A firefighting aircraft which can fly across the state in less than an hour will be based in Dubbo for the next three months.
The aircraft can carry up to 11,700 litres of water which it drops from about 50 metres high travelling at 175 kilometres per hour.
Minister for Emergency Services and Dubbo MP Troy Grant, NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields welcomed the RJ Hunter at the Dubbo airport on Monday.
They RJ-85 aircraft will be based in Dubbo for the next 84 days as part of the NSW RFS aerial firefighting fleet during peak bushfire season.
“We’ve seen in recent years that the reliance on aviation to help combat those fires and locally in this area the St Ivan fire is a key and critical part of the firefighting effort,” Mr Grant said.
“The capacity of this aircraft to lay down lines of retardant or water to support the ground fighting effort can be a game changer.”
Mr Grant said it was a historical year because of the investment and availability of aircraft with one of four air tanks being Dubbo-based.
“Dubbo presents a wonderful geographic location, being the centre of the state, to support many areas in a quick response time,” he said.
Cr Shields said the large air tanker being based in Dubbo demonstrated the city’s growth and geographical significance.
“There’s a really special feeling out there that Dubbo is the base to potentially deliver life and property saving services,” Cr Shields said.
He said despite using the same runway as commercial flights delays would be unlikely.
NSW RFS Commissioner Fitzsimmons said the aircraft demonstrated an unprecedented investment in aerial firefighting capability in NSW and the country.
He said Dubbo as a location lends itself perfectly for a base for the aircraft which can provide support to firefighters across the state in the predicted “very bad” bushfire season.
“Importantly aircraft don’t put out fires but firefighter put out fires … this plane will travel right across NSW, from this operating base it can be to any corner of the state in less than an hour,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
“As it arrives it will integrate seamlessly into the local firefighter operations.”
NSW RFS pilot Ray Horton and Bob Caryk said they were proud to support the “firies on the ground that are really doing the hard work”.
He said despite flying at 50 metres high, they “definitely don’t drop on people.”