaders and teachers of the RAAF’s air combat capability; as the Air Force’s roles and technologies have expanded to encompass a wider range of air combat elements in recent times, so has the need to integrate these aspects into an overall and cohesive doctrine of battle-space management.

AWIC17 Dawn Strike

F/A-18F Super Hornet pops some "Ecto"
F/A-18F Super Hornet pops some “Ecto”
AWIC17 Dawn Strike
AWIC17 Dawn Strike

Jet's everywhere.

This growth means that there is now the need to include a wider range of ADF capabilities such as electronic countermeasures, airspace control, communications, information transfer and control and much more, which has led to the establishment of the Air Warfare Center  and the former FCI course develop into the new AWIC course, the purpose of which is “to graduate expert leaders and instructors capable of tactics development, validation and instruction” in the multi-faceted fields of modern air combat.


AWIC17 Dawn Strike
AWIC17 Dawn Strike


AWIC17 Dawn Strike
AWIC17 Dawn Strike

The six month long course has been conducted in conjunction with the “Diamond” series of exercises, such as Diamond Shield back in March which saw the F-16s of the 18th Aggressor Squadron, Alaska, deploy to Williamtown for a few weeks (see that article HERE) and has culminated with the large Diamond Storm exercise held across Australia’s north in recent weeks.  In this final phase of the course, aircraft from 2 OCU, 1, 2, 3, 37, 75, 76 and 77  squadrons took part in a mock-attack towards Williamtown with various elements tasked as either offensive or counter-offensive forces. At the conclusion of the battle (as was the tradition during the former FCI course), all the participating aircraft recover to Williamtown in a series of low level, high speed approaches at the crack of dawn. And that’s what the spotters were there to see. Speaking with one of the pilots about how he would describe the battle out at sea, he went on to say “Think of Knights on horseback charging each other, swords drawn for battle. Clashing in the middle to determine the Victor.”


A21-16 2OCU 75th Anniversary Tail
A21-16 2OCU 75th Anniversary Tail


Around 20 classic Hornets and two Hawks launched from RAAF Williamtown at 6am while another 20-or-so Classic and Super Hornets departed from RAAF Amberley. Also on hand was an E-7 Wedgetail from 2 Squadron to provide battlefield command & control and a C-130J from 37 Squadron.

C-130J-30 Hercules on the run in.



RAAF E-7 Wedgetail about to land.
RAAF E-7 Wedgetail about to land.

As word of this event has grown over recent years, it has become a major highlight of the Australian “Spotters” calendar, with people travelling from all around the country to witness the spectacle. The viewing areas in front of the base were full to the brim with spectators, enthusiast and casual alike and, after the previous few times occurring under gray and dreary conditions, this year they were treated to a fantastic (although freezing) clear winter’s dawn.



A21-8 75SQN F/A-18A Hornet
A21-8 75SQN F/A-18A Hornet
A21-16 2OCU 75th Anniversary Tail
A21-16 2OCU 75th Anniversary Tail

ASO was able to cover the event from several vantage points; the viewing areas in front of the base (which is a great spot to capture all of the aircraft as they make their final approaches), mid-field at Air Movements and from the control tower. As the first tiny specs appeared over the coast, to the east, it was on! A fantastic assault of the senses as the aircraft tore across the field in full ‘burner with the occasional puff of “ecto” as they squeezed the moisture out of the air before pitching up to join the circuit downwind. Wave after wave streaking in while an almost constant stream of jets turned onto finals to land over the viewing areas, all in the most fantastic early morning light. And it’s not often that you get to see a Wedgetail do a low initial-and-pitch, or a C-130 pulling “ecto” as it pitches into the circuit either.Mottys-RAAF-Williamtown-Dawn-Strike-2017-0698-ASO

RAAF Hawk returning for it's fast pass over the crowd and base.
RAAF Hawk returning for it’s fast pass over the crowd and base.
RAAF C-130J-30 Hercules even popped a little "ecto".
RAAF C-130J-30 Hercules even popped a little “ecto”.

While a fantastic chance for those of us on the ground to get a rare glimpse of the RAAF in action, this was really about the people involved and the culmination of several months of the most intense study and stress that they have probably ever experienced, in order to become the future of Australia’s air combat capability. Our sincere congratulations to all of the Graduates of the inaugural Air Combat Instructor’s Course and our thanks to the Royal Australian Air Force for allowing us to cover it for you.Mottys-RAAF-Williamtown-Dawn-Strike-2017-0989-ASO


RAAF E-7 Wedgetail landing last.
RAAF E-7 Wedgetail landing last.


A short video of the action from the Control Tower-

If you are in school and are thinking about a career in the Royal Australian Air Force then for more information click here- http://www.defencejobs.gov.au/airforce/

Dream, Believe & Achieve.

ASO would like to thank the Royal Australian Air Force, 2OCU, The Air Warfare Center 88SQN,SQNLDR Bruce Chalmers for the support and access to cover AWIC17.

Click HERE to see the full gallery of images.



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Winter Solstice at Luskintyre http://aviationspottersonline.com/winter-solstice-at-luskintyre/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/winter-solstice-at-luskintyre/#comments Fri, 30 Jun 2017 07:40:46 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=62985 Last weekend saw the close-knit community at Luskintyre, a small grass airfield west of Newcastle NSW mark the Winter Solstice with a good, old-fashioned bonfire night.Mottys-Luskintyre-Bonfire-Night-2017-6736-ASO

After a few weeks of dodgy weather, we were finally treated to a spectacular, clear winter’s afternoon which was all the encouragement many needed to commit aviation, with a steady stream of aircraft taking advantage of the beautiful weather throughout the afternoon.Mottys-Luskintyre-Bonfire-Night-2017-Yak-52-VH-VMI-0295-ASO





Naturally, Tigermoths were well represented.Mottys-Luskintyre-Bonfire-Night-2017-Tigermoth-VH-BGR-0102-ASO








Paul Bennet and the team stopped by with their Wolf Pitts, Rebel 300 and Wirraway and treated us to some brilliant flying and the beautiful afternoon provided some great light.Mottys-Luskintyre-Bonfire-Night-2017-PBA-Formation-0460-ASO




















Balloons Aloft also brought along a couple of their craft to provide rides for kids (both young and old) as the light faded and temperatures dropped. This also made for quite a spectacular light show if, like me, you haven’t had the chance to see a balloon flown at night.Mottys-Luskintyre-Bonfire-Night-2017-Balloons-Aloft-5863-ASO



And, after my first real attempts at night photography at Illawarra recently (and thanks to the lessons from Mark Jessop and Leigh Atkinson) I took the chance to try some night shots as well.Mottys-Luskintyre-Bonfire-Night-2017-6133-ASO




Thanks to everyone involved for another great afternoon and evening at this wonderful little rural airfield.


