Now in its fourth year of operations, the Night Fire Aviation Program (NFAP) today recommenced for the 2020-21 summer fire season.
The program’s objective is to integrate night operations into the current suite of aircraft services available to manage a fire incident, and to further trial and understand the night aviation capability. It includes both night firebombing and night aerial intelligence gathering services.
“The night aviation program is still very much a new concept for Victoria and every year this program allows us to practise night operations in a safe and effective way, building on experience each time,” said Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp.
The program will continue to develop Initial Attack After Dark strategies, enabling aircraft to be deployed to a fire without having seen the fire in daylight, but with clear conditions, good light and well mapped areas with good intelligence.
Currently, night operations crews are required to complete reconnaissance flights during the afternoon before conducting water bombing flights during the night.
Initial Attack After Dark will also allow aircraft to operate on a fire edge that may have moved in the early hours of the evening.
“Through Initial Attack After Dark we are working towards night crews not needing to complete reconnaissance flights during the afternoon before water bombing flights during the night. This will greatly increase the capability of the aircraft to help fight fires,” said Mr Crisp.
“The community needs to appreciate this is still very much a trial and safety of crews will always be our first consideration. If we’re not confident it’s safe, our aircraft will not fly at night.”
This season, the program will also focus on:
- extending daytime strategies and tactics into the evening when responding to fires
- the introduction of swing shifts, which allows the aircraft to operate between 1pm and midnight.
Another significant change this year will be the use of one crew to operate the aircraft, instead of the previously used double crew.
Aircraft will be based at Mangalore, Moorabbin and Ballarat and will have the ability to be deployed across the state.
Emergency Management Victoria is partnering with Forest Fire Management Victoria, Fire Rescue Victoria and the Country Fire Authority. The trial is supported by and builds on a strong partnership with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, and Victorian, interstate and overseas agencies.