Living the high life

Steve Kendall | Bendigo Weekly | 07-Dec-2017

Lochie Tremain-Hill. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN.

PILOT Lochie Tremain-Hill was destined for a life in the air, his family owned a helicopter company.

“It was inevitable really,” he said.

Now well into his career he’s based in Bendigo in preparation for the fire season.

Mr Tremain-Hill has been flying in the fire attack role since 2001, and is ready for action.

“We are on 15-minute readiness, but we generally average getting airborne in eight to nine minutes,” he said. 

Mr Tremain-Hill pilots the Helitak 335 Bell 214B water bombing helicopter.  

“It carries 2650 litres of water in its belly tank, and it can fill the tank in 35 seconds by dropping its three-metre snorkel into a water source and hovering two and a half metres above the water source,” he said.

“I get to drop the water and fly the aircraft at the same time.

“It can get pretty busy.”   

The Bell 214B was chosen partly because of its speed.

“It can fly at about 260 kilometres an hour,” Mr Tremain-Hill said.

Also based in Bendigo is an Airbus EC120 helicopter.  This carries the air attack supervisor who oversees and coordinates the aerial tactical operation of the fire.  

The aircraft will be used throughout summer by Forest Fire Management Victoria and CFA to respond to fires in central Victoria. 

FFMVic’s Carsten Nannestad said the helicopters will be deployed using the pre-determined dispatch system that has been successfully used in Bendigo over the past five seasons. 

“As soon as a fire is reported the water-bombing helicopter is deployed so we can hit the fire hard and fast in the initial stages and stop it spreading,” Mr Nannestad said. 

“Aircraft are also particularly useful for fires in inaccessible areas that could take vehicles some time to reach.” 

CFA Loddon Mallee’s Scott Purdy said  the fire-bombing capability is a significant contributor to controlling bush fires. 

“This aerial capability supplements the great work our crews do on the ground,” Mr Purdy said. 

The aircraft based in Bendigo are part of Victoria’s fleet of 49 firefighting aircraft that will be positioned across the state this summer. 


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