Click HERE to see the full gallery of images.

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Dawn Strike, Heads-Up http://aviationspottersonline.com/dawn-strike-heads-up/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/dawn-strike-heads-up/#comments Thu, 29 Jun 2017 08:15:12 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=63346  

F/A-18A A21-26 2OCU 70th Anniversary tail

Up to 35 aircraft will conduct a ‘dawn strike’ on Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown on Friday 30 June between approximately 7am to 7.30am as the Air Force’s newest air warfare combat instructors return home from Exercise Diamond Storm in the Northern Territory.Mottys RAAF FA-18 Williamtown FCI 2015 1004

Local residents are advised more than 30 x F/A-18A Hornets, two Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter aircraft will return to base flying in formations of up to four fighter jet aircraft, accompanied by  two C-130J Hercules transport aircraft and an E-7A Wedgetail.F/A-18A Hornet High speed turn

Mottys Williamtown Centenary 3 Family Day Hawk 0050 A27-12-ASO

Mottys Williamtown Centenary 2 Parade Day Parade 0090-ASO

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Air Affairs Australia – Learjets over Darwin – Exercise Diamond Storm – 2017 http://aviationspottersonline.com/air-affairs-australia-learjets-over-darwin-exercise-diamond-storm-2017/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/air-affairs-australia-learjets-over-darwin-exercise-diamond-storm-2017/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:30:19 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=62732  

Recently I was given the opportunity to meet and take a flight with the Air Affairs Australia team, currently on deployment to Darwin in the Northern Territory. The AAA team was in the Top End providing a specialist support role to the Royal Australian Air Force.

Air Affairs is a wholly Australian owned company established in 1984 with headquarters based at the Albatross Aviation Technology Park at Nowra, NSW, and has been providing target services, fire surveillance and precision engineering support services to the Australian Defence Forces, other military forces and Governments since 1995.

More recently and since October 2015, Affairs Australia has been providing specific services to the Royal Australian Air Force under the Jet Air Support Contract which provides Training Support Tasks including Aerial Target Towing and Tactical Flight Missions in various locations across Australia.

VH-LFA departing at sunset for night operations

One such airborne service has been delivered in Darwin as a key component of the Air Warfare Instructors Course (AWIC) which has only just concluded. Exercise Diamond Storm and the AWIC course aims to graduate expert leaders and instructors capable of tactics development, validation and instruction across number of defence force platforms, and so the air to air component is critical to training and qualifying scenarios.

VH-LJA departing Darwin for Exercise Diamond Storm airspace.

Air Affairs flew four of their Gates Learjet fleet – LJ35A’s VH-LFA, VH-JCR VH-LJA and LJ36A VH-SLF, up to Darwin prior to the commencement the exercise. Some of the Aircrew and Learjet’s are familiar with the Top End having been here before, as recently as 12 months ago at Exercise Pitch Black in 2016, so the process of settling into RAAF Base Darwin was fairly routine.

VH-SLF arriving Darwin.
VH-LJA arriving Darwin.
VH-LFA arriving Darwin.
VH-JCR arriving Darwin.

I was permitted access to the AAA team on their last mission day for Exercise Diamond Storm. I was met at the main gate of RAAF Darwin by Ray and signed in as required.

Air Affair crew members connecting hoses and topping up the tip tanks.

We drove down to the where Air Affairs was operating from during EXDS17 – the Duty Crew complex next to the Military Hard Stand. On the apron the four Learjets were parked in a neat row opposite other aircraft such as 1 Sqn F/A-18F’s and 32Sqn Beech King Air 350’s involved in Exercise Diamond Storm. One immediate difference I noted from their last visit was that the Lears did not carry the familiar MTR-101 used in Aerial Target Missions as seen previously in the Northern Territory, flying almost  ‘cleanskin’ during the deployment with only pylons fitted to three of the four aircraft.

AAA Mission brief room.

We entered into the operations room with it’s various maps and info bulletins pinned up on the wall and also where the crews were currently relaxing before the day’s mission. After a quick introduction to Detachment CO Geoff, and as a brief was about to get under way, the “Red” and “Blue” crews split to different areas. I was to be a passenger with the crew from “Red” team and listened in on the co-ord brief delivered by Geoff – basically an overview of todays mission, work flows and backup procedures, a lot of details that makes no sense to this average photographer, but is critical to safe aircraft operations.

After the brief it was the last chance for a rest room break as today’s flight is estimated to be over 3 hours duration, and then the short walk out to the Learjets which were paired VH-LFA and VH-LJA as Blue, and VH-SLF and VH-JCR (my ride) as Red.

Engine start for “Fencer”.

My pilots for today are Brian and Karl both from a military background and as Brian prepared JCR for engine start, Karl showed me the headset which I could listen in onto the comms, then delivered the Learjet safety and exit door brief before taking his seat up front.

My pilots for the day – Brian and Karl.

Blue had already taxied so we followed suit to line up for departure sequencing. Today was one of those days that 452Sqn who operate ATC at Darwin tower, work hard to clear departing aircraft on time. 2OCU F/A-18’s, 1Sqn F/A-18F’s and USMC VFMA(AW)-242 F/A-18D’s taxied across in front and then behind us on the way to Runway 11. In between Hornet waves the tower cleared a Border Force Dash-8, some local GA Cessna’s and a Qantas B717 for take off before it was our turn to line up.

Hornets from 2OCU taxiing for departure to DS17 Airspace.

Final cockpit checks and both SLF and JCR accelerated down Runway11 past aprons of USMC Hornets, Ospreys, Cobras and Venoms, lifting off about 140Knots up into a slightly hazy Top End morning.

Unmistakably a Learjet tip tank over the bottom end of Darwin harbour.

It wasn’t long before we were established in a climb to about 17,000ft where Brian slowly manoeuvred JCR into close formation with SLF providing the first opportunity for some air to air pics. While I was taking pics I could hear the guys were discussing various aspects of what lay ahead in this mission plus checking comms, flight and fuel parameters.

Transiting to exercise airspace.
Geoff checking our position from VH-SLF.

Shortly after “Red” (Fencer 11/12) was called into the mix over the Bradshaw Field Training Area (BFTA) and as we followed ‘Fencer 11’, Karl pointed out contrails giving away positions of aircraft at higher altitudes. We performed some offensive manoeuvring, not your standard Learjet manouvers, as required for the role today, and while I reached for the bag I listening to the ‘chatter’ over the exercise frequencies. There is a large amount of interpretation of coded communications, and that is one reason Air Affairs is totally crewed by ex-military pilots, some from F/A-18’s, some F-16 Vipers and even some who have flown F-104 Starfighters. This aspect allows smooth integration into ADF military operations and the various scenarios that take place, as they already ‘talk the talk’ and have a large amount of experience to bring to the training environment.

