Home' Australian Aviation Magazine : March 2011 Contents MARCH 2011 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION
Still, Graham was careful not to discount
the contribution of single engine tankers.
" ey're all tools. Single engine air tank-
ers have their place and they're a tool to use
against re. [Aircranes] Elvis and Elsie are
a tool against re. ese [CV580s] are a
tool against re and [it's about] managing
those tools e ectively to ght the bush res
And while many Australians have wit-
nessed the awesome rebombing capabili-
ties of heavylift S-64 Aircrane helicopters
such as Elvis on their television screens,
where the 580 "will shine", according to
Graham, "is where there's a need for re
retardant to contain the re as opposed to
putting it out".
"Elvis and Elsie, that's what they do, they
put out re, the helicopters, they drop right
on the re.
" ose aircraft can go very close in a
pond or something and pick water up
and put 8000 litres of water on the re
every three or four minutes, whereas these
airplanes would have to go back, have the
water pumped in, minimum 30 minutes to
do that [including ight time], so it's not a
particularly e ective way to ght a re.
" ese airplanes are meant to put a guard
around the re to stop it from spreading and
then you go in with the helicopters and attack
it and put it out...that's the whole idea."
e Convairs' size and required support-
ing infrastructure is the ip side to their
greater capacity, speed and range, restrict-
ing their operations to larger regional
airports in Victoria, unlike for single engine
tankers, such as the Air Tractor 802, let
"We are scheduled to operate from prob-
ably half a dozen airports here in Victoria."
"Ballarat's really too small for us to carry
a load from. e runway's too short for
us, although we have had the airplanes in
there, but you can't carry a load out of there,
that's the issue. So we'll operate from here
[Avalon], from East Sale, Mildura, Albury
... you could operate from Essendon and
... Moorabbin on the other side, you could
operate from all those airports.
" at's not necessarily a huge disadvan-
tage because they [580s] are nearly twice as
fast as the other airplanes, so they could in
fact turn around nearly as quickly, just they
have to go a little further, that's all."
As a two crew aircraft with the pilots
coordinating an 8000 litre retardant drop in
the midst of a hectic bush re, communica-
tion is key.
"It's a captain/ rst o cer, pilot/copilot
relationship as it would be in an airliner or
anything else," said Graham.
" e captain or pilot of the airplane, his
major concentration is to ght the re and
put the retardant where the forest folks
want it put.
"And then the copilot works inside the
airplane if you like, to manage the aircraft
and make sure that the engines are doing
what they're doing, and pulling aps and
the landing gear and all of that stu ."
" e copilot spends a lot of time manag-
ing the airplane around the re, while the
pilot's spending a bit more time outside
putting the retardant where it needs to be,
because it's a costly business to ght re
with an airplane."
ough he currently ies only as a relief
pilot for either of the 580s, Graham also
acts as a commander of the for ward air
control Turbo Commander 690, which has
accompanied the Convairs to Australia for
the trials. Known in the eld as a 'bird dog',
the Turbo Commander coordinates the
planned course of attack for the 580s, tak-
ing note of any air tra c in the area.
"He has the SAU guy in there and that
team goes together in front of us to the re
and the air tankers fall behind."
From here, the 'bird dog' will "observe
the re and talks to whoever's on the
ground or the helicopters or whoever it is,
and they determine as a team what they're
going to do with the re retardant once the
airtankers get there."
" e bird dog airplane's probably going
to be about 500ft above ground, 500 to
1000ft above ground. So the rst air tanker
would come in above that airplane at
1500ft above ground and then the next one
500ft above that.
"And so the bird dog airplane determines
where the re needs to fought, shows the
airtanker this is how we're going to ght
the re, we're going to put retardant here,
here, here and here, and identi es any haz-
ards that are on the ground, and then the
air tankers would come down and do their
drop and either, they might do one drop
here and one drop here, at right angles or
something like that.
" e idea is to surround the re with
something big, contain it, so that the heli-
copters and the ground people can get in
there and beat it to death."
Here, the Turbo Commander's forestry
FM radio is used to talk with re ghters
on the ground to determine where and
when the 580s can make their drop.
"For the air tanker role and the crew, that
air tra c control job over the re, for the
most part in our world, is done by the bird
dog airplane," Graham said.
"He'll know where all the helicopters are
and he'll know where all the other airplanes
are and he tells you ok, watch for this guy
or watch for that guy.
"But there's also ... an air attack airplane
over most of the res too, and that's their
role as well, to coordinate press airplanes or
press helicopters, helicopters ghting the
re and the air tankers, like there might be
single engine air tankers working with us
and all that stu , so the air attack person is
up quite a bit higher than us, directs all of
that as well, and the re activity."
Operating and maintaining an aircraft
like the 580 is a team e ort, from the
quick 10 minute turnaround time between
landing, reloading and taking o again, to
the pilot/copilot relationship that is vital
to delivering a successful drop. As one of
Conair's aircraft engineers for the 580, John
Devalk's responsibilities lie primarily with
ensuring that the aircraft runs safely and
e ciently for a successful mission. A 25
year veteran, Devalk has been with Conair
his entire career, and has worked with
CV580s since they were rst introduced to
the company almost 12 years ago.
"It's far easier in some ways than our
other aircraft we used to have," Devalk
CONAIR The two Convair 580s and the Turbo Commander form part of Conair's 49 strong aircraft fleet, based
at Abbotsford in British Columbia. (Michael Serenc)
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