2013/14 Fire Fighting Aircraft in Western Australia

16 October 2013 (UPDATED 19 February 2014) © Brenden Scott & David Eyre

For the 2013/14 fire season, McDermott Aviation won the contract to supply helicopters as Helitak (Helicopter Air Attack) aircraft, using Bell 214B helicopters, which are significantly more powerful and each carries three times more water than the Squirrels that they replaced. A Sikorsky S-64E Aircrane will be used as the heavy Helitak, but no S-61s are to be leased, as the Bell 214B helicopters carry an equivalent load.

The Scouts are all owned and managed by DPaW, which holds an Air Operators Certificate (AOC). The Air Tractors and all of the air attack platforms (except VH-YUQ) are also managed by DPaW.

Squirrel VH-YUQ, together with all of the Helitaks and Air Intelligence, are managed by DFES.

AIR ATTACK

Air Attack call signs are fire agency designations for air attack supervisor platforms, and the call signs remain unchanged regardless of whether the actual airframe is changed. DPaW frequently rotate their Scout fleet around the various bases, so their Air Attack callsigns change, but their SPOTTER callsigns remain unchanged.

  • Air Attack 1 / FIREBIRD 620 /  VH-EGU Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel Soloy SD2  – Helicopter Logistics – Based at Jandakot. NOTE: Sometimes VH-JTQ is used as Air Attack 1.
  • Air Attack 2 – Scout (rotated). Based at Bunbury.
  • Air Attack 3 – Scout (rotated). Based at Manjimup.
  • Air Attack 4 – Scout (rotated). Based at Albany.
  • Air Attack 5 / FIREBIRD 623 / VH-YUQ Eurocopter AS355F1 Twin  Squirrel – McDermott Aviation – Based at Jandakot.
  • Air Attack 6 – Scout (rotated). Based at Jandakot

BIRDDOG: Gippsland Aeronautics GA-8 Airvan (Shine Air)

Fixed-wing aircraft used primarily for air attack supervision.

BIRDDOG 622 / VH-AQL

 

SPOTTER: American Champion 8GCBC Scout (Department of Parks and Wildlife – DPaW)

VH-DXZ / 641 American Champion 8GCBC Scout (cn 512-2008) of the (then) Department of Environment and Conservation, at Jandakot Airport - 27 October 2012. Photo © David Eyre
VH-DXZ / 641 American Champion 8GCBC Scout (cn 512-2008) of the (then) Department of Environment and Conservation, at Jandakot Airport – 27 October 2012.
Photo © David Eyre
VH-KTG / SPOTTER642 American Champion 8GCBC Scout (MSN 546-2011) of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, at Jandakot Airport - Thu 21 November 2013.
VH-KTG / SPOTTER642 American Champion 8GCBC Scout (MSN 546-2011) of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, at Jandakot Airport – Thu 21 November 2013.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife uses a fleet of American Champion 8GCBC Scout aircraft as fire spotter aircraft for forest patrols in the south-west of WA. They are based at Jandakot, Bunbury, Dwellingup and Manjimup, and fly across areas set each day according to the forecast fire weather conditions. The aircraft fly more hours during the hotter months (around 3,500 hours) due to the increased fire risk. They also supervise waterbombing operations in the south-west, relaying information to fire controllers regarding the fire’s behaviour to assist in firefighting and ensuring the safety of fire crews.
VH-KTG was built in 2011, and is seen here landing on runway 06L after a bush fire patrol.
Photo © David Eyre
VH-DXL / SPOTTER646 American Champion 8GCBC Scout (MSN 516-2009) of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, at Jandakot Airport - Thu 21 November 2013.
VH-DXL / SPOTTER646 American Champion 8GCBC Scout (MSN 516-2009) of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, at Jandakot Airport – Thu 21 November 2013.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife uses a fleet of American Champion 8GCBC Scout aircraft as fire spotter aircraft for forest patrols in the south-west of WA. They are based at Jandakot, Bunbury, Dwellingup and Manjimup, and fly across areas set each day according to the forecast fire weather conditions. The aircraft fly more hours during the hotter months (around 3,500 hours) due to the increased fire risk. They also supervise waterbombing operations in the south-west, relaying information to fire controllers regarding the fire’s behaviour to assist in firefighting and ensuring the safety of fire crews.
VH-DXL was built in 2009, and is seen here taking off from runway 06L for another forest/bush fire patrol.
Photo © David Eyre
VH-LKV / SPOTTER647 American Champion 8GCBC Scout (MSN 529-2010) owned by the Department of Parks and Wildlife, at Jandakot Airport - Tue 3 December 2013.
VH-LKV / SPOTTER647 American Champion 8GCBC Scout (MSN 529-2010) owned by the Department of Parks and Wildlife, at Jandakot Airport – Tue 3 December 2013.
Built in 2010. The Department of Parks and Wildlife uses a fleet of American Champion 8GCBC Scout aircraft as fire spotter aircraft for forest patrols in the south-west of WA. They are based at Jandakot, Bunbury, Dwellingup and Manjimup, and fly across areas set each day according to the forecast fire weather conditions. The aircraft fly more hours during the hotter months (around 3,500 hours) due to the increased fire risk. They also supervise waterbombing operations in the south-west, relaying information to fire controllers regarding the fire’s behaviour to assist in firefighting and ensuring the safety of fire crews.
Photo © David Eyre