Autopilot for a while at 18,000ft – a few avionics upgrades since it’s 1979 build.

It seemed like ages before the horizon returned to a normal passenger attitude after which the aircraft cruised to a holding point towards the southern end of the BFTA. En-route Geoff manoeuvred SLF to port side and this time Karl slowly positioned JCR so that I could capture a different angle, circling in a left holding pattern with the Victoria River in the background.

Transit to holding point.
Established in holding pattern over Victoria River.
Eyes on lining up the tip tank and nose for position.
VH-JCR holding formation with VH-SLF in a left pattern.

The one hour loiter was up and with the tip tanks well and truely empty it was back into twisting and turning, this time a little more aggressively. From my position I couldn’t see anything but both Brian and Karl were scanning back and forth as they weaved the Lear around. I just sat back and enjoyed the soft seat and airwaves banter until we climbed to 20,000ft for the homeward bound leg.

Homeward bound

Descending into Darwin I managed a few more pics and again methodically stepping through their checklist, Brian and Karl had us landing via an initial and pitch during which I could see the 1 Sqn Super Hornets taxiing back to their lines. Once on the ground and positioned behind the other three Air Affairs Learjets, we taxied to the MHS and parked – just over three hours since departing.

1Sqn F/A-18F Super Hornets taxiing back to their MHS parking bays.
Learjet version of the ‘Elephant Walk’ – but after landing.
Parking for “Blue”

As the jets weren’t flying again today they crews after-flighted/fitted covers and completed the mandatory paperwork before retiring to the ops room. The teams had a short debrief before Geoff had to depart for a full RED Mission Commander de-brief. I thank him and the crews before Ray kindly drove us to the front gate.

Job’s not over until the paperwork is complete.
After-flights done and covers on by mid afternoon.

What a day to remember – an experience that will long stay in my memory. As a member of the general public, we normally just see the Learjets come and go from airports, but today was a great insight into what added value the Air Affairs team brings to assisting training of our ADF personnel, especially when they perform Tactical Flight Missions like the one I was priviledged to ride on today.

A big thank you must go to the Air Affairs team including Geoff, Brian, Karl, Raymond, Rob, Chris, Adam for taking the time out from their normal duties to organise an extra pax on the flight. I look forward to catching up again in the future.

Thanks must also go to WCDR Chalmers at RAAF Public Affairs Office for authorising the base visit.

For more information relating to Air Affairs Australia and their support of Australia’s Defence Forces, please click on the following link: http://www.airaffairs.com.au

Cheers Sid Mitchell


ASO photographer – Northern Territory

I use Nikon D7100, Nikkor, 50mm, 18-300mm, 70-200mm and 200-500mm lenses with Sandisk Extreme memory card.



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Fire Season wrap up 2016-2017 http://aviationspottersonline.com/fire-season-wrap-up-2016-2017/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/fire-season-wrap-up-2016-2017/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 21:00:43 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=57209 They are a permanent fixture around Australia now, with fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft being stood up across the country to protect our assets. The practice of aerial fire management isn’t exactly new, Royal Australian Air Force Westland Wapiti biplanes were used by the Victorian Forest Commission in the late 1920’s.

Sir Ivan Fire-11
The Sir Ivan Fire the night before it exploded and became the biggest fire in the NSW season.

Of course fire fighting with these large scale aircraft isn’t feasible nor suitable in some areas, which is why many other different types are tasked to a variety of roles. A mixed fleet of rotary and fixed wing aircraft operate with ‘buckets’ to accomplish their fire fighting roles. This season again new types have been trialed and used by various agencies to improve the delivery of fire suppression. The roles of the aerial fleet have expanded and continues as newer, more efficient and safer ways are developed. The ways in which information is gathered on fire and emergency activities, enable improved management of them, which minimizes the risk to crews on the ground and air and of course to lower asset losses is constantly being tweaked.

team effort-1
The Kains Flat Fire in western NSW started in the worst conditions seen in many years.The RJ-85 is returning for another drop while two helicopters try to keep up with the spotter helicopter to the right. This photo was taken only 4 hours after the fire started.

This season roles included; firebombing, air attack supervision, incident observation, (air observing) incident mapping, winching & rappelling, transport, aerial ignition, aerial drip torch and sling loads. A new role this season saw a new trial in Victoria starting February where Coulson Aviation brought their knowledge and experience of night fire suppression operations to trial and evaluate them out of Ballarat Airport. The ‘safe system of work’ is designed to gain an endorsement of these operations as part of standard operations in the future.
The two helicopters used in the trial, S-61 (Helitak 347) will be used to carry out firebombing operations in tandem with the S76 (Firebird 322) which will be used for reconnaissance. The S-67 was debuted at Avalon Airshow where its crew were on hand to explain the system and trial. This isn’t the first time the S-76 has been in Victoria however, with the type operating along side the DC-10 as part of the evaluation trial in 2010. The Night Fire Suppression Operations (NFSO) – Aviation Trial is done in partnership with Forest Fire Management Victoria, CFA, National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Coulson Aviation.

ASO 1 (1 of 1)
Coulson’s S-76 crew stand proudly beside their aircraft at this years Avalon Airshow.

Craig Lapsley from Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) stated, ‘Victoria has been operating night vision goggles and night vision infrared systems since 2010 to conduct night aerial incendiary operations, surveillance and data collection. The night-time aerial firebombing trial is an extension of this and will build upon knowledge of night vision technology in fire operations and test its capability for future use in Victoria’.

Each state and territory has its own unique challenges with regard to terrain, distances and organizational structures. Hence why each state issues its own contracts to suit the local requirements. All the aircraft on the contract though are managed as part of a larger network by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. NAFC is designed to coordinate the nation’s  fleet and to assist with deployment via a resource sharing arrangement as needed, if needed, in other states, as it did again this season. Aircraft in NSW were tasked to Victoria and Victorian to NSW and Aircraft in Victoria were tasked to South Australia.

rj and smoke and vert-1
RJ-85 overflies the Kains Flat fire looking at the line it will take. Below is a major Power Substation, which was saved from the fire.

Aviation Spotters Online has again been spending a lot of time with the various aircrews around Australia this fire season. As part of the NAFC organization fire bases around the country were as follows:

Australian Capital Territory

  • Hume Helibase

New South Wales

  • Bankstown
  • Camden
  • Richmond
  • Norwa
  • Scone
  • Grafton
  • Forbes
  • Goulburn
  • Orange
  • Taree
  • Tumut
  • Armidale
  • Moruya
  • Wagga Wagga
  • Gunnedah
  • Hume Helibase


  • Archerfield
  • Meandarra
  • Cooroy

South Australia

  • Claremont
  • Port Lincoln
  • Naracoorte
  • Mt Gambier
  • Millicent
  • Brukunga
Fire Article 51 (1 of 1)
Aerotec’s AT-802A VH-ODZ proudly wears its Country Fire Service (South Australia) stickers.


