• Erikson Aircrane Gypsy Lady fills from a dam. (Kestrel Aviation)
    Erikson Aircrane Gypsy Lady fills from a dam. (Kestrel Aviation)

In 1997, the Australian aviation industry and the general public were mesmerised when a huge, gangly aircraft first appeared in the land. There to help with bushfire suppression, the S-64 was such a unique aircraft that they became synonymous with the scorching Australian summer and the sight of them pounding fire front with water or retardant was regarded like the appearance of a saviour.

In particular, it was the work of S-64 Elvis during the 2001 NSW fires that injected the aircraft into folklore. Today, Elvis is almost a generic term in Australia for the model, regardless of the name written on the nose.

Originally a Sikorsky Skycrane, the S-64 this year celebrates 20 years of operations in Australia as the Erickson Aircrane, and they're still a powerful weapon against the threat of bushfires.

Through Australian partners Kestrel Aviation, Erickson has six Aircranes based in Australia this summer, to be located in NSW, SA, WA and Victoria.

“Erickson has an outstanding reputation for having some of the most experienced pilots and maintenance crews in firefighting," said Douglas Kitani, Erickson CEO and Director. "We appreciate the trust of our agency customers in Australia and will endeavor to do our best for the people of Australia.”

The S-64 Helitanker is capable of filling via a “sea snorkel” fresh or salt water. It has internal foam mixing capabilities and provides water or retardant dispensation. The aircraft can be configured with a water cannon for high rise and structure protection.

The S-64 E and F models are twin turbines, with the smaller E model having a combined power of 9000 shp and a 7560-litre tank. The larger F model has a combined power of 9600 shp and a 10,000-litre tank.

Six S64Es are contracted to the National Aerial Fightfighting Centre through Kestrel, and are stationed at Bankstown (2), Brukunga, SA; Essendon, Moorabbin and Jandakot.

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