Aircrane pilot is ready for hot summer in Ballarat

FOR Kenny Chapman, life is an endless summer. 

As one of six pilots flying “Malcolm”, the Erickson Aircrane capable of carrying 7500 litres of water, he spends his year moving between bushfire zones across the world to help support firefighters. 

For the next few months, Mr Chapman and Malcolm are based in Ballarat where they will be ready to respond to the threat of grass and bushfires throughout the region.

As well as being able to cart 7.5 tonnes of water, the Erickson Aircrane can hover-fill in 38 seconds and is capable of cruising at 212 km/h. 

It operates with a crew of two and has a two-and-a-half hour endurance.

Ready to go within 15 minutes of receiving a call-up, Mr Chapman said his job water-bombing fires was both gratifying and exciting.

“The biggest question everybody says is ‘is it dangerous?’ Well it’s dangerous but all the fire agencies I’ve worked with in the world say no fire is worth a person’s life,” he said. 

“And so if I go in to an area and say ‘I’m not comfortable with this’, there’s never any question. Honestly I think I have the safest work environment that there is because of that.”

Originally from Portland in the United States, this is Mr Chapman’s 17th consecutive bushfire season in Australia.

He also fights fires in Europe and North America.

He said the fires in Victoria were very aggressive, especially the ones in the bush.

“They’re very similar to the ones in the Great Basin in North America where its very dry, a lot of timber,” he said. 

“The conditions in Greece and Italy are very similar too.”

Another Erickson Aircrane, “Delilah”, will be based at Essendon airport, while two Sikorksky S61 helicopters carrying 3500 litres of water will be deployed from Colac and Mansfield.

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