  • Launceston
  • Hobart/Cambridge


  • Stawell
  • Moorabbin
  • Mansfield
  • Avalon Airport
  • Ovens
  • Bairnsdale
  • Latrobe Valley
  • Ballarat
  • Casterton
  • Bendigo
  • Managalore
  • Colac
  • Essendon
  • Albury
  • Benambra
  • Benalla
  • Olinda
  • Heyfield
  • Shepparton
  • Horsham
  • North West
  • Healsville
Fire Article 2017 14 (1 of 1)
Kestrel Aviation’s Helitak 330 on station at Shepparton in Victoria’s North East this season is seen with ground support equipment.

Western Australia

  • Jandacot Airport
  • Albany
  • Busselton
  • Bunbury
  • Serpentine
  • Manjimup
  • Esperance
Fire Article 2017 20 (1 of 1)
Dunn Aviation Air Tractor fleet at rest at Jandacot Airport in Western Australia.

Northern Territory

  • Batchelor
Aircare Aviation’s AT-802 VH-WXH is owned by the Moree based company and is seen here in the Northern Territory.

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

Large fixed wing fleet

As we reported in our previous round up of the 2015-2016 season here: http://aviationspottersonline.com/fire-fighting-assets-in-australia-20152016-season/ the growth and continued maturity in the types, roles and their uses continues to expand. This season we saw many aircraft locally operated again assisted with types and airframes from overseas operators. Again the Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) from 10Tanker Air Carrier operating the DC-10 returning to be based at RAAF Richmond, New South Wales, alongside a Larger Air Tanker (LAT) Coulson Aviation operated L-100-30 Hercules is the primary large scale air attack aircraft based in New South Wales. In Victoria the Government tasked the Conair/Field Air operated RJ-85  and a Coulson Aviation C-130Q to head their local LAT operations.

This season Victoria and New South Wales again led the rest of the country with the contracting of VLAT and LAT fire bombers. The VLAT DC-10 arrived into R.A.A.F Richmond to start its contract to operate in conjunction with the NSW Rural Fire Service in October 2016.

10 Tanker Air Carrier the operator of the aircraft who operate out of their home base in Albuquerque, New Mexico developed the aircraft into what is now a very capable platform. The company is contracted to supply DC-10s to operate across Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming as well as Alberta, Canada and of course Australia.


Tanker 10-16
The DC-10 on the Flightline at RAAF Richmond.

The company has three operational DC-10 VLATs with other airframes in storage (a fourth is under conversion) which as demand increases can be converted to tanker configuration. The company flew aircraft Bomber 910 to RAAF Richmond this season, the same airframe as last season arrived on October 30th from its routing from Albuquerque via Santa Maria, Honolulu and Pago Pago.

Kurri Fire Aviation 1
Bomber 910 makes a drop on the Kurri Kurri Fire, 10 Tanker Air Carrier President and CEO Rick Hatton, said he expects the companies next Tanker 914 to be finished with the modification process in June, including the incorporation of their Next Gen tank controller.


Kurri Kurri Fire Aviation
Bomber 910 makes a drop on the Kurri Kurri Fire on the East Coast of NSW.


Tanker 10 getting refilled
Refilling the tanks on firebombers especially VLATs and LATs requires special and dedicated equipment. The equipment is adaptable to the type of fire attack and the requirements laid out by fire crews on the ground.

Conair in conjunction with Ballarat based company Field Air again contracted a BAe RJ85 to operate as part of Victoria’s LAT aircraft operation. This season is the third in which the two companies have brought this aircraft to work here. The change this season was the aircraft its self. This time Canadian registered C-GVFK. Field Air in conjunction with Conair have the aircraft based at Avalon Airport firebase. This location is chosen at it allows for rapid deployment in Victoria while not clashing with airline traffic operating out of the main airport Tullamarine. As has happened previously the RJ wasn’t used exclusively in Victoria, the aircraft was called into use in New South Wales with the aircraft being positioned at Albury airport in support of the fire attack North of the border.

Fire Article 62 (1 of 1)
Bomber 391 preforms an evening drop in front of the crowd at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon Airport.


rj belly-1
Bomber 391, pulls away after a drop on the Kains Flat fire in the New South Wales west this year. The red stains on the belly is from the Phos Chek retardant .


C-GVFK Conair-FieldAir RJ-85 ASO (1 of 1)
C-GVFK is one of a total of seven Avro RJ85s in service as airtankers, with an eighth aircraft under conversion ready for the 2017 fire season.

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
Fire Article 63 (1 of 1)
The Conair RJ conversions haven’t compromised the integrity of the airframe. The tanks which are mounted on the sides of the airframe allow the aircraft to still fly at normal airliner altitudes which allows for a much quicker deployment when called interstate from its Avalon base.
Fire Article 57 (1 of 1)
Emergency Management Victoria whom Field Air and Conair contract the aircraft are proud of the RJ85’s performance a fact proven time and time again.

Stephen Holding Business Manager of Field Air took the time to sit down and give some insights, ” The LATs in Vic had a busy season with a number of deployments interstate as shown in the image attached. The RJ85 and C130Q have now done active firebombing in VIC, NSW, TAS, SA and WA over the course of the past three seasons – demonstrating the versatility and national capability of these LAT aircraft. The RJ85 worked out of Airbase Avalon and Airbase Richmond – and temporary airbase Albury on a number of different occasions including a very busy week right at the season’s end working fires in the Victorian High Country by which time the C-130Q and DC10 had both returned to the USA.”

thumbnail_1 Frame 2017 season
This graphic shows the RJ85’s work and where the aircraft operated this season. Graphic credit to Field Air.


The Coulson Name is featured a lot when it comes to aerial firefighting in Australia. The company has operated Lockheed Hercules aircraft in Victoria and New South Wales now for a couple of years. Established in 1985 Coulson Aviation traces its routes 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 to name a few. 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 shows no signs of slowing down either. Coulson has announced the purchase of six 737-300’s and intends to convert them into 4,000-gallon “Fireliner” air tankers with the first one ready for trialling at the end of this year.. Britt Coulson Coulson’s Vice President of Aviation said they saw an opportunity when Southwest Airlines made a decision to replace their 737-300’s with new 737-Max.The first conversion has started, with a freshly painted 737 scheduled to roll out of the paint shop in Spokane on May 22, 2017. The next step is to add the gravity-based tanks which will have the same technology used on their C-130’s.