The Department of Parks and Wildlife uses a fleet of American Champion 8GCBC Scout aircraft as fire spotter aircraft for forest patrols in the south-west of WA. They are based at Jandakot, Bunbury, Dwellingup and Manjimup, and fly across areas set each day according to the forecast fire weather conditions. The aircraft fly more hours during the hotter months (around 3,500 hours) due to the increased fire risk. They also supervise waterbombing operations in the south-west, relaying information to fire controllers regarding the fire’s behaviour to assist in firefighting and ensuring the safety of fire crews.

Each aircraft uses the callsign “SPOTTER” followed by their individual number, e.g. VH-DXM is “SPOTTER 643″.

SPOTTER 640 / VH-LKQ
SPOTTER 641 / VH-DXZ
SPOTTER 642 / VH-KTG
SPOTTER 643 / VH-DXM
SPOTTER 644 / VH-CVI
SPOTTER 645 / VH-BKH
SPOTTER 646 / VH-DXL
SPOTTER 647 / VH-LKV
SPOTTER 648 / VH-KUE
S
POTTER 649 / VH-DXU
?? / VH-CFJ (privately-owned) – Based at Albany.

BOMBER: Air Tractor AT-802 & AT-602 (Dunn Aviation)

VH-NIY / BOMBER602 Air Tractor AT-602 (MSN 602-1139) operated by Dunn Aviation for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, leased from South East Air Ag (SEAA Pty Ltd), at Jandakot Airport - Mon 9 December 2013
VH-NIY / BOMBER602 Air Tractor AT-602 (MSN 602-1139) owned and operated by Dunn Aviation for the WA Government, leased from South East Air Ag (SEAA Pty Ltd), at Jandakot Airport – Mon 9 December 2013.
This aircraft has a different firefighting water dispenser to the AT802 and AT802A aircraft.
Built in 2005.
Photo © David Eyre
VH-DUN / BOMBER604 Air Tractor AT-802A (MSN 802A-0328), named “Ian Leslie”, owned by Dunn Aviation, leased to Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport – Mon 9 December 2013.
VH-DUN / BOMBER604 Air Tractor AT-802A (MSN 802A-0328), named “Ian Leslie”, owned by Dunn Aviation, operated for the WA Government, at Jandakot Airport – Mon 9 December 2013.
Returning at 14:58, after fighting a bushfire near the town of Dwellingup in WA’s south west. The fire started just before midday from a burn on private land between the Pinjarra Williams Road and Davis Road. 30 firefighters worked on the ground in conjunction with two Air Tractor AT802 fixed-wing water bombers and two Bell 214B1 HELITACs to fight the fire. With fairly strong winds, the fire moved fast towards the town, but it was contained so that no properties were damaged.
Built 2010, ex N8521E.
Photo © David Eyre
VH-NIA/604 Air Tractor AT-802A (cn 802A-0148, built in 2004, ex C-GSJB) Dunn Aviation Pty Ltd at Bertram (southern suburb of Perth) - Sat 29 December 2012. Photo © Matt Hayes
VH-NIA/604 Air Tractor AT-802A (cn 802A-0148, built in 2004, ex C-GSJB) owned by Dunn Aviation Pty Ltd, firefighting at Bertram (southern suburb of Perth) – Sat 29 December 2012.
Photo © Matt Hayes
VH-DUA / BOMBER608 Air Tractor AT-802 (MSN 802-0366) owned by Dunn Aviation, named "Magic", leased to Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport - Tue 3 December 2013.
VH-DUA / BOMBER608 Air Tractor AT-802 (MSN 802-0366) owned by Dunn Aviation, named “Magic”, operated for the WA Government, at Jandakot Airport – Tue 3 December 2013.
Built 2010, ex N8521E, EC-LHZ.
Photo © David Eyre
VH-NID / BOMBER612 Air Tractor AT-802AF (MSN 802A-0523), named "The Boss", owned by Dunn Aviation, leased to Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport - Tue 3 December 2013.
VH-NID / BOMBER612 Air Tractor AT-802AF (MSN 802A-0523), named “The Boss”, owned by Dunn Aviation, operated for the WA Government, at Jandakot Airport – Tue 3 December 2013.
Built in 2013, this brand new aircraft was only registered on 28 September 2013.
Photo © David Eyre

