Australia's Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has conducted a series of tests of the use of helicopters to fight fires as part of a project investigating the effectiveness of firefighting aircraft.

The study is in response to the increasing use of firefighting aircraft in Australia and public and political concern over the cost and effectiveness of this method of fire suppression. The three-year project is investigating how much aerial and ground suppression is needed and its aims include quantifying operational costs of different suppression resources and tactics.

The study is gathering data from fires in the country over three fire seasons, collecting data while flying through smoke with thermal imaging equipment mounted in aircraft to record aerial suppression drops, interviewing firefighting personnel on the effectiveness of methods, and conducting experimental evaluation.

In the latest stage of the project a series of fires were lit at a site in Hobart, Tasmania and water-bombing helicopters using belly tanks and bambi buckets to drop water were evaluated for their effectiveness.

The Bushfire CRC says the project will contribute to a national firefighting strategy by identifying key factors that contribute to the effectiveness of aerial suppression.

Source: Flight International