The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is conducting a safety study into aerial firefighting in Australia.
An ATSB statistical report into aerial firefighting occurrences between July 2000 and March 2020 (AR-2020-022) found an increase in occurrences per year over recent years. The report also found an increase in average size of aircraft and complexity of operations. Within the data was the 2019-2020 bushfire season which the National Aerial Firefighting Centre advised demanded activity of around four times the usual rate.
Additionally, the CSIRO has projected an increase in land use putting people into conflict with bushfires, and increased dangerous bushfire weather over the coming years. The ATSB consider this is an appropriate time to conduct a more detailed examination of aerial firefighting activities to identify any systemic safety issues and other learning opportunities that could enhance the safety of future operations.
A part of the investigation, investigators will conduct a detailed review of recent occurrences to identify common characteristics, obtain aircraft activity data to evaluate the rate of occurrences over recent years. Meet stakeholder organisations to understand their processes and challenges, consider previous reviews of aerial firefighting activities, and survey a sample of operational personnel involved in aerial firefighting activities.
A final report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation. Should any safety critical information be discovered at any time during the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify operators and regulators so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.