ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Adelaide-based aviation company has bought two former United States military Black Hawk helicopters to bolster Australia’s aerial firefighting resources.

Aerotech says the choppers will be a “game-changer” in efforts to combat bushfires across the country in the coming summer.

“Black Hawk helicopters are fast, reliable, can be deployed quickly and drop more than 4000 liters of water per load to contain fires quickly,” Managing Director Sam McCabe said.

“Our helicopters will remain in Australia all year round.

Black Hawk helicopters are fast, reliable, can be deployed quickly and drop more than 4000 litres of water per load to contain fires quickly. (Shane Chalker/AAP Image)

“This responds to a key finding of the recent Bushfires Royal Commission that state and federal governments should develop an Australian sovereign aerial fleet.

“It also overcomes the issue of relying on northern-hemisphere based helicopters, which is becoming more problematic as the length of the bushfire season is getting longer in both hemispheres.”

The helicopters are also the first Black Hawk helicopters owned and operated by an Australian business and are the first helicopters registered on the Australian civil aircraft register.

Black Hawk built by Sikorsky Aircraft and entered service in 1979 with the United States of American Army. Australian Defense Force also operates approximately 40 Black Hawks. They weigh a total of 10 tonnes and are 19.5 meters long in overall length.

Aerotech already provides the majority of South Australia’s aerial firefighting efforts and will seek operational contracts across Australia to provide additional capacity in support of existing firefighting aircraft.

It is the largest privately-owned aviation company and now has a fleet of 25 aircraft and 10 helicopters.

The company plans to employ South Australian pilots, engineers, ground crews and support staff.

“Aerotech is committed to investing in the world’s most capable and effective aerial firefighting fleet, and supporting government aerial firefighting strategies,” McCabe said.

“We’re focused on keeping fires small by deploying aircraft quickly and dropping large amounts of water in the shortest possible time, thereby providing volunteers on the ground with more time to contain and extinguish fires.”

In the bushfire season, Aerotech’s fixed-wing single-engine air tanker (SEAT) Air Tractor aircraft operate on Kangaroo Island from its leased Turkey Lane airstrip west of Parndana.

As part of their service to South Australia, Aerotech helped build the Country Fire Service’s aerial firefighting strategy over 30 years ago, and it has since been adopted by other fire departments throughout Australia.


* Maximum flight speed: 193 knots (360km/h)

* Cruise speed: 140 knots (260km/h)

* Cargo hook capable of lifting 3600 kgs for external load operations

* Main rotor diameter: 16.3 meters

* Overall length: 19.5 meters

* Horsepower: two General Electric GE-701D/CC engines providing 1994 horsepower

• Belly tank capacity: 4000 liters of water or retardant

• Re-fill time using snorkel: 35 seconds

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Nikita Nikhil)

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