Coulson’s first Boeing 737 Fireliner N617SW is a former Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 fitted with winglets. (Photo from Coulson)


Coulson’s first Boeing 737 Fireliner N617SW is a former Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 fitted with winglets. (Photo from Coulson)

This Season saw the company deploy 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.

Sir Ivan Fire
Returning to base after a long day with the fire still raging below.


Sir Ivan Fire
Sir Ivan Fire- coming back around for another drop.

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

The second Coulson Lockheed Hercules on contract this season is a C-130Q variant. This aircraft was originally built to a United States Navy configuration as a EC-130Q. The Navy requirement for a communications relaying aircraft to relay information during a national crisis saw the airframe modified for this role. After the service with the Navy the airframe also spent a period of time with the National Air & Space Administration (NASA). Coulson fitted a 15,450 litre tank which can be loaded with a fire retardant solution.  The GPS linked computer controlled firebombing system delivers a constant flow of fire retardant or suppressant to the target area.

The C-130Q  N130FF and named ‘Hercules’ operated as ‘Bomber 390’ this season while on contract with  the Victorian Government through the Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) establishment.

Fire Article 61 (1 of 1)
N130FF demonstrates during the evening display at Avalon Airshow this year.


Herc 390 (1 of 1)
N130FF is in immaculate condition and a real credit to its crew chiefs and maintainers.


Fire Article 54 (1 of 1)

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
Fire Article 55 (1 of 1)
N130FF is seen on arrival, in Avalon at the commencement of its contract to Emergency Management Victoria.

Coulson also announced this year to add a second C-130Q to its fleet. The “new” Tanker 134 is the second C-130Q that they have acquired and should be ready to go in approximately four years. The airframe has recently been relocated after years of storage to a new facility where the overhaul and modification of the airframe will be done.

Fire Article 56 (1 of 1)
It’s all steam powered in the cockpit of N130FF with a few modern concessions to aid in Navigation and Fire operations.


 Small fixed wing fleet

Most numerous of the mixed wing fleet are the Air Tractor with some thirty-nine in the AT-802F and AT-802F Fireboss float equipped versions on contract across Australia this season. The Air Tractor with its 3200 litre tank capacity and agility make it the main weapon of attack. The Air Tractor 802F is a development of the smaller versions and has been designed for fire fighting operations. The aircraft is agile, accurate and is extremely reliable thanks to its rugged agricultural design and powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67AG turbine engine. Due to its agricultural design heritage the aircraft can operate from unprepared strips in forward operating areas to and is able to drop its payload, low and slow, and right where it’s needed to knock down the bushfire or suppress fires in heavier forested areas.

Kyneton Airshow 2017 21 (1 of 1)
Air Tractors are known for their reliability, flexibility and dependability hence they form a vital part of the Fire Bombing fleet across Australia.
Fire Article 2017 41 (1 of 1)
Field Airs, VH-FFM or Fire Fighting Machine, is the latest version of the AT-802F. The advanced version has an increase in horse power to 1300 hp among a host of other modern features to enhance the design of the aircraft.


VH-FFB VH-FZX AT-802F ASO (1 of 1)
Tow of FieldAir’s Air Tractors on standby at their operating base at Bairnsdale in Victoria.

The Air Tractor AT-802 is available in four different versions:

  • Single seat AT-802A which is designed for the demands of Agriculture.
  • Single and tandem seat AT-802F are designed for the aerial fire fighting role.
  • Single and tandem seat AT-802F Amphibious Scooper Air Tanker, fitted with floats.
  • Tandem seat AT-802U Utility Irregular Warfare Aircraft, which is designed as an armed surveillance platform.

The Australian distributor for the sale and marketing of the Air Tractor in Australia, Field Air, based in Ballarat not only sell and support the type here in Australia they also operate a fleet of aircraft on contract and ‘Call When Needed’ Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs). Five of the AT-802F ‘Advanced’ aircraft are in operation with the company.

Stephen Holding, noted a new concept that was implemented in Victoria this season.

The new concept with what was termed “Harvest Bombers”.

Stephen when onto to explain, “Field Air was pleased to be involved with this concept.  Our involvement was a pair of Air Tractor AT-802F SEATs at both Nhill and Ouyen – so four aircraft in total.  The aircraft started their contracts earlier than a typical season with the intent to provide aerial firebombing support to communities and brigades as the grain harvest got underway in the Mallee and Wimmera.  As part of the concept, we were asked to provide “turnkey” support by way of a mobile support truck and driver capable of providing both refuelling and aircraft loading support.  The aircraft were stationed on “Pre Determined Dispatch” otherwise known as PDD enabling them to be launched early in a true initial attack role with the aim of keeping small fires small and protecting communities and yet to be harvested crops. The four SEATs were supported by a medium helicopter also working under the same concept in the Wimmera/Mallee.”

Fire Article Harvest (1 of 1)
Two Field Air Air Tractors on standby during the Harvest Bomber Trial.

The feedback from the Wimmera/Mallee communities regarding the “Harvest Bomber” concept was overwhelmingly positive. The concept has given local communities faith in a concept that works and hopefully continues.

Kyneton Airshow 2017 9 (1 of 1)
The AT 802F preforms a water bombing demonstration at Kyneton Airshow.

Air Tractor AT-802 Overview:

  • Single Engined 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
Aerotec Fleet 3 (1 of 1)
Aerotech are in the process of repainting their fleet of Air Tractors into this fantastic red and white livery VH-OUF or Bomber 591 looks fantastic.

Aerotech based in South Australia introduced the Aerotech 1st Response program in 1990 aimed at providing the specialist aerial fire fighting and marine oil spill control equipment to the South Australian Government Emergency Service agencies. As time and technology have progressed Aerotech continues to upgrade their equipment. Currently the fire bombers have or are being fitted with the Trotter Gen II Fire Doors.  It is a sophisticated on-board technology, which allows the bomber pilots to choose the requested coverage level and amount of load to be dropped, enabling pinpoint accuracy. Aerotech operates eleven AT-802F aircraft alongside 602 and 502 versions of the Air Tractor.

Aerotec Fleet 2 (1 of 1)
Some of the Aerotech fleet at rest after the conclusion of this season.


Fire Article 2017 19 (1 of 1)
Bomber 601 ‘Ballidu’. , VH-DUQ Air Tractor AT-802 operated by Dunn Aviation, was based at Albany.


