National Large Air Tanker Arrives in Western Australia to Bolster Aerial Resources

A second Large Air Tanker (LAT) has jetted into Western Australia, poised to provide vital firefighting support as the risk of dangerous bushfires begins to increase.

The Commonwealth-funded National LAT – a Boeing 737 Fireliner used to fight Californian wildfires in North America – is expected to be based in WA during the high-threat season – subject to major incidents interstate.

The aircraft was secured through the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council National Resource Sharing Centre.

During the 2021-22 bushfire season the LAT was stationed in WA for the duration of the State’s bushfire season.

The State Government will fund the operational costs for the duration of its deployment in WA.

Its arrival means WA’s entire aerial fleet – comprising of 36 rotary and fixed-wing suppression, supervision, and aerial intelligence aircraft – is now online.

The Boeing 737 Fireliner LAT – nicknamed Phoenix – weighs more than 62,000 kilograms, has a loaded cruising speed of nearly 800 kilometres per hour, and can carry 15,000 litres of fire suppressants.

It joins the C130 Hercules LAT at Busselton-Margaret River Airport in the South-West.

Both the Boeing 737 and C130 Hercules provided vital support during the bushfire that threatened Cervantes and Jurien Bay last week, completing drops of fire suppressant to strengthen containment lines and support crews on the ground.

The aerial fleet is jointly managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservations and Attractions.

“Bushfires are an inevitable part of the Western Australian summer – and for more than 20 years the State’s aerial fleet has been protecting life and property from above. We are very pleased to have a second Large Air Tanker join the fleet. These aircraft were used a number of times to great effect last bushfire season. We welcome the Boeing 737 Fireliner – Phoenix – to Western Australia, where it will be ready for rapid deployment when bushfires strike,” said Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson.

“Australia’s aerial firefighting capability will be significantly boosted by a National Large Air Tanker – funded by the Federal Government – which will be based in WA for the start of the summer bushfire season. Phoenix is a highly customized Boeing 737 – able to reach anywhere in the country within hours and drop 15,000 liters of fire-retardant or water. We know being prepared with aerial firefighting capability to support ground crews can make all the difference when communities are under threat,” said Federal Acting Minister for Emergency Management Catherine King.

“Phoenix can do just that – not only in the edges of urban areas, but remote and difficult-to-reach locations – and can be deployed across the country to wherever it is needed, whenever it is needed,” she continued.



Ryan Mason
Ryan Mason
Ryan is an accomplished writer and aerial photographer that has worked in the aviation industry for over a decade before co-founding AerialFire Magazine. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Ryan is a former police officer that focuses his writing and photography efforts on para-public operations and agricultural aviation.

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