Following on from its multi-award-winning success in developing an effective night firebombing helicopter program in partnership with the Victorian Government, Kestrel Aviation has now achieved another significant milestone on its journey to providing around-the-clock aerial firefighting capability that protects Australian communities.
Following six years of development with local agency stakeholders, and the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Kestrel has now achieved an Australian-first regulatory approval to conduct unrestricted night vision firebombing operations for the preservation of life and critical infrastructure. This significant achievement enables Kestrel’s fleet of night capable aircraft to react to fires in a ‘first-strike’ capability which is comparable with its day operations; an invaluable tool to ground firefighters who can take further advantage of calmer night conditions during suppression activities.
The CASA approval allows Kestrel to undertake aerial firebombing operations in the vicinity of towns and cities without the requirement for day reconnaissance flights or the requirement for a supervisory aircraft to be coordinating water collections or drops; a restriction that still applies to other night capable operators.
“The aim of this program has been to maximise the conditions at night to ultimately ensure the safety of communities under threat from bushfires” says Captain Richard Butterworth, Kestrel’s Head of Training, and project lead on the night program. Continuing, “the program set about to utilise night vision technologies developed from military applications to increase our capabilities beyond dusk, which has traditionally been when aerial firefighting assets have had to land.”
Kestrel has won several awards for its night program development, including the Excellence in Innovation Award at the Australian Aviation/Aerospace Awards (2020), International Aerial Firefighting Awards (2019), and Night Vision Awards (2019). Kestrel’s fleet of Bell 412’s, Black Hawk’s and Super Puma helicopter are all capable of modification for ‘initial attack’ night operations.
Ray Cronin, Kestrel’s Managing Director suggests that “the approval by CASA has shown their confidence in our program and the capability that we can now deliver when called upon.” Continuing, “night capability will become the ‘norm’ in the future, and we look forward to working with the agencies, as a leader in its development in Australia, to ensure its success when they wish to incorporate this capability into their operations.”
Whilst the Victorian night capability development program concluded at the end of last season, at the time of this release, there does not appear to be a night program being planned by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) or its fire agency members for the coming bushfire season.
Kestrel Aviation is a proudly Australian owned specialist aviation provider with over thirty-six (36) years’ experience assisting government and commercial clients safely achieve their aerial project needs Australian-wide and internationally.