Firefighting Aircraft :: CFS

Firefighting Aircraft

The CFS relies on a flexible fleet of aircraft that can be airborne in minutes.

The types of aircraft selected are chosen for their capacity to work in a variety of terrain conditions and ability to operate from short airstrips.

These aircraft include single engine air tankers, rotary wing bombing aircraft as well as aircraft for command and control purposes.

CFS - Aviation AT Bombing

As the Fire Danger Season. runs for around 5 to 6 months it has proven financially viable for the CFS to contract its aircraft for the period they are needed rather than purchase aircraft outright.

Contractors partnering with the CFS this season are:


Single Engine Air Tankers

When selecting aircraft for the CFS aerial firefighting fleet, a number of considerations must be taken into account. These include the speed at which the aircraft can be airborne, its capacity to operate from a short rough strip, its ability to be flown safely in steep terrain, its bombing capacity, the availability of skilled pilots and importantly, its cost effectiveness to run.

Air Tractors have proven to be able to work effectively under these operational conditions in this State for a number of years now.

The Country Fire Service use AT 802 aircraft, though the fleet has from time to time been supplemented by the smaller AT 602 aircraft.

CFS aircraft are contracted via a tender process coordinated by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. Currently, the successful contractor for the supply of fixed wing air tankers is Aerotech First Response based at Kent Town.

AT 802

Number in fleet: Ten. Six based at Woodside, two at Port Lincoln and two based at Mt Gambier

Type: Single Engine, Gas Turbine

Capacity: 3200 Litres

Fuel Type: Jet A1

Fuel consumption: 280 litres per hour

Cruise speed: 280 km per hour

Wing Span: 18.06 metres

Overall length: 10.87 metres

CFS - Aviation Air Tractor 802


CFS Rotary Wing Aircraft

The fleet of aircraft operated by the Country Fire Service includes a large capacity rotary wing air tanker. While helicopters can be slower to deploy than fixed aircraft such as the Air Tractor, rotary wing aircraft bring their own benefits to the fire ground. These benefits include a slower dropping speed and the capacity to refill their belly tanks from near-by dams and rivers, thus reducing turn around times.

Helicopters are the ideal firefighting aircraft to use in heavily forested mountainous areas and where pin-point accuracy is required such as for the protection of houses or other assets.

A very large helicopter, combined with fixed wing air tankers, give the CFS an adaptable fleet of aircraft that are suited to diverse range of fire conditions.

CFS aircraft are contracted via a tender process coordinated by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. Currently, the successful contractor for the supply of the very large rotary wing air tanker is Kestrel Aviation (Erickson)

Erickson Aircrane S-64E

Number in fleet: One based in Adelaide Hills

The Erickson Air-Crane is the largest in the CFS's fleet of rotary wing air tankers.

Each fire danger season the Air-Crane is based in the Adelaide Hills and like the other aircraft in the CFS fleet, the Air-Crane is used to support CFS firefighters on the ground.

The Air-Crane, which can carry in the order of 7,500 litres, can hover fill with fresh water from a dam or river using a 'Hover Snorkel', or it can fill with sea water using a 'Sea Snorkel'.

When the Air-Crane is filling from the sea it cannot hover, but most maintain forward motion as it is the forward momentum that forces the water up into the tank.

Download more information on the Air-Crane here.

Visit the Air-Crane website.

cfs aviation aircrane hoverfill

Surveillance Aircraft

Aircraft also play an important role as observation and command platforms during during aerial firefighting missions.

A CFS Air Attack Supervisor - who is located in either a rotary or fixed wing aircraft, will direct air tankers into position to drop their load of firefighting foam, retardant or gel and will assist in keeping aircraft safely separated in what can be very congested airspace.

A CFS Air Observer - may also be present at a fire in either a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft. Their role is to observe the fire from the air and provide information to the incident controller on the ground.

Surveillance aircraft are contracted from the following providers

  • Aerotech 1st Response - supplier of a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and two Cessna 182s.
  • Australian Helicopters - supplier of two Eurocopter Squirrels
  • Mac Helicopter Rescue Service - supplier of an EC130
  • Lincoln Air Charter - supplier of a Cessna 182

Aircraft used by the CFS in a command/control and surveillance capacity are shown below.

Rotary Wing Aircraft

CFS Aviation - Aust heli aircraft

AS 350 - Squirrel

CFS Aviation - MAC EC130 image -gif

EC 130

Fixed Wing Aircraft

CFS - Aviation Cessna 182

Cessna 182

CFS_Aviation C208B

Cessna 208B

MAC Rescue Helicopter

CFS - Aviation MAC Bell Heli 412The Rescue Helicopter has been a familiar sight to SA Country Fire Service (CFS) volunteers for many years.

The helicopter service is a shared resource between South Australian Government Emergency Services agencies. Each year the service performs over 700 missions including getting medical teams to crash sites, transporting seriously ill country patients to city hospitals, tracking cars in high speed chases, searching for people, boats and drug crops and spotting, mapping and water bombing fires.

The CFS calls on one or more of the Rescue Helicopters during the fire danger season to act as aerial platforms from which to observe and coordinate aerial fire fighting activities. The helicopters can also be fitted with fire bombing buckets to help supplement the CFS's regular fire bombing fleet.

The contract for the delivery of Rescue Helicopter services has been awarded to Australian-owned company, Australian Helicopters. Sponsorship for the service is now being provided by the Motor Accident Commission (MAC).

The service operates out of a purpose-built facility at the Adelaide Airport that serves as a base for the team of pilots, crewmen, engineers and administrators.

The MAC Rescue Helicopter Fleet

The fleet consists of:

EC130 - Rescue 53 Single engine

Key missions include:

  • Police surveillance and patrols with the capacity to carry a STAR Group team
  • search and rescue over land and water
  • CFS command and control
  • plotting of bush fires
  • aero medical back-up (1 patient)
  • neonatal retrieval (takes cot).
CFS Aviation - MAC EC130 image -gif

Bell 412 - Rescue 51 Medium twin.

Key missions include:

  • aero medical retrieval (up to 4 patients)
  • neonatal retrieval (with cot and lifter)
  • winch rescue
  • passenger transport
CFS - Aviation MAC Bell 412 web image

BK117 - Rescue 52 Light twin.

Key missions include:

  • aero medical retrieval (up to 2 patients)
  • neonatal retrieval (takes cot)
  • high speed chase in poor weather - due to infra-red capability
  • winch rescue back-up
  • CFS command and control
CFS - Aviation MAC BK117