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“Elvis” and “Isabelle” Arrive a Month Early to Help Australians Save Lives and Homes During a Season of “Catastrophic” Fire Danger

Elvis, the “Flagship” of the Australian Aerial Firefighting Fleet, returns along with five other Helitankers to prepare for an unusually high fire danger across Australia.

Portland, OR, USA – Arriving a month earlier than the previous year’s schedule, two Erickson S-64F Helitankers have been offloaded from a cargo freighter in Melbourne and are currently on firefighting duty at Bankstown Airport in Sydney and Essendon Airport in Melbourne.

The Helitanker “Elvis,” based at Essendon Airport in Melbourne, has been given the title of “Flagship” by the Australian United Firefighters Union. Elvis gained national attention after helping firefighters on the ground save hundreds of homes during “Black Christmas,” the horrible bushfire season of 2001. The S-64F Helitanker was part of a massive effort to contain fires tearing through urban interface areas left bone-dry by drought and fanned by high winds and hot temperatures.

Elvis is joined on his 12th visit to Australia by another S-64F Helitanker named “Isabelle” which is based at Bankstown Airport in Sydney. Both helicopters come directly from urban interface firefighting assignments in Southern California where they helped firefighters battle the record-breaking “Station Fire” near Los Angeles in the late summer. The world-renowned maneuverability and precision drop capability of the S-64 Aircrane Helitanker has made it the preferred method by Los Angeles City and County Fire Departments for fighting fires that threaten lives and homes.

Udo Rieder, President and CEO of Erickson Air-Crane, commented on the tremendous relationship between Erickson Air-Crane and the firefighters of Australia. “This is our 12th year assisting the heroic firefighters of Australia who are the real heroes risking their lives every single day to protect lives and property. Our helicopter pilots and crews are the best in the world and extremely dedicated to the firefighting mission in Australia.”

The arrival of the two Helitankers comes precisely as “Catastrophic” fire conditions have been forecast for the State of New South Wales. It is the first time the highest danger rating has ever been used in that state.

Scott Fitzgerald, Vice President Global Sales and Marketing, commented on Australia’s urgent need for S-64 Helitankers; “In this rare occurrence, the whole continent has heated up about a month earlier than normal and is unseasonably hot for spring time. Four major fires are burning in New South Wales already and indications are that the heat wave will not let up soon. The Australian National Aerial Firefighting Center (NAFC) has responded proactively by bringing these two Helitankers in country a month ahead of schedule.”


Entering the second year of a contract between NAFC and Erickson Air-Crane for five S-64 Helitankers, the remaining three Helitankers are scheduled to arrive in December for firefighting duty to begin on or before December 21. Although the five helicopters will primarily be assigned firefighting duty, they will be available for other emergency response efforts due to the S-64’s unparalleled versatility.


Erickson Aircranes are highly sought after by fire departments around the world because of their unique capabilities. “Elvis” and the other Helitankers have the capacity to dump up to 10,000 litres of water, foam mix, or fire retardant at speeds and distribution ranges programmed into an onboard computer. Two innovative snorkel attachments for the Helitanker take as little as 45 seconds or less to fill up from any freshwater or saltwater source at least 18 inches deep and have achieved the quickest turn-around times of any air bushfire asset.


Erickson Aircranes have battled fires in several countries, including Italy, Greece, France, South Korea, Canada, and Malaysia. The versatile helicopter has worked in many more countries performing timber harvesting, construction and hydro-seeding operations, which jumpstart foliage growth to keep fire-scorched hillsides from becoming mudslides.

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