Helicopters hit the mark in night training

27 February 2019

Victoria’s two night firebombing helicopters undertook a training exercise at Mansfield overnight on Monday which saw them hover fill from a small tank and ground fill in three consecutive flights per activity.

The exercise was a way of testing the equipment, resources and logistics that are required to undertake the operation and enabled policies and procedures to be practiced.

CFA, FFMVic including Parks Victoria and EMV personnel assisted in the exercise which included Boorolite and Mansfield brigades who provided tankers to supply water to the operation, along with three members of the CFA District 23 catering team who provided food for those attending.

Project Manager Wayne Rigg said Victoria’s two helicopters, based at Ballarat and Mangalore, both practiced ground filling and hover filling operations overnight at Mansfield.

“We continue to learn more about night vision operations each day and undertaking exercises like this helps us to understand the logistics and resourced required to get an operation like this up and running and to understand how we might apply this to the field,” he said.

“It also enables our night pilots to build their experience in flying in and out of these ground fill sites and to build skills in dropping a snorkel into the top of a tank while flying on Night Vision Goggles.

“Using ground fill and floating tank is an option that might be utilised in situations where water is not readily available in dams or lakes close to a fire, but fire agencies can get water to a suitable site with tankers to establish a ground fill site where aircraft can fill from.

“This provides us with another option to attack a bushfire at night if water is not readily available locally, but can be carted in using tankers.”

Mr Rigg said the accessing water close to where a fire would be means shorter turnaround times for aircraft.

“Turnaround time is the time it takes to drop on a fire, fill up the aircraft and return for the next drop and repeat,” he said.

“Shorter turnaround times generally equal increased effectiveness of aircraft.

“The exercise was valuable experience and forms part of the overall evaluation of the project.

“We need to continue the discussion about how, when and where night vision operations could be utilised to increase support to ground crews in any fire and emergency and how we can better protect communities.”