VH-NIN Dunn Air Tractor AT-802T 2 ASO LR (1 of 1)
Bomber 603, VH-NIN Air Tractor AT-802A operated by Dunn Aviation


VH-NID Dunn Air Tractor 802 ASO LR (1 of 1)
Bomber 612 ‘The Boss’, VH-NID Air Tractor AT-802A operated by Dunn Aviation at Bunbury


Bomber 253,VH-WXH is owned by Moree based Aircair Aviation


Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 0079 Fireboss VH-FBX-001-ASO
Fireboss VH-FBX flys at Firebomber 360 as part of the Pay’s Aviation.


Sir Ivan Fire (1 of 2)
Bomber 717, turns in for another a drop on the Sir Ivan fire in NSW.

PZL M18T (Hubler) Dromader

Another Agricultural design turned firefighter the Dromader has been in service for many years now. With its powerful and reliable Honeywell TPE-331 Engine the aircraft the aircraft is able to take on board 2375 litres of either fire retardant or a fire suppressant solution.

PZL-Mielec M-18B Dromader, VH-MDR. Raglan.2017 (41)
PZL-Mielec M-18B Dromader, VH-MDR operated by R-Mach Aviation preforms a drop in Raglan.


PZL-Mielec M-18B Dromader, VH-MDR. Raglan.2017 (42)
PZL-Mielec M-18B Dromader, VH-MDR operated by R-Mach Aviation shows of its large wing which provides great lift and the ability to maneuver over the fire ground.


PZL-Mielec M-18B Dromader, VH-MDR. Raglan.2017 (32)
PZL-Mielec M-18B Dromader, VH-MDR operated by R-Mach Aviation shows its under wing set up where it is configured for fire bombing and aerial application spraying.
  • Single Engined Air Tanker
  • Call sign “Bomber”
  • Single pilot crew
  • 2375 litre capacity
  • 5300 kg gross weight
  • Drop speed 160 km/h
  • Cruise speed 230 km/h
  • 11.3 m length, 18 m wingspan
  • Honeywell TPE-331-11 turboprop engine, 1100 HP
  • Fuel consumption 240 litres/h of Jet A1
  • Fire retardant or fire suppressant
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Specialised Role Types, Caravans, Commanders & Skymasters

Many types are employed in dedicated roles including but not limited to, transport of general freight, Fire crews and Passengers, incident mapping Air Attack supervision and fires spotting duties.

The Cessna Grand Caravan can carry up to 12 passengers with greater luggage capacity. The aircraft is very well suited to remote operations in Australia, with its rugged construction and is noted for the types excellent short field performance and good payload. Powered by one of the most reliable turbine engines ever made, the Pratt and Whitney PT6 Turboprop. The PT6A engine family remains the world’s most popular engine in its class and is one of P&WC’s greatest success stories.  

This season three Caravans were on contract through the NAFC, one each in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. Operated by Pay’s Aerotec and Vortex Air respectively. The three aircraft carried out tasks including the movement of fire crews, and are in some cases fitted with sophisticated communication and tracking equipment which enables crews on the ground to be relayed information on fire movements and behavior.

Fire Article 2017 9 (1 of 1)
Vortex Air based at Moorabbin Airport operates two Cessna Grand Caravans and are used during the fire season for transport of personal to active fire grounds. VH-POV, Birddog 387 is seen rotating from Essendon Airport.

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 Rockwell Turbo Commander 690B is a twin engine, high wing, passenger transport aircraft. The Turbo Commander is used by fire agencies primarily for aerial supervision of airtanker operations. Other roles include supervision of fire operations, fire detection, reconnaissance and utility missions carrying the pilot and up to five passengers or crew depending on the mission It is well suited for the role of aerial supervision with its high wing offering excellent visibility from the front seats, and the ability to slow down and loiter in the fire area. When working as a ‘Birddog’ the main responsibility for the crew is to supervise aerial fire fighting operations and to collect intelligence information about a fire and pass it on to the incident management team.

The Turbo Commander also takes on the role of ‘Bird Dog’ on fire grounds as a lead aircraft for Large and Very Large Air Tankers. When working as a ‘Birddog’ the main responsibility for the crew is to supervise aerial fire fighting operations and to collect intelligence information about a fire and pass it on to the incident management team. An on board air attack supervisor will direct air tankers where and how to drop their load on the fire. Another role is acting as the lead aircraft, 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.

Again New South Wales and Victoria saw the types employed to work in conjunction with the DC-10, RJ85 and Hercules types on contract.

VH-HPY AeroCommander ASO (1 of 1)
AgAir operate this well presented Turbo Commander VH-HPY. Based in Stawell in Northern Victoria.

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
Fire Event EMV ASO 3 (1 of 1)
Commander 690A, VH-CLT part of the Tasman Seafood’s fleet was operated in the Birddog role this season, as Birddog 376.


VH-FSA Cennsa 337 Birddog ASO (1 of 1)
Cessna 337 VH-FSA operating in the Birddog role with a CFA observer in the rightseat.


VH-NRE Cessna 337G Australasian Jet ASO (1 of 1)
VH-NRE is a Cessna 337G operated by Australasian Jet based at Essendon. The aircraft flies as Birddog 378.

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
VH-RGE Cessna U206F Astralasian Jet ASO (1 of 1)
VH-RGE, Cessna U206F operated by Australasian Jet flies as Firespotter 382. This important role allows crews on the ground and air to deliver a fire attack in a timely and efficient method.

Cessna 206 Stationair Overview:

  • Single Engine High wing Call sign “Fire spotter”
  • Reconnaissance / utility aircraft
  • Single Engine High wing
  • Call sign “Fire spotter”
  • Single Pilot five passengers
  • Capacity: five passengers
  • Length: 8.61 m wingspan 10.97 m
  • Max. takeoff weight 1,632 kg
  • 1 × Lycoming IO-540-AC1A air-cooled flat-six engine, 300 hp (224 kW)
  • Cruise speed: 263 km/h


Rotary Wings

The rotary fleet is also an integral part of fire operations in Australia, so let’s break down the types and their respective roles. The rotary fleet this year saw new types and new technology as mentioned previously deployed. The rotary fleet continues its grown and evolution as new types are introduced to prove their capabilities. The usual types including Squirrels, 212/412 and Aircranes were deployed around the country with the results we have come to expect from these well established types. The new kid on the block this season and one which was not only visually impressive, also proved operationally impressive was the Timberline/Pay’s UH-60A Blackhawk

Rotary wing aircraft capable of firebombing will be assigned a Type based on their internal payload and water carrying capacity, as specified below.

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


Timberline Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk

Pay’s Air Services this year brought a new type to Australia a converted ex US Army UH-60A Blackhawk Operated in conjunction with Timberline Helicopters based at Sandpoint, Idaho in the USA, the helicopter N434TH in its extremely attractive blue and orange livery operated this season as Helitak 260. Deployed from Pay’s Scone base in the New South Wales the aircraft was out showing its capabilities and was soon in action working in NSW and Victoria on fires.

