Firefighting aircraft 'in mothballs' overseas while country burns

Fire & Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins said dozens of aircraft were mothballed in the northern hemisphere winter that could be available "in a week"..

Bushfire experts have questioned why Australian governments have not used powerful firefighting aircraft sitting dormant overseas to battle the blazes ravaging NSW and other states.

He said an aircraft worth testing was the Bombardier CL-415, a twin turbo-prop purpose-built aircraft capable of dropping 6000 litres and scooping water from the lakes, rivers and the ocean. But "Australia hasn't touched them yet", Mr Mullins said.

DoSomething founder Jon Dee, whose house has been under threat in the Blue Mountains, said eight Hercules aircraft specially equipped for firefighting were available in the United States.

In an email exchange seen by The Sun-Herald, the US Forests Service said the aircraft were "probably available" but the service had not received any approach from the Australian authorities.

"We've lost over 100 homes in the Blue Mountains," Mr Dee said. "If we'd had far bigger aerial support, how many of those homes could have been spared from the fires?"

Mr Mullins said he was aware of the US Hercules aircraft, but was not convinced it was the best water bomber for Australia's needs.

The federal government provided $11 million to bolster aerial firefighting capabilities earlier this month, but Mr Mullins said it was "smoke and mirrors" and "too little too late".

Read more on: The Sydney Morning Herald

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