First choice in fire suppression

Kestrel is a leader in the aviation firefighting industry, having evolved from the early days of operating light single-turbine helicopters with water buckets to the current powerful fleet of medium helicopters and aircranes with advanced delivery systems.

Kestrel is committed to developing innovative systems and techniques. The Conair Belly Tanks installed in Kestrel’s Bell helicopters, together with its proprietary multiple retardant foam and gel injection systems, provide fire agencies with leading-edge delivery systems for fire suppression. Enhanced satellite tracking devices installed on fleet aircraft send real-time critical data to facilitate clients’ in-house operations management and direct task monitoring.

Having established sound relationships with other helicopter suppliers internationally, Kestrel has a unique capability to cater for peak load requests and respond to extraordinary requests for additional equipment. As well as operating under its own international Air Operator’s Certificate, Kestrel has a discrete AOC to operate foreign equipment under its authority. This allows for rapid mobilization of additional aircraft as required.

In December 2009 Kestrel extended its commitment to supply the Victorian Government’s Department of Sustainability and Environment by providing three Medium (Bell 212/412) firebombing helicopters for a further five years.

Kestrel recently obtained approval to operate one of its Bell 212s on the Australian aircraft register in Canada, returning in October in time for the Victorian season. This was a unique privilege and was the first time Transport Canada has approved such activity.

Kestrel joins forces with Erickson Incorporated 

A unique combination for firefighting strength and support Australia Wide.

In 2013 Kestrel announced a five-year exclusive cooperative agreement with American company Erickson Incorporated, to operate the powerful and versatile Erickson S-64 Aircrane under contract in Australia.

Erickson enjoys a reputation as the worldwide leader in high volume aerial firebombing. It specializes in the manufacture, maintenance and operation of the Erickson S-64 Aircrane. Erickson has operated these powerful and versatile helicopters globally since 1992 and in Australia for more than 15 years. Erickson is currently the largest provider of heavy Helitanker firefighting aircraft to the US Forest Service.

Erickson is a world leader in versatile heavy lift technology and owns the Type and Production Certificates for the Erickson S-64 Aircrane, which grant exclusive design, manufacturing and related rights for the aircraft and for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) components. Erickson has made more than 350 aircraft design improvements to the Aircrane since acquiring the Type Certificate.

The combination of Kestrel’s proven track record, local operation and well-equipped fleet, with Erickson’s renowned Aircranes, technical expertise and global firefighting experience, delivers unparalleled helicopter firefighting capability in Australia.

In 2013 the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) Australia awarded Kestrel a five-year contract for helicopter high-volume water-bombing services in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Western Australia, including six Erickson Aircranes and Light Air Attack helicopters.

Erickson history

Erickson was founded in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1971 by Jack Erickson, a second-generation logger and entrepreneur. Mr Erickson leased an S-64E Skycrane helicopter from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to assist in timber harvesting. After his initial success with the aircraft, the company purchased four Skycranes and subsequently changed its name to Erickson Air-Crane.

Over the next 20 years the Skycrane was used in large-scale delivery, installation, and construction operations around the world.

In 1992 Erickson purchased the Type Certificate for the Sikorsky S-64E and S-64F model Skycrane and the aircraft designation was changed to the “S-64 Aircrane” helicopter. Erickson has since developed and certified more than 350 modifications and improvements to the original design.

Photo: Jordan Cantelo. Swan River, W.A

Erickson now owns and operates a fleet of eighteen S-64E and S-64F Aircranes and offers a wide range of critical aerial services including firefighting, timber harvesting, oil and gas support, power line and precision construction support to government and commercial customers around the globe. Erickson is also the global manufacturer and support facility for all Aircrane parts and components.

Erickson has been a key partner in Australia’s firefighting program since 1997 and its large Helitanker aircraft have flown thousands of hours in close support of Australia’s firefighters during some of the worst fires on record.

State of the art technology

Erickson’s entire fleet of S-64 Aircranes is certified as Standard Category by the United States Federal Aviation Administration under FAA Parts 91, 133 and 137. This certification is beneficial to the Australian public as normal category Aircranes provide a greater margin of safety and security to the fire agencies than the restricted category ex-military equivalent, which operate under less rigorous standards.

Erickson’s state-of-the-art and innovative tank system allows for precise drops to be made using any of eight computer-controlled coverage levels. Erickson was the first helicopter operator to design and implement a dedicated high volume Helitanker with an efficient and fast hover pump snorkel. Erickson also developed the standard pond snorkel, which allows filling from various water sources including portable tanks, small ponds and stock tanks, and the sea snorkel, which allows for faster tank filling from a variety of locations including large bodies of water.

Further information

For further information about Erickson go to

Satellite Tracking

All Kestrel fire fighting aircraft are fitted with satellite tracking devices, enabling
 management and ground support teams to have up to the minute details of all aircraft movements and locations.
Data from the satellite tracking software can be downloaded from the internet into Google Maps, or transposed on to 
fire maps to show where the aircraft are operating while they remain airborne. Recent innovative upgrades have improved data acquisition which includes crucial information from the aircraft activities and can be accessed in real time by our clients.

Rapid Mobilisation

In the event that support is required overseas Kestrel’s aircraft are disassembled down to major components and loaded onto shipping pallets 
to begin their pilgrimage by sea to the other side of the world.
Our highly efficient and experienced maintenance team can disassemble a machine within two days and have it 
on a container ship or cargo 747 at short notice. With only a few days to reassemble, rapid deployment is possible anywhere 
in the world.

Leading the way in flood relief

In 2010 Kestrel assisted the Queensland Government with urgent flood relief, responding at short notice to a rapidly deteriorating situation. This support continued for several months and included complete evacuation of towns and medical response for large mining interests along the Queensland coal seam.

Kestrel is committed to the ongoing development of its systems and equipment to provide emergency response and support for the extensive mining interests in Queensland and other parts of Australia.