Dunn Aviation Australia provides fixed-wing fire bombing aircraft for the WA Government – the Air Tractor AT-802 and AT-602 for water and fire retardant dropping. Its aircraft are also contracted out to other states to perform firebombing and agricultural duties.

Based at Jandakot, Bunbury, Manjimup, Albany.

BOMBER 601 / VH-DUQ AT802 – Based at Albany
BOMBER 602 / VH-NIY AT602 “Forever Young” –
Based at Jandakot
BOMBER 603 / VH-NIN AT802A
BOMBER 604 / VH-DUN AT802A “Ian Leslie” –
Based at Jandakot
BOMBER 605 / VH-NIZ AT602 “Rock n Roll”
BOMBER 606 / VH-NIA AT802A – to be sold in NSW
BOMBER 607 / VH-DUJ AT802 –
Based at Albany
BOMBER 608 / VH-DUA AT802 “Magic” –
Based at Jandakot
BOMBER 609 / VH-DUW AT802A
BOMBER 610 / VH-JID AT802 “Chop”
BOMBER 611 /  VH-NIP AT802A
BOMBER 612 / VH-NID
AT802A “The Boss” – Based at Jandakot

FIREBIRD:

  • Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel Soloy SD2 & AS350BA Squirrel & Bell 206B JetRanger III (Helicopter Logistics)

  • Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II (Heliwork WA)

  • Eurocopter AS355F1 Twin Squirrel (McDermott Aviation)

  • Eurocopter Bo-105LS-A3 (Heliwest)

VH-EGU (FIREBIRD 620) Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel Soloy SD2 (MSN 3201) of Helicopter Logistics, leased from Pacific Crown Helicopters, leased to Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport – Mon 9 December 2013.
VH-EGU (FIREBIRD 620) Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel Soloy SD2 (MSN 3201) of Helicopter Logistics, leased from Pacific Crown Helicopters, operated for the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport – Mon 9 December 2013.
Returning after coordinating firefighting aircraft at a bushfire near the town of Dwellingup in WA’s south west. The fire started just before midday from a burn on private land between the Pinjarra Williams Road and Davis Road. 30 firefighters worked on the ground in conjunction with two Air Tractor AT802 fixed-wing water bombers and two Bell 214B1 HELITACs to fight the fire. With fairly strong winds, the fire moved fast towards the town, but it was contained so that no properties were damaged.
This Squirrel features panoramic windows and cabin doors, and was converted when in the USA with a Soloy SD2 kit, which included replacing the original Turbomeca Arriel engine with a Honeywell LTS101-700D-2 engine.
It was previously painted all over with a stars and stripes American flag and used for scenic flights by Las Vegas Helicopters (see http://www.airliners.net/photo/Las-Vegas-Helicopters/Eurocopter-AS-350B-2-Ecureuil/0827674/L/ ). In 2007, it was sold to Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters for scenic flights, and painted with this rainbow livery.
It is owned by Queensland-based Pacific Crown Helicopters, but has been based at Jandakot for the past month, operating as a “FIREBIRD 620″ for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services – these helicopters coordinate aerial firefighting operations.
Built in 1999, ex N5225A, N616LV, XA-SCL, N616LV.
Photo © David Eyre
VH-YUQ / FIREBIRD 623 Eurocopter AS355F-1 Twin Squirrel (MSN 5057) owned by McDermott Aviation, on lease to the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport – Mon 11 November 2013.
VH-YUQ / FIREBIRD 623 Eurocopter AS355F-1 Twin Squirrel (MSN 5057) owned by McDermott Aviation, operated for the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport – Mon 11 November 2013.
The FIREBIRD helicopters coordinate aerial firefighting operations. VH-YUQ has been used in this role in other States of Australia in the past.
Built in 1981, ex N281AP, N117LB.
Photo © Brenden Scott
VH-XRG / FIREBIRD 625 Eurocopter Bo-105LS-A3 (MSN 2037) of Heliwest at Jandakot Airport – Thu 17 October 2013.
VH-XRG / FIREBIRD 625 Eurocopter Bo-105LS-A3 (MSN 2037) of Heliwest at Jandakot Airport – Thu 17 October 2013.
Jandakot-based – Fitted with Wescam MX-15i high definition FLIR turret, laser mapper and microwave transmitter. Used as an aerial command and control helicopter to coordinate firefighting operations.
Photo © Matt Hayes

