The Victorian State government in Australia introduced its largest-ever seasonal aerial firefighting fleet at a press event at Avalon Airport west of the city this week.

Totalling 50 aircraft, the fleet comprises of aircraft for firebombing, aerial supervision duties, and aerial intelligence-gathering.

This year’s firefighting fleet consists of 27 helicopters and 23 fixed-wing aircraft, with its most recent addition being an additional S-64 Erickson Aircrane dubbed “Marty,” joining other aircranes, Delilah, Hunter, and Hercules.

The fleet of Skycranes will be operated regionally by Kestrel Aviation, who manages a substantial part of the larger air tanker helicopter fleet, including assets sent by various other operators such as Canadian operator Coulson Aviation. Each is capable of dropping nearly 4,000 gallons of water or retardant. The aircrane fleet will be placed regionally in each of the greater Melbourne metropolitan area airports of Essendon, Moorabbin, and Avalon in the west.

The Victorian government also announced that night waterbombing operations will continue this summer after successful testing in the 2018 season using Coulson’s S-61s also managed by Kestrel.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp mentioned during the event that the airborne fleet of aircraft was a “critical component” of keeping the community safe.

“The majority of our helicopters and planes will be on pre-determined dispatch, which means they will respond immediately to fires at the same time as trucks and will be critical in keeping small fires small,” he said.

“Our aviation fleet is strategically placed across the state according to risk and we are able to move aircraft around quickly to respond to fires.”

In addition to the state-based assets in Victoria, the state government also noted that if needed, they can call on up to 100 other aircraft in other states if required. 

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