FIFTEEN thousand litres of flame retardant is being dumped on the fast spreading firefronts burning 'out of control' in Northern NSW and Queensland under the wings of the NSW Rural Fire Service's 737 Large Air Tanker.

The Marie Bashir air tanker from the Royal Australian Air Force base in Richmond was flown north to Coffs Harbour last week and has since been operational in combating fires around the region. 

A NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman said the air tanker had been working not stop since last Thursday. 

The $26.3 million air tanker has flown 28 missions since August 14 dropping a total payload of more than 424,000 litres of water and flame retardant over bushfire zones.

Aerial shot of the fire headed to Angourie and Wooloweyah.
Aerial shot of the fire headed to Angourie and Wooloweyah. RFS

FAST FACTS ABOUT THE LARGE AIR TANKER

  • Primary role: firebombing
  • Two pilot crew
  • 15,142 litre retardant capacity
  • RADS-XXL/2 constant flow firebombing system
  • Cruise speed (loaded) up to 850km/h
  • 33m length, 31.2m wingspan
  • Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 25,000 feet
  • Typical runway required 1,950m
  • Up to 61,700kg gross weight
  • 2 x 9,100kg thrust CFM 56-3 turbo fan engines
  • Jet-A1 fuel consumption up to 3,400 litres/hr
  • 2+ fire agency radios, satellite tracking
Chief Engineer Chris Vargo from Oklahoma USA with the Marie Bashir fire bomber at Coffs Harbour. Photo by Trevor Veale
Chief Engineer Chris Vargo from Oklahoma USA with the Marie Bashir fire bomber at Coffs Harbour. Photo by Trevor Veale

LAST TUESDAY: WITH the bushfire season already upon us, and several fires burning across the region, the state's first 737 Air Tanker is in Coffs Harbour ready to respond.

And with the weather set to heat up into the weekend, it could be a case of being in the right place at the right time.

It's normally based at Richmond Airforce Base but with maintenance work underway there, it was moved to Coffs Harbour to avoid any potential deployment delays.

It is the first time NSW has had a Large Air Tanker ready to respond to bushfires at any time and across the State.

Fire Bomber Marie Bashir at Coffs Harbour Airport. Photo by Trevor Veale
Fire Bomber Marie Bashir at Coffs Harbour Airport. Photo by Trevor Veale

In previous years, this type of aircraft has been contracted from the United States during the warmer months.

It is named Marie Bashir in honour of The Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, the former and second longest serving Governor of NSW and the first female Governor of the State.

The fully operational $26.3 million aircraft has a cruising speed of 850km an hour, drops 15,000 litres of fire suppressant and can transport firefighters.

RFS Air Attack Supervisor Rod Walker says Coffs Harbour was chosen due to its proximity to a number of fires burning including those in the Bucca region.  It will stay in Coffs Harbour until Friday or Saturday depending on conditions.

Mr Walker goes out on a smaller 'spotter' aircraft and coordinates the attack with the 737 following its lead.



What's happening at Curryfest in Woolgoolga this year?

What's happening at Curryfest in Woolgoolga this year?

Woolgoolga is warming up to its signature event.

Each year it gets hotter and spicier

Each year it gets hotter and spicier

Woolgoolga is warming up to the hottest festival of the year

FATAL: Man dies after boat capsizes off Coffs Coast

premium_icon FATAL: Man dies after boat capsizes off Coffs Coast

“What started as something so simple like a day on the water has unfortunately...