The Air Attack FIREBIRDS coordinate aerial firefighting operations, and can usually be seen circling high above firefighting aircraft. The Air Intelligience FIREBIRD is an fire information resource for incident managers on the ground.

FIREBIRD 620 / VH-EGU Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel Soloy SD2 – Helicopter Logistics – Based at Jandakot – Also uses callsign ‘Air Attack 1’
FIREBIRD 621 / VH-KSV Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II – Heliwork WA – Based at Jandakot
FIREBIRD 622 / VH-JTQ Eurocopter AS350BA Squirrel – Helicopter Logistics – Based at Jandakot – Sometimes uses callsign ‘Air Attack 1’ , when VH-EGU is unavailable
FIREBIRD 623 / VH-YUQ Eurocopter AS355F1 Twin Squirrel – McDermott Aviation – Based at Jandakot – Also uses callsign ‘Air Attack 5’
FIREBIRD 624 / VH-JRI Bell 206B JetRanger III– Helicopter Logistics – Based at Jandakot
FIREBIRD 625 / VH-XRG Eurocopter Bo-105LS-A3 – Heliwest –  Based at Jandakot (Air Intel) – Fitted with Wescam MX-15i high definition FLIR turret, laser mapper and microwave transmitter.

HELITAC: Bell 214 (McDermott Aviation, QLD, Australia) & Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (Erickson Air-Crane, USA)

N1073W / HELITAC671 Bell 214B1 BigLifter (MSN 28012) owned by McDermott Aviation, leased by Department of Fire and Emergency Services at Jandakot Airport – Tue 3 December 2013
N1073W / HELITAC671 Bell 214B1 BigLifter (MSN 28012) owned by McDermott Aviation, operated for Department of Fire and Emergency Services at Jandakot Airport – Tue 3 December 2013
Queensland-based McDermott Aviation won the tender to provide fire fighting helicopters for the 2013/14 bush fire season (October – April).
The Bell 214B is the most powerful (2950 SHP) single engine helicopter in the world, fitted with the Isolair ‘Tsunami” Belly Tank, with 2,700 Litres capacity.
Built in 1976, ex 105(Royal Air Force of Oman), 755(Royal Air Force of Oman).
Photo © David Eyre
N49732/HELITAC 672 Bell 214B-1 BigLifter (MSN 28005) of McDermott Aviation, leased by Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport - Thu 17 October 2013.
N49732/HELITAK 672 Bell 214B-1 BigLifter (MSN 28005) of McDermott Aviation, operated for Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport – Thu 17 October 2013.
Queensland-based McDermott Aviation won the tender to provide fire fighting helicopters for the 2013/14 bush fire season (October – April).
The Bell 214B is the most powerful (2950 SHP) single engine helicopter in the world, fitted with the Isolair ‘Tsunami” Belly Tank, with 2,700 Litres capacity.
Built in 1976. Ex N49732, 101 (Royal Air Force of Oman), 751(Royal Air Force of Oman).
Photo © Matt Hayes
N234PH/HELITAC 673 Bell 214B-1 BigLifter (MSN 28050) of McDermott Aviation, leased by Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport – Mon 11 November 2013.
N234PH/HELITAC 673 Bell 214B-1 BigLifter (MSN 28050) of McDermott Aviation, operated for Department of Fire and Emergency Services, at Jandakot Airport – Mon 11 November 2013.
Queensland-based McDermott Aviation won the tender to provide fire fighting helicopters for the 2013/14 bush fire season (October – April).
The Bell 214B is the most powerful (2950 SHP) single engine helicopter in the world, fitted with the Isolair ‘Tsunami” Belly Tank, with 2,700 Litres capacity.
Built in 1977. Ex N5750L, N234PH, 756 (Royal Air Force of Oman), VH-LYH.
Photo © Brenden Scott
P2-MLJ / HELITAC674 Bell 214B1 BigLifter (MSN 28066) owned by McDermott Aviation, leased by Department of Fire and Emergency Services at Jandakot Airport – Mon 9 December 2013
P2-MLJ / HELITAC674 Bell 214B1 BigLifter (MSN 28066) owned by McDermott Aviation, operated for Department of Fire and Emergency Services at Jandakot Airport – Mon 9 December 2013.
Returning after fighting a bushfire near the town of Dwellingup in WA’s south west. The fire started just before midday from a burn on private land between the Pinjarra Williams Road and Davis Road. 30 firefighters worked on the ground in conjunction with two Air Tractor AT802 fixed-wing water bombers and two Bell 214B1 HELITACs to fight the fire. With fairly strong winds, the fire moved fast towards the town, but it was contained so that no properties were damaged.
Leased for the 2013/14 bush fire season (October 2013 – April 2014). The Bell 214B is the most powerful (2950 SHP) single engine helicopter in the world, fitted with the Isolair ‘Tsunami” Belly Tank, with 2,700 Litres capacity.
Built in 1981, ex N2179R, JA9304, N4410N, C-GTWG, F-GJKZ, N214JL.
Photo © David Eyre
N243AC / 741 Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022) Erickson Air-Crane, named “Marty”, seen when on lease to FESA (Fire & Emergency Services Authority) for the 2011/12 bushfire season, at Emu Lake, Ballajura - Wed 28 March 2012
N243AC / 741
Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane (cn 64-022)
Erickson Air-Crane, named “Marty”, seen when operated for FESA (Fire & Emergency Services Authority) for the 2011/12 bushfire season, at Emu Lake, Ballajura – Wed 28 March 2012.
The S-64E can release up to 7,000 litres of water or fire retardant in a single drop.
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
– 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

