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Aerotech’s Australian first Blackhawk deployment a game changer in aerial firefighting

4 June 2021    

In an Australian first, Adelaide based aviation company, Aerotech, has purchased two ex US Military Blackhawk helicopters for aerial firefighting operations in Australia.

With preparations already well underway for the next bushfire season, the Blackhawks will be the first Australian owned and operated and the first to be on the Australian civil aircraft register.

Aerotech Managing Director, Sam McCabe, said the Blackhawk helicopters were a game changer for aerial firefighting in Australia and worldwide.

“Blackhawk helicopters are fast, reliable, can be deployed quickly and drop more than 4,000 litres of water per load to contain fires quickly,” Mr McCabe said.

“Our helicopters will remain in Australia all year round.  This responds to a key finding of the recent Bushfires Royal Commission that state and federal governments should develop an Australian sovereign aerial fleet comprising ‘Large Type 1 Helicopters’ such as the Blackhawk.

“It also overcomes the issue of relying on northern-hemisphere based helicopters, which is becoming more problematic as the length of the bushfire season is getting longer in both hemispheres, therefore making it difficult for Australia to access these additional resources from overseas in shoulder periods.

Mr McCabe said Aerotech, which was already responsible for the majority of South Australia’s aerial firefighting efforts, would initially seek short term operational contracts in Australia to provide additional capacity in support of existing firefighting aircraft as needed.

“Aerotech is committed to investing in the world’s most capable and effective aerial firefighting fleet, and supporting government aerial firefighting strategies, Mr McCabe said.

“We’re employing South Australian pilots, engineers, ground crews and support staff. Several Australian businesses directly or indirectly will provide services to support the Blackhawks and benefit from their introduction.

“South Australia’s existing aerial firefighting strategy, Rapid Initial Attack, which was pioneered by Aerotech and the CFS more than 30 years ago, has since been adopted by fire authorities across Australia.

“We’re focussed on keeping fires small by deploying aircraft quickly and dropping large amounts of water in the shortest possible time frame, thereby providing volunteers on the ground with more time to contain and extinguish fires.

[Comments from Premier Marshall / Minister Tarzia]

About Aerotech

Formed in 1968, Aerotech employs 70 South Australians and has a fleet of 25 fixed wing and 10 helicopters providing a diverse range of work in aerial firefighting, mining and construction utility work, agricultural operations, oil spill management, media, and executive charter. Aerotech is South Australia’s largest privately-owned aviation company, with its head office based at Parafield Airport.