Consequently, over the weekend, various fighting helicopters and aircraft were noted operating around various parts of CQ including out of Rockhampton Airport.
Perhaps the nicest helicopter to be seen was the first-time visit of Kestrel Aviation-operated Firehawk Helicopter (Brainerd Helicopters) Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk helicopter N9FH which was flying as "Helitak 470".
On Sunday 10 November, the civilian Blackhawk helicopter - which was previously operated by the United States Army (US Army) as 80-23461 - flew up from the Sunshine Coast, where it has been previously operating, and landed at Rockhampton Airport for a short time to refuel. It then headed to Yeppoon for the afternoon before returning to Rocky on dusk.
Also photographed at Rockhampton Airport on Sunday 10 November were McDermott Aviation / Heli-Lift Australia Helicopters Bell Textron Helicopter 214B-1 Big Lifter helicopter VH-SEK "Helitak 430" and Aerospatiale AS.355F1 helicopter VH-YUR "Firebird 450" which both landed at Rocky for fuel before also joining the firefight at Yeppoon.
They were both joined back at Rockhampton Airport at dusk by fellow McDermott Aviation / Heli-Lift Australia Helicopters Aerospatiale 365N2 Dauphin 2 helicopter N366SR which looked to arrive from the Sunshine Coast.
Another couple of helicopters to join the battle were Elite Helicopters (Brisbane) Aerospatiale AS.350BA Squirrel VH-WMW which flew up from Archerfield as "Firebird 410" and Western Australia-registered Eurocopter AS 350 B3 Squirrel VH-PKU which flew in from Emerald Airport (as shown below).
All the visiting helicopters were joined by locally-based Stirling Helicopters Bell 206 VH-JAQ, Eurocopter AS.350BA Squirrel VH-WHW "Firebird 423" and Bell Helicopter Textron Canada 407 VH-IBF "Firebird 421" which were also noted battling fires also on Saturday 9 November.
Fixed wing aircraft which were noted supporting the firefighting efforts on Sunday 10 November included Rockhampton-based R-Mach Aviation Ayres S2R Turbine Thrush VH-NFF "Bomber 407" and PZL Warszawa-Okecie M-18B Dromader VH-MDR "Bomber 402", along with Emerald-based Central Highlands Aerial Services (CHAS) Thrush S2R-T660 aircraft VH-PMD "Bomber 434" and VH-KCS "Bomber 435" which all have arrived into Rockhampton Airport.
Finally, aerial reconnaissance and fire scanning was completed all weekend by R-Mach Aviation's Cessna 337G Super Skymaster VH-JOE "Birddog 410" as well as Air Affairs Australia / Gojet Gates LearJet 35A bizjet VH-LJJ "Firescan 123".
VH-LJJ was noted arriving into Hervey Bay (Fraser Coast) Airport on Saturday 9 November and completed a sortie from there to the fire zone at Yeppoon later in the day before landing at Rockhampton Airport for a short while. It later returned to Hervey Bay Airport.
On Sunday 10 November, the VH-LJJ had a busier day, again departing Hervey Bay Airport and competing surveys around Yeppoon but then also North around Proserpine where fires had also flared. It then landed at Mackay Airport before completing more survey work and landing at Rockhampton Airport. VH-LJJ then looked to fly south to Brisbane.
UPDATE! As this post is being prepared late on Sunday 10 November, Seair Pacific (Istlecote) Cessna 208 Caravans VH-LMZ and VH-VCW are heading to Rockhampton Airport from the Gold Coast and Archerfield. We presume these could be ferrying personnel to the area to assist with the bushfire fighting efforts. Both Caravans have returned to the Gold Coast.
Sincere thanks to the local plane spotters for their help in compiling the information and for allowing us to share these great photos contained in this post.
We offer our thoughts and prayers to those who are affected by this bushfire emergency and sincerely thank those volunteers and other firefighters who are battling these fierce blazes up and down the Eastern Australia coast.
Photos taken by Steve Vit, Trevor Hardsman, Kayanne Hardsman and Daniel Bishop ©