Small, medium and heavy fire fighting helicopters are operated for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services for the fire season (October – April).

Four Bell 214 helicopters are based at Jandakot and two Bell 214’s are based at Busselton. The S-64E Skycrane is based at Serpentine Airfield, south of Perth.

HELITAK 671 / N1073W Bell 214B – Based at Jandakot
HELITAK 672 / N49732 Bell 214B1 – Based at Jandakot
HELITAK 673 / N234PH Bell 214B1 – Based at Jandakot
HELITAK 674 / P2-MLJ   Bell 214B – Based at Jandakot
HELITAK 676 / P2-MSA   Bell 214B – Based at Busselton
HELITAK 677 / C-FXNI   Bell 214B1 – Based at Busselton

HELITAK 741 / N243AC  Sikorsky S-64E “Marty” – Based at Serpentine

11 thoughts on “2013/14 Fire Fighting Aircraft in Western Australia

  • July 20, 2014 at 1:02 am
    Permalink

    I was wondering if anyone has the contact information for the person at the DPaW that oversees the hiring for Spotter pilots?

    Reply
  • August 14, 2014 at 6:57 pm
    Permalink

    Would anyone have a contact information for companies providing firefighting aircraft/helicopter for hire?

    Reply
    • August 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm
      Permalink

      McDermott Aviation provided the Bell 214B1 BigLifter helicopters for this fire season, with Dunn Aviation providing fixed wing aircraft. You could try contacting either of their companies via their websites.

      Regards,
      David Eyre

      Reply
  • February 5, 2015 at 7:53 am
    Permalink

    Hi

    I am very interested in being part of the team doing the fire spotting flights in the American Champion 8GCBC Scout.

    Could I perhaps have some information who to contact for this?

    Regards
    Francois

    Reply
    • February 6, 2015 at 7:57 am
      Permalink

      Firespotting flights in the American Champion Scouts are operated by the Department of Parks and Wildlife, so you should contact them regarding this.
      These flights are flown by a single pilot in the aircraft – there are no additional people in the aircraft.

      Regards,
      David Eyre

      Reply
  • June 24, 2015 at 10:43 am
    Permalink

    Does anyone know any details about the requirements to meet to be able to apply to fly the Scouts for DPaW?

    Cheers,
    Kelvin.

    Reply
  • June 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Kelvin, please could I get contact details for DPaW contact regarding flying as a fire spotter pilot.
    thanks regards
    Rob

    Reply
  • October 26, 2016 at 6:46 pm
    Permalink

    Hi David, sorry to ask the same question you’ve got over the years, but do you know the contact within DPaW for Fixed Wing Ops positions, or should we contact the operators directly?

    Reply

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