Forestry Aviation

Bryan Rees (bio)

If you are interested in this article then you should also have a look at this article by Bryan.

Aircraft have been used extensively in Victoria for forestry, and particularly forest fire operations, since 1930.

See Also

Air Operations for Forest Fire Control   FCV. ca 1970
The Role of Agricultural Aircraft in Victorian Forests    BD Dexter. 1971
Handbook of Aerial Spraying   FCV ca. 1970
Aircraft for Fire and Emergency Use - 2007

Note that aerial ignition methods changed from about 1978 - see Aerial Ignition

1930 to 1961

FCV negotiated with the Air Board for the provision of aircraft for reconnaissance and detection of fires. First fire detection flights were by Air Force Westland Wapiti aircraft. These patrols became a regular fire season operation. Testimony from the 1939 Stretton Royal Commission provides information about these early aerial fire patrols.
Aerial application of insecticide powder to control damage by case moths in a conifer plantation. The report of this work concludes "Remarkably successful results were obtained, auguring well for the future control by this means of like destructive insect visitations ...this is the first occasion (this) procedure has been adopted in Australia"

First aerial photography operations for the FCV from which mosaics were prepared of 15,000 acres of forest.
Initial use of radio communication in Victorian forestry, born of the need to report fire sightings from aircraft patrols direct to the local forest staff.
First experiments in "bombing" fires using chemical dropped from aircraft in cartons. This work, on a technique widely accepted as an American development, not only coincided with early water bombing experiments in the USA, but pre-dates by some years, any known records of using fire retardant chemicals in preference to plain water.
First airborne command of firefighting operations via direct radio communication to ground crews.
Aerial photography of 13000 square miles of forest completed, including much inaccessible country. These surveys enabled the planning of roading systems for fire protection and the harvesting of large quantities of timber for the post war building boom.
Experiments conducted with aerial spraying to kill vegetation for the preparation of firebreaks.
Further trials in firebombing using Liberator, Lincoln and Mustang aircraft to drop chemicals in metal tanks designed to burst on impact.
First use of a helicopter for fire control work in Australia. The Sikorsky machine was the only helicopter in the country at the time, and was used for reconnaissance and mapping, and the deployment of men and equipment in rugged forest in the eastern ranges. This success led quickly to helicopter surveillance flights for timber assessment and forest type classification.

First recorded aerial drops of food supplies to an isolated firefighting crew. This technique has been considerably improved in recent years by the development of specially designed free fall containers which provide aerodynamic lift to cushion impact with the ground.

The FCV constructed the highest airfield in Australia, at 5,300 feet on Snowy Range, strategically located in the heavily forested eastern ranges, as a base for various aircraft operations.