N434TH Timberline Helicopters SH-60A ASO (1 of 1)
UH-60A Blackhawk N434TH arrives at Ballarat Airport to support operations during the extremely high temperatures that were predicted for the week in early January 2017


N434TH Timberline Helicopters SH-60A ASO 2 (1 of 1)
Operated by Timberline crews and a Pay’s Aviation crew member operated the Blackhawk across the east coast this season with great results.


Timberline Blackhawk cockpit detail.
Timberline Blackhawk cockpit detail.


Timberline Blackhawk interior.
The Blackhawks’s Bambi bucket folds up nice and compact with the aircraft.

Coulson Sikorsky S-76A

The two helicopters used in the night ops trial, S-61 (Helitak 347) will be used to carry out firebombing operations in tandem with the S-76 (Firebird 322) which will be used for reconnaissance. The S-67 was debuted at Avalon Airshow where its crew were on hand to explain the system and trial. The Night Fire Suppression Operations (NFSO) – Aviation Trial is done in partnership with Forest Fire Management Victoria, CFA, National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Coulson Aviation.

C-FIRW Coulson S-76A ASO 4 (1 of 1)
C-FIRW as shown at the Australian International Airshow 2017


C-FIRW Coulson S-76A ASO 2 (1 of 1)
C-FIRW S-76 Interior showing its fire monitoring equipment.

Erickson S-64E Aircrane

A regular feature across Australia is the now well established Erickson Air Cranes. Six of the types were deployed this season with them being in based as follows:

  • S-64E N217AC/740 ‘Malcolm’ based in Essendon
  • S-64E N218AC/734 ‘Elsie’ based at Bankstown
  • S-64E N957AC/748 ‘Ichabod’ based at Moorabbin
  • S-64E N154AC/739 ‘Georgia Peach’ based Serpentine
  • S-64E N164AC/747 ‘Incredible Hulk’ based at Brukunga
  • S-64E N194AC/741 ‘Delilah’ based at Bankstown

The Aircrane is well established across the country as a Type 1 class helicopter, the payload is the heaviest of all helicopters that were on contract this season. The type’s ability to haul 7,500 litres of water or a mixed load of Phos-Chek MVP-F which is a medium viscosity retardant makes it extremely versatile on large scale fires. The Aircranes ability to be loaded on the hard-standing, draw water via its Ram Scoop Hydrofoil or its hover snorkel give the type unrivaled flexibility.  The pilots can choose from eight different computerized coverage drop levels to maximize the suppression on the fire front. The Aircrane can and does also get operated with its tank removed and using a long line and Bambi bucket.

When speaking to one of the Erickson crew chief’s it was interesting to note that many people still don’t understand the capabilities offered by these aircraft. The ability to draw water from static water sources i.e. Dams and should the need arise and to maximize turn around’s the ability to draw sea water via the Hydrofoil scoop can dramatically reduce the first spread as the Air Crane is very flexible for the task at hand. Something the crew chiefs were keen to emphasize after this year’s fire season.

Fire Article 2017 (1 of 1)
Helitak 342 leaves the staging ground to fight a fire


Fire Article 46 (1 of 1)
N218AC ‘Elsie’ S-64E, Erickson Air Crane operated as Helitak 734 this season, based at Bankstown.

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
Water drops Mudgee fire (1 of 6)
The Wuuluman Fire in Western NSW used many Air Assets like the Air Crane.
N217AC Erickson Air Crane ASO (1 of 1)
N217AC ‘Malcolm’ S-64E, Erickson Air Crane operated as Helitak 341 this season, operating from Essendon.


N957AC Erickson Air Crane ASO (1 of 1)
N957AC ‘Ichabod’ S-64E, Erickson Air Crane operated as Helitak 342 this season, based at Moorabbin.


Fire Article 2017 3 (1 of 1)
After refuelling the ‘Icabod’ lifts off where it will use the suction line to draw fluid to fight a fire on Melbourne’s outskirts.


Air Crane Mudgee (3 of 3)
N218AC ‘Elsie’ S-64E, Erickson Air Crane operated as Helitak 734 this season, based at Bankstown, seen here working at the Mudgee fire.

Coulson Sikorsky S-61N

Coulson Aviation Sikorsky S-61N ‘Helitak 347’ C-FMAY and ‘Helitak 348’ C-FIRX again took up operating from a base in Colac and Mansfield in Victoria.  This type of aircraft has been operating in Australia now for seven years.  Equipped with the ability to fly with either a 4000 litre capacity water tank or as a 3000 litre Bambi bucket equipped aircraft. The S-61N is a multi-role aircraft. It can be readily reconfigured from firebombing with a tank too long line operations with a power-fill bucket. It can also be used to transport up to 18 passengers in airline style, comfort or large amounts of cargo inside the aircraft or slung underneath. The S61N is also fitted with a single line rappel system. With this rappel system the aircraft is used to insert fire fighting crews into areas too remote to quickly access by road or foot.

Fire Article 49 (1 of 1)
Helitak 348 Operated by Coulson.

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
Fire Article 48 (1 of 1)
Helitak 347 also operated by Coulson.

Bell Helicopters 204/205/206/212/214 & 412

The Bell line of Helicopters has been synonymous with fire fighting in Australia for many years. This season was no different and is by the numbers still the most populous around Australia.  Some 33 different Bell Aircraft types were noted on the contract as part of the NAFC this season, broken down this included six B206 Long Rangers, two B204 Hueys, six B212, six 412 and thirteen 214B Big Lifters.

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Bell 212 and 206 helicopters working in conjunction to coordinate a fire attack.

Many local long term operators in Australia fly the Bell 212/214 and 412s, Jayrow, Professional Helicopters, McDermott, Forest Air and Kestrel helicopters as examples have flown the type which is ideally suited to the local conditions where the larger type 1 isn’t. The type 2 helicopters are extremely versatile and their excellent handling, lift capacity and flexibility are the reason so many are on contract.

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
VH-KAC Kestrel B412 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
Kestrel Aviation’s Bell 412SP VH-KAC, ‘Helitak 334’ at its Ballarat base in Victoria. This 412 was originally delivered to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police in Japan as JA6635. Flying with them from 1990 until 2009. It came to Australia in 2010. Kestrel have cooperative agreement with Erickson Incorporated, to operate the Erickson S-64 Aircrane in Australia.


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Professional Helicopters acquired several of the Heliserv assets in 2016 which saw the helicopters emerge in a striking new colour scheme. Helitak 338 or VH-JJR was one of them.


Fire Article 2017 7 (1 of 1)
Purchased new from Bell by the Royal Thai Army and for a number of years flew as part of the VIP fleet tasked to His Royal Highness Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. The aircraft was sold on and moved to Australia in 2008 and has been fitted with a 1600 Litre underslung tank, as seen here having been refilled.


