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Firefighting aircraft touches down at Avalon

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Minister for Bushfire Response and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan today welcomed the arrival of one of Victoria's biggest weapons in the fight against bushfires.

Two 8,000-litre fire-fighting aircraft, which can be deployed across the state in less than an hour, have touched down at Avalon Airport where they will be based for the next 12 weeks.

Mr Ryan said the two Convair 580 aircraft were on lease from Canada where they had a proven track record in fighting forest and grass fires.

"For more than a decade our North American counterparts have been using the Convair aircraft for direct attack on fires, as well as indirectly when laying retardant lines in front of advancing fire fronts," Mr Ryan said.

"Capable of dropping 8,000 litres of water or fire retardant and with a maximum speed of more than 500km/h, these aircraft can deliver loads of fire retardant to slow the spread of fires to most areas in the state in less than an hour.

"The aircraft are part of a $4 million trial for the summer fire season and are another step the Coalition Government is taking to prepare Victoria for the worst of the fire season."

Mr Ryan said the Convair aircraft would join the popular Erickson Skycranes 'Elvis' and 'Elsie' on the frontline of Victoria's aerial fire-fighting fleet, with a third Skycrane 'Marty' also leased for the fire season.

"Recent rain throughout winter will increase the risk of large grass fires during the summer months and Victoria's fire agencies are preparing for the worst," Mr Ryan said.

The State Aircraft Unit will manage the Convair aircraft over the next 12 weeks. The unit is run by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and the CFA and is responsible for the state's aerial firefighting fleet, which is expected to reach a total of 50 aircraft during the 2010/11 fire season.

The lease arrangement for the aircraft includes funding for ground support, training, maintenance and facilities such as mixing equipment for fire retardant.

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