Kestrel Aviation

Australia’s aerial firefighting capabilities have been hugely boosted in the past few years due to the grit and determination of Kestrel Aviation founder, Captain Ray Cronin.

Ray Cronin is now one of Australia’s most experienced helicopter pilots and instructors. With over 42 years in the skies, he’s logged more than 10,000 flying hours. He holds the record of being the countries longest continuous serving helicopter Chief Pilots and helicopter Chief Flying Instructors in Australia.

Kestrel Aviation specializes in emergency response and firefighting support with its fleet of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, including the versatile heavy-lift Erickson Aircrane. Operated by highly experienced pilots from state-of-the-art headquarters in Mangalore, this fleet delivers powerful and reliable helicopter firefighting and emergency response capability.

In 2018, Kestrel Aviation became the first Australian-owned helicopter company to obtain night firebombing trials approval in cooperation with CASA which moved to live fire in March in conjunction with Emergency Management Victoria and the Country Fire Authority. The successful outcome of these trials has now reached full maturity with Kestrel holding an unrestricted night firebombing approval from CASA.

Kestrel Aviation has launched its night vision firefighting capability, paving the way for firefighting after dark in Australia for the first time.

Victoria is one of the most bushfire-prone areas in the world. Night-time aerial firebombing has the potential to improve the ability of Victoria and other states to fight fires, affording better protection for bushfire-prone communities.

Kestrel is combining its industry-­leading helicopter pilot skills with innovative technology to drop water and suppressants on fires in all conditions at night. These low-level, night-time deployments of water from Kestrel’s advanced helicopter belly tank are the first to deliver with considerable accuracy in Australia. A capability that is increasingly vital in these relentless wildfire seasons.

“There’s not a lot of room other than getting bigger. The wildfire seasons have grown significantly. We’ve gone from a 3 to a 7 month season. Our patterns are showing this.”

How Kestrel Aviation uses TracPlus 

Kestrel Aviation uses TracPlus for all firefighting contracts as required by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) Australia. Not only does TracPlus help keep their teams safe, but it's vital for data collecting for reporting for contractual purposes.

“TracPlus has changed the reporting of intelligence completely. It registers the exact location of where we pick up water, and how many litres we’re picking up. It’s tracking us to and from the fire. That way, the command centre can see how effective we are as it determines what our turn around times are.” Ray Cronin, Kestrel Aviation.

Safety is a priority for Kestrel in all aspects of its operations. TracPlus can be used as a risk mitigation and education tool, offering documented reports of flight data, water collection points, and the time taken between water collection and firebombing. 

Kestrel Aviation Fleet

Bell 212
Bell 412

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