ç2 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
McDermott Aviation’s Bell 214 VH-SMI operates as Helitak 418, is seen undergoing maintenance at the companies dedicated helicopter centre at Jandakot.


N49732 McDermott Bell 212 ASO (1 of 1)
McDermott Aviation’s Bell 214 N49732 operating as Helitak 672, is seen undergoing maintenance at the companies dedicated helicopter centre at Jandakot.

214B Big Lifter Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: passenger / cargo transport
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to 14 passengers
  • 2650 litre firebombing tank capacity
  • Cruise speed 240 km/h
  • Two bladed main and tail rotors
  • 6300 kg maximum take-off weight
  • 17.7 m length, 14.7 rotor diameter,
  • 2950 HP Lycoming T5508D turbo shaft engine
  • Fuel consumption 600 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking


Fire Article 2017 10 (1 of 1)
McDermott Aviation’s Bell 214 N281JL operating as Helitak 335 is seen departing Bendigo Fire base heading out to fight a fire.


Bell 214B, Raglan.2017 (49)
Bell 214B VH-SUH operating as Helitak 417 in Raglan with a sling load.


Bell 214B, Raglan.2017 (21)
Bell 214B VH-SUH operating as Helitak 417 in Raglan


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Kestrel Aviation’s Bell 212 VH-NSY Helitak 330 is one of several Kestrel operated machines on contract, and is shown here at its Shepparton operating base.


VH-JJY Jayrow Bell 212 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-JJY or ‘Helitak 340’ is seen here fitted with a 1400 Litre belly tank


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C-GEZO was the second Bell 212 on contract this season that Jayrow lease from Great Slave Helicopter’s.

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
Fire Article 2017 8 (1 of 1)
VH-NNN Bell 212 ‘Helitak 331’


Fire Article 2017 6 (1 of 1)

Bell 206L-3 LongRanger Overview:

  • 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

Bell 205/UH-1H

Bell Helicopters introduced a civilian version of the military UH-1H designated Bell 205A. The main difference e being a derated T5313B engine. This version was aimed for the civilian market of use in Air Freight, Air Ambulance and executive transport. Ironically the 205 variant went into military service when it was licenced produced for the Japanese (by Fuji-Bell) and Italian (by Agusta-Bell) for their respective armed forces and in the Agusta version also for civilian service.  This season Great Salve Helicopters a Division of Discovery Air based in Etobicoke Ontario, Canada have provided a single 205B and a Bell 212 on lease to Victorian operator Jayrow Helicopters based in Moorabbin.

Fire Article 53 (1 of 1)
C-FNTR is a 1978 build Bell 205B which flew as Fire Helitak 237 this season.


Fire Article 52 (1 of 1)
C-FNTR can operate with a Bambi bucket or a Isolair 4600-205 ELIMINATOR II underslung tank. Isolair have been producing tanks for Fire fighting tasks since the early 1980’s. The 1300 litre tank can be fitted in a timely fashion to meet a fire agency’s requirement.

Touchdown Helicopters  UH-1H Iroquois VH-OXE based at Illawarra Regional Airport, Wollongong, flying as Helitak 223.

UH-1H.Rocky.2015 (3)

Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter) Fleet:

VH-HRG Aerotec AS350 ASO (1 of 1)
Aerotech. AS-350 B3 VH-HRG operated as Firebird 501 in South Australia this season.

Well suited for the fire fighting role the Squirrel has been and will continue to be deployed as its agility and payload make it ideal. Not all Squirrels on contract season are deployed for firebombing the type is well suited for the fire supervision role, winching and general utility work. One local operator Microflight have set two airframes up with highly sophisticated fire monitoring systems.

The Squirrel as a type is operated in both single AS350 and twin engine AS355 versions. The Queensland and Western Australian Governments contracted a single example, each of the Twin Squirrel this season. The Twin is powered by two Rolls Royce Allison 250-C20F turbo shaft engines with 840 HP available at take off.

Fire Article 2017 5 (1 of 1)
Microflight based in Moorabbin operate two similar configured AS-350 B3 Squirrel’s with fire monitoring equipment which operate with the Wescam MX-10 camera. VH-XXW operated as Firebird 300.


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Professional Helicopters based in Moorabbin have AS-305BA VH-SCO operating as Firebird 302.

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

Another type employed this season is the Airbus Helicopters EC120B Colibri. The type is suited to the supervision of firebombing operations with its high speed, enabling it to keep up with the largest of firebombing helicopters and the ability to slow down and loiter in the fire area.

Eurocopter AS365N2 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.

AS365N2 Dauphin, Raglan.2017 (13)

AS365N2 Dauphin, Raglan.2017 (15)

AS365N2 Dauphin, Raglan.2017 (26)

AS365N2 Dauphin, Rockhampton.2017 (5)

  • 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

EC120B Colibri Overview

The EC-120 design is a five-seat, single-engine, light helicopter. Jointly designed by Eurocopter, China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC), Harbin Aviation Industries (Group) India, (HAIG) and Singapore Technologies Aerospace Ltd (STAero) at Eurocopters, Marignane facility, the EC120B is assembled by Eurocopter in France and also in  Australia. The first prototype flew in 1995 and in 2002 the Brisbane assembly facility was opened where the MRH-90 was also assembled.

Fire Article 2017 12 (1 of 1)
Jayrow Helicopters based at Moorabbin Airport in Victoria operate VH-JYX with flies as Firebird 305, based at Bendigo for the Victorian contract.
  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary role air attack supervision
  • Other roles reconnaissance / utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, four passengers
  • 1715 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 220 km/h
  • Three bladed main and eight bladed tail rotors
  • 11.5 m length, 10.0 rotor diameter
  • Turbomeca Arrius 2F Turbo shaft engine
  • Fuel consumption 100 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 500 HP available at take off
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

When working as a ‘firebird’ the primary responsibility for the crew is to supervise aerial fire fighting operations and to collect information about a fire and pass it on to the incident management team. The EC120B is also used for utility missions, including ferrying passengers and cargo.

As we move forward there is already new plans and trials being developed for the 2017-18 Fire Season. A lot of crews are deployed across the globe fighting fires. Locally training and workups with local brigades has begun to further enhance the usefulness of these amazing machines and their crews.

We hope this article highlights the important roles the types operated by the fire services around the country, the crews operating them, maintaining them and protecting the assets we all cherish.

Aviation Spotters Online wishes to thank Stephen Holding, Britt Coulson and Wayne Rigg for their input into this article.

To all members of the fire services both in the air and on the ground stay safe and know that the whole country has your support for the tireless work you all do.

Dave Soderstrom

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