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Victoria and Queensland to share firefighting air tanker

Bombardier Dash-8

The Victorian and Queensland Governments have secured a deal to share a Large Air Tanker to support aerial firefighting capacity in both states during their respective bushfire seasons. Source: Timberbiz

The Bombardier Dash-8 Q400AT aircraft will operate in Queensland from September to December to cover their bushfire season and will operate in Victoria for the height of summer from December to February.

Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan said the LAT would be based at Bundaberg for Queensland’s bushfire seasons between 2021 and 2024, starting from September each year.

It will then be sent to Victoria during its bushfire season, which traditionally occurs when Queensland is experiencing storms and cyclones. The tanker will remain in Victoria between bushfire seasons.

Mr Ryan said the move was part of the Government’s commitment to spend $15 million over five years financing a LAT to support Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES)’ bushfire response operations.

“The Queensland Government understands the important role aircraft play in helping QFES combat bushfires, which is why it made the decision in 2019 to deliver a LAT for the State,” Mr Ryan said.

“The co-sharing arrangement with Victoria is an evolution of this commitment and will ensure the LAT is at Queensland’s disposal for the at least next four bushfire seasons.

“This will deliver certainty and efficiencies because QFES will no longer need to contract a LAT on a season-by-season arrangement.”

Sharing aerial firefighting resources provides both states with better value for money while ensuring the aircraft is available to support firefighting efforts on the ground when and where it is needed most.

The agreement covers the 2021 to 2024 bushfire seasons and the Large Air Tanker will remain in Victoria between bushfire seasons.

The Q400AT has a 10,000-litre tank for water or fire retardant and replaces the larger C130 previously used by Victoria.

The Q400AT has some significant advantages for use in aerial firefighting including that it is 50 knots faster, uses half the amount of fuel, improved low speed handling for dropping retardant and faster turnaround time from engine start to take-off.

This particular Large Air Tanker also requires less room for take-off and landing, potentially opening several regional airports for operations that have not been able to be used previously.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements in 2020 recommended cost sharing for aviation resources.

The 2021/22 Victorian Budget included record funding to expand Victoria’s firefighting capacity, strengthen communication systems during emergencies and deliver reforms recommended by the Inspector‑General for Emergency Management.

Facts about the LAT:

  • Two pilot crew
  • 10,000 litre retardant capacity
  • Gross weight: 31,000 kg
  • Cruise speed (loaded) up to 670km/h
  • Typical runway required 1,500m
  • Can land with 80% of its load on board