With the ever-increasing requirements for better equipment that can deliver the mission profile on time and on target the Kestrel Aviation team headed by Ray Cronin, and backed up General Manager Justin Charlesworth.
As the fire season moves into high gear across Australia. Two operators are now gearing up for the change of operations that is night time firebombing.
This important operation will further help the various agencies tackle blazes when calmer conditions prevail.
Kestrel Aviation has been instrumental in developing the mission case with the crews, aircraft, and developing the profiles for the deployment of it in the real world.
Emergency Management Victoria launched its recommenced Night Fire Aviation Program (NFAP) on Monday evening the 30th November at Wesburn near Warburton in Victoria. The demonstration is based on a real-world scenario in the Yarra Valley with fire in bushland threatening the urban interface.
The program’s objective is to integrate night operations into the current suite of aircraft available to manage a fire incident and to further trial and understand the night aviation capability. It includes both night firebombing and night aerial intelligence gathering services. Kestrel has been at the forefront of this program since its inception in 2018.
The development of the Initial Attack After Dark strategies which includes Specialist Intelligence Gathering (SIG), Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS) will enable the equipped helicopters to be deployed to the fire without having seen the fire in daylight, but with clear conditions, good light, and well-mapped areas with good intelligence.
The EMV Commissioner Andrew Crisp was on hand to brief the assembled media on the mission and the roles the two helicopters would conduct during the demonstration.
Aviation Spotters Online was a guest of Kestrel Aviation to witness the demonstration to local Fire Rescue Brigades at a quarry. The demonstration saw one of Kestrel’s Bell 412 VH-KHU which operates as Helitak ‘346’ partner with Professional Helicopter Servies, Airbus Helicopters AS355 VH-PHN which operates as Firebird ‘318’.
The two machines were tasked to operate from the Wesburn (Sportsground and SES facility) which was utilised as the airbase for refueling, briefing, AAS crew changeover, and media briefing.
The two helicopters then transited to the quarry 15k WNW of Wesburn for the bombing activity. Conducting multiple drops on the simulated fire the assembled fire crews, and media were able to witness the evolution of this now vital role in protecting property and people for Victorians.
With the impending season already showing a significant tempo in the northern parts of Victoria, it looks as though the night time aerial fire fighting role will be utilised significantly.
This fire season the NVIS
The company continues its investment in aerial fire fighting in Australia with the announcement this week that the first UH-60 Blackhawk in the familiar red and white livery is on a boat headed arriving in time for the 2020/21 season.
Exciting times ahead for the Mangalore, Victoria based operation.
ASO would like to again thank Kestrel Avaiton for their hosting of myself and invitation to the event.
Dave Soda Soderstrom