28 March 2012: Koondoola bush fire

Copyright © 2012 David Eyre

Firefighters battled a number of fires in bush land near residential areas west of the Koondoola Open Space, in the northern suburbs of Perth.

Police and FESA said that the fires were deliberately lit by an arsonist at around 11am, as there were approximately 15 ignition points. Flames reached a height of 10 metres, threatening homes and lives of nearby residents and schools in Koondoola and Alexander Heights, and a number of roads were closed. Although evacuations were not considered necessary, some residents packed their belongings and prepared to leave.

A total of 55 firefighters supported by several helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were brought in to fight the fires, which were brought under control by late afternoon and continued to smoulder throughout the night.

Aircraft included:

  • N243AC / 741 Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022) of Erickson Air-Crane, named “Marty”, on lease to FESA (Fire & Emergency Services Authority) for the 2011/12 bushfire season.
  • C-FIBN / 681 Sikorsky S-61N (cn 61811) of VIH Helicopters Ltd, British Columbia, Canada, on lease to FESA (Fire & Emergency Services Authority) for the 2011/12 bushfire season.
  • VH-WCN / 668 Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel (cn 3190) of Helicopters Australia
  • VH-WCD / 669 Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel (cn 3266) of Helicopters Australia
  • Air Tractor AT-802 aircraft of Dunns Aviation.
  • VH-JRI Bell 206B JetRanger III (cn 4234) of Resource Aviation Pty Ltd – This circled at higher altitude, either being used by the media or as a fire controller.

The photos below were taken in late afternoon at Emu Lake, in neighbouring Ballajura – the helicopters refilled their water tanks here, as it was less than a kilometre from the fire. Unfortunately, the S-61 and fixed wing aircraft had already departed the area, as the fire was well under control by the time I arrived.

N243AC / 741  Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)  Erickson Air-Crane. Named "Marty"N243AC / 741  Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)  Erickson Air-Crane. Named "Marty"

N243AC / 741  Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)  Erickson Air-Crane. Named "Marty"

N243AC / 741  Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)  Erickson Air-Crane. Named "Marty"

N243AC / 741  Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)  Erickson Air-Crane. Named "Marty"

N243AC / 741  Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)  Erickson Air-Crane. Named "Marty"

N243AC / 741  Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)  Erickson Air-Crane. Named "Marty"

N243AC / 741  Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)  Erickson Air-Crane. Named "Marty"

LEFT:
N243AC / 741
Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)
Erickson Air-Crane.
Named “Marty”
On lease to FESA (Fire & Emergency Services Authority) for the 2011/12 bushfire season.

This firefighting helicopter arrived in Australia on 7 December 2011 aboard a ship from Greece. After offloading at Melbourne Port, the helicopter flew to Essendon Airport on 8 December 2011. It departed Melbourne Port by sea on 15 December via Adelaide to Fremantle, and was flown to Jandakot on 23 December 2011.

It can release up to 9,500 litres of water or fire retardant in a single drop, compared to 4,000 litres for the leased Sikorsky S-61 helicopters or 1,000 litres for the AS350 Squirrel helicopters.

The helicopter was built in 1967 as a Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe (civil designation S-64A) for the US Army and allocated military serial 67-18420. It was delivered to the US Army in August 1967, serving with the following units:

  • 273 Aviation Company
  • 273 Assault Support Helicopter Company “Superhooks”
  • 478 Heavy Helicopter Company “Hurricanes”
  • 62 Aviation Company
  • 85 Division Training
  • NASA, Langley Field (Loaned in 1973)
  • 478 Aviation Company (Heavy Helicopter)
  • Pennsylvania National Guard – (see a photo of it taken in 1982 HERE).
  • ?? – stored at the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Centre (AMARC), at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona

On 8 April 1994 it was sold to Lenair Corp, and registered N22696 on 27 June 1994.

On 23 January 1997, it was re-registered as N544CH to Columbia Helicopters International.

On 2 December 2002 it was sold to Erickson Air-Crane Inc. and reregistered as N243AC on 10 January 2003.


Photos © David Eyre

VH-WCD / 669  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3266)  Helicopters AustraliaVH-WCD / 669  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3266)  Helicopters Australia

VH-WCD / 669  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3266)  Helicopters Australia

VH-WCD / 669  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3266)  Helicopters Australia

VH-WCD / 669  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3266)  Helicopters Australia

LEFT:VH-WCD / 669
Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel
(cn 3266)
Helicopters Australia
Fitted with a 1100-Litre Simplex Fire Attack belly tank and water pump.

Built in 2000.
Test flown as F-WQDF with Aerospatiale.
Regd 31.1.00 as HB-ZBW to Heli Gotthard AG, Erstfeld, Switzerland. Cancelled 9.12.02.
Regd 10.12.02 as VH-WCD to Helicopters (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Photos © David Eyre

VH-WCN / 668  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3190)  Helicopters Australia

VH-WCN / 668  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3190)  Helicopters Australia

VH-WCN / 668  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3190)  Helicopters Australia

VH-WCN / 668  Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel  (cn 3190)  Helicopters Australia

LEFT:VH-WCN / 668
Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel
(cn 3190)
Helicopters Australia
Fitted with a 1100-Litre Simplex Fire Attack belly tank and water pump.

Built in 1999.

First delivered as HB-ZBH to Heli Gotthard (Switzerland) – registered 8.4.1999. Registration cancelled 5.3.2002 as sold in New Zealand.

To ZK-HNG Helicopters (NZ) Ltd 16.9.2002, exported to Australia for Helicopters (Australia) Pty Ltd in late 2002. Cancelled 22.5.2003 as exported to Australia.

Registered 26.5.2003 as VH-WCN to Helicopters (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Photos © David Eyre

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