CASA works hard to assist aerial firefighting efforts
Bushfires are a constant factor of the Australian summer, and images of water-carrying helicopters have become a familiar sight.
In fact, the aircraft used in firefighting cover a broad spectrum of rotary and fixed wing aircraft, and are a mix of overseas-registered aircraft, such as the large sky cranes, and aircraft registered in Australia.
Although the responsibility for fighting fires rests with each state or territory government, CASA has a key role to play in the certification and approval process which enables the aircraft and pilots to perform their firefighting duties.
Operators wishing to obtain firefighting activity approvals need to apply to CASA for an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) specifying the type of work they want to perform, such as search and rescue, aerial spotting, dropping (water, fire-retarding agents or incendiary devices), or use of a sling load.
Pilots who are approved to conduct low-level flying, a feature of firefighting aerial work, are issued with a low-flying instrument which is valid for a maximum of three years.
To enable overseas-registered aircraft to fly in Australia, an AOC, for a discrete purpose and period, needs to be issued or updated.
Under normal circumstances, the issuing and/or updating of the AOC for this purpose can take approximately four weeks and a licence conversion takes approximately six weeks. The urgency of the New South Wales bushfire emergency in October 2013 saw CASA staff working to extremely tight timeframes to support the firefighting effort by completing approvals and conversions much more quickly.
During the New South Wales fire emergency, a total of six Canadian-to-Australian pilot licence conversions were undertaken, allowing much-needed additional aerial support to be provided to the firefighting effort.
image | © CASA