The crash of an Erickson Aircrane helicopter while fighting bushfires in Victoria earlier this week has led to the type being grounded across Australia while the cause of the accident is investigated. The Helitak 341 N173AC ended up in a dam in Gippsland in Eastern Victoria on Monday, January 28 with the two pilots and one engineer on board surviving the incident. The three crew members swam to safety at the edge of the dam.
Victoria emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp told ABC Radio Melbourne the two Aircranes in NSW, one in South Australia and one in Western Australia, as well as Victoria’s second Aircrane, would remain on the ground until further notice.
“At this stage the Aircranes in those other jurisdictions and our other one will not fly until we get assurances from Kestrel and Erickson,” Commissioner Crisp told the ABC on Tuesday. “Australian Transport Safety Bureau and Worksafe have been notified.”
VicEmergency said the Aircrane, which carries the nickname Christine, had been one of 10 aircraft involved in fire suppression activities at the Thomson Catchment Complex fires.
The state has 49 contracted aircraft to fight bushfires, including two Aircranes.
“Contingency plans are being put in place to ensure Victoria has adequate aircraft coverage over the Thomson Catchment Complex fires and for the state,” VicEmergency said.
Emergency services are battling fires burning across hundreds of hectares of bushland in the state.
Crisp said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigator would be on the scene on Tuesday.
‘Elvis’ waterbomber at Tomago bushfire in 2018 [credit: Peninsula Rural Fire Brigade]