ANDREW Cottee is at home behind the controls of the Helitak 335.
Mr Cottee pilots the water bombing aircraft, a Bell 214, that boasts about 3000 horsepower and a blade that’s nearly a metre wide.
The aircraft’s belly tank carries 2700 litres and it can also carry about 175 litres of foam.
“They were originally designed for the Shah of Iran,” Mr Cottee said. “It’s the largest single-engine helicopter in the world ... There’s probably about 25 in the world.
“They’re quite a rare aircraft but they’re known for their performance ... for the size of the aircraft, comparative to other aircraft, they lift a lot.
“They can carry about three tonnes.”
The Helitak 335 can suck water from dams and other waters sources with a hover-fill, a snorkel that acts as a submersible pump.
“We can fill the tank in 40 seconds,” Mr Cottee said. “It has a 3-metre snorkel length, and we have to sit about 2.5 metres above the dam, so it’s obviously important that we select an appropriate water source,” he said.
“Once we find something, our turn-arounds can be about two minutes onto the fire.
“So it’s pretty effective if you’ve got close water, you can end up putting quite a lot of water onto a fire.
“For example, if you’re doing two minutes at 2700 litres, if you do that by an hour, that’s a lot of water you can get onto the ground.
“We’ve got a selection of three doors on the tank so we can select any combination of those depending on the wind direction and speed and what the shape of the fire is.
“So we can vary our drop pattern quite a lot to accommodate whatever they require on the ground.”