Erickson S-64 Air Crane to Return to Australian Skies This Season

    The Erickson Air Crane will return to Australia this year, although with a much smaller footprint than previous years. In a statement distributed to AerialFire today, Kestrel Aviation, Erickson’s Australian partner noted that only one Air Crane will be returning to Australia this year versus the previous several years contingents of six aircraft dispatched around the country. The statement from Kestrel Aviation read:

    After providing exemplary aerial firefighting services to fire agencies around Australia for over two decades, the legendary Erickson S-64 Air Crane® helicopter will return as part of the country’s seasonal aerial firefighting fleet.

    The S-64 Air Crane® helicopter is the world’s most proven type-1 high-volume helicopter which has a successful track record of operations in Australia and around the world.

    Fitted with a 10,000-litre tank, the aircraft has the unique ability to refill its tank in 45-seconds from either fresh or saltwater sources thanks to its flexible hose snorkel or patented retractable hydrodynamic dive plane, a feature which has meant the Air Crane® has been the go-to versatile firebombing solution for fire agencies around the world.

    The Air Crane® is an iconic platform that has become synonymous with aerial firefighting in Australia thanks to the folklore that surrounded Elvis, the aircraft that was credited with saving the lives of fourteen firefighters in the Burragorang Valley in 2001” says Ray Cronin, Kestrel’s Managing Director. Continuing, “the aircraft provides leading availability, and has been extremely effective in Australia’s tough conditions. Whilst disappointed that we will see a reduction in the number of aircraft that will be based in Australia, we remain committed with Erickson to supporting the Air Crane® program in Australia.

    Elvis, named after the legendary singer who also served with the National Guard in Memphis where the aircraft was also based, last called Australia home in 2013 and continues to be a point of reference with the public for the orange giants of the sky. Over the past few seasons, Georgia Peach, Elsie, Jerry, Gypsy Lady, Marty, and Delilah had been deployed down under.

    Kestrel Aviation and Erickson will continue their strong relationship in bringing the S-64 Air Crane® aircraft to our shores, seeing a return to the high-performance F-model aircraft and introducing the innovative composite main rotor blade program to Australia, a modification that sees increased lift capacity which will further increase this aircraft’s already impressive firebombing performance and maximum external cargo capacity of 11,340kg. Bubba (registration N163AC) will be based at Moorabbin Airport in Victoria from this year after being awarded a contract under the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) arrangements.

    Since 1992, Erickson have held the type certificate for the S-64 Air Crane® helicopter, both E and F models, and have implemented over 4,000 innovative improvements to the original Sikorsky design which first flew in the early 1960’s and played an active role with the United States Army during the Vietnam War.

    We remain committed to supporting firefighters on the ground” says Brittany Black, Erickson’s SVP of Sales, Marketing and Business Development. Continuing “with seemingly longer periods of bushfire activity, having the right aircraft for the conditions is key to ensuring that fires can be contained before they spread. This is what Erickson has developed the Air Crane® helicopter to do be the heavy hitter when it’s needed!

    The Erickson fleet has been busy since it departed Australia in April 2021, playing a significant part in the devastating and simultaneous fire activity that has impacted both North America and the Mediterranean regions of Europe during the northern summer.

    It has been a significant undertaking this year, however as a global leader in providing high-volume helicopters, we’ve been able to achieve a continuation of our industry leading levels of availability, which leads to having the S-64 Air Crane® helicopter ready when they’re needed.” comments Erick Nodland, Vice President of Operations.

    The Air Crane® helicopter will form part of Kestrel’s wider domestically based fleet that includes its Bell Mediums, Black Hawk, and Super Puma aircraft placed in strategic locations in Victoria and New South Wales.


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