RAAF Hercules used in firefighting
Three specially-trained six-man crews from No 36 squadron were used to man a C-130H Hercules transport during summer bushfire patrols in Victoria. After specialised training for Operation Quench during mid-January, the aircraft was placed on weekly standby to operate from bases at Hamilton, Mangalore and East Sale in support of the Victorian Forestry Commission. On this day it went into action, dropping fire retardant into the path of a bushfire in the Grampians mountain range in the State’s west, slowing the blaze and enabling ground teams to move in. The task required manoeuvring a heavily-laden transport barely 30 metres above the trees at 130 knots in smoky conditions, with 3000 US gallons of retardant delivered during each sortie. The aircraft was backed up by ground teams from No 486 Squadron, and RAAF and Army personnel who refuelled and reloaded the aircraft, enabling 70 tonnes of retardant to be dropped.