The Australian state of Victoria will deploy a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 on firefighting missions from January in the first trial of a very large airtanker in the country.

The DC-10-30, leased from US company 10 Tanker Air Carrier, arrived at Melbourne's Avalon airport in mid-December. Australian regulator the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has started final compliance assessment of the aircraft to allow it to enter service from January.

The aircraft, which will be based at Avalon, will be tested for a minimum 10 weeks. During the trial the aircraft will be used in actual firefighting, providing it is safe and appropriate to the situation, says the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, which arranged the lease.

The DC-10 can hold about 45,000 litres (11,875USgal) of water or fire retardant. It joins a fleet of more than 30 firefighting aircraft and helicopters leased for the fire season to fight fires in the state, plus a further 170 on standby.

The DC-10 was selected based on its operational performance in the USA, which has similar landscape characteristics to Victoria, says the state's emergency services minister Bob Cameron. Very large aircraft such as the DC-10 and Boeing 747 have been used in the USA in the last three fire seasons with mixed reviews on their effectiveness.

Australia's Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre will deliver a scientific and operational review of the aircraft's effectiveness for Victoria's fire agencies after the 2009-10 bushfire season.

The trial of a very large air tanker follows the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in February 2009 when more than 170 people died.

Source: Flight International