Camden Airport to house massive helicopter during bushfire season

The Rural Fire Service will have big help from above this fire season thanks to an American super chopper.

The large Chinook CH-47D helicopter landed at Camden Airport last weekend and will be housed there for the NSW fire season.

The chopper can carry 7600 litres which makes it the largest water carrier helicopter in operation in Australia.

United Aero Helicopters bought the Helimax aircraft over from the United States along with Chinook’s pilots, flight engineers and mechanics.

Pilot Matt Villanueva said Chinook would support firefighters on the ground.

“We will work ahead of ground crews to cool off the line so boots on the ground can come in behind us to extinguish the fire,” he said.

“This helicopter can carry more and fly faster than other aircraft.

“It has three hours of endurance which means it can cover a lot of territory.

“From the time of dispatch to rotors in the air is 30 minutes, preferably less.”

United Aero Helicopter’s chief pilot Sam Borg said the company was excited to have Chinook in Australia.

“We have operational control of Chinook which means we liaise with fire agencies and co-ordinate Chinook’s taskings,” he said.

“We will slot the aircraft into our fire fighting fleet.

“We bought the aircraft out because every fire season has the potential to be quiet busy and we want to show off what the capabilities of the chopper are.

“We wanted to show Australian fire agencies how effective these aircrafts are for fighting fires.”

Mr Villanueva said the tandem rotor made the aircraft special.

“There is no tail rotor which means every bit of horsepower is used to lift the helicopter,” he said.

The chopper uses a 55 metre rope and bucket. The aircraft is five metres tall and 15 metres long and can reach a maximum speed of 170 knots.

The pilot said Helimax’s Chinooks were used to fight wildfires in America.

“Two of the Chinooks had longer than usual seasons this year in the States,” Mr Villanueva said.

“This one in Camden is brand new. It has been built and painted this year.”

The pilots and flight engineers will conduct tests in the next few days to ensure the chopper works as expected.

The engineers and pilots will conduct daily inspections of the aircraft while on stand-by.

Three pilots, five engineers and two flight engineers came out to Camden with the chopper.

Chinook will likely stay in Camden for most of the NSW fire season and will then head south to Melbourne. It will likely return to America in March.

Mr Villanueva said Chinook was a similar model to choppers used in the United States Armed Forces.

Helimax employs civilian and ex-military pilots and engineers who worked on the same type of choppers in the military.

Flight engineer Bryan Schroeder said there were only two types of bigger choppers in the world. 

“For firefighting, Chinook is the ultimate in choppers,” he said.

The pilots and flight engineers said they looked forward to seeing local sites on their days off.

Mr Borg said this was the second time United Aero had brought a Chinook to Camden.

United Aero has been operating in Camden for 10 years and has grown from a two helicopter operation to have more than 20 aircraft in its fleet.

Its helicopters also help with mineral exploration, provide the aircraft for media coverage and the company is also a flight training school.