In a press release issued this week from the state of Victoria, the southern Australian state announced that the Victorian and Queensland Governments have secured a deal to share a Large Air Tanker to support aerial firefighting capacity in both states during their respective bushfire seasons.
The Bombardier Dash-8 Q400AT aircraft will operate in Queensland from September to December to cover their bushfire season and will operate in Victoria for the height of summer from December to February.
Sharing aerial firefighting resources provides both states with better value for money while ensuring the aircraft is available to support firefighting efforts on the ground when and where it is needed most.
The agreement covers the 2021 to 2024 bushfire seasons and the Large Air Tanker will remain in Victoria between bushfire seasons.
The Q400AT has a 10,000-liter tank for water or fire retardant and replaces the larger C130 previously used by Victoria.
The Q400AT has some significant advantages for use in aerial firefighting including that it is 50 knots faster, uses half the amount of fuel, improved low-speed handling for dropping retardant, and faster turnaround time from engine start to take-off.
This particular Large Air Tanker also requires less room for take-off and landing, potentially opening several regional airports for operations that have not been able to be used previously.
The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements in 2020 recommended cost sharing for aviation resources.
The 2021/22 Victorian Budget included record funding to expand Victoria’s firefighting capacity, strengthen communication systems during emergencies and deliver reforms recommended by the Inspector–General for Emergency Management.