McDermott Aviation's new water bomber Guardian1 fills with their Helitak Tank up to tackle last year’s Peregian Springs bushfire. The aircraft carries 3500L of water. Photo: Contributed
McDermott Aviation's new water bomber Guardian1 fills with their Helitak Tank up to tackle last year’s Peregian Springs bushfire. The aircraft carries 3500L of water. Photo: Contributed

From tomato farm to the air: How this tank is fighting fires

FIRST developed in a shed on a Sunshine Coast tomato farm 15 years ago, a locally designed and manufactured piece of firefighting technology has been given an extra boost thanks to a Federal Government grant.

Helitak Firefighting Equipment today received $497,500 through the Government’s Accelerating Commercialisation Grants to help them continue their invaluable work in the firefighting industry.

The Noosaville-based company is best known for their expandable suppression tanks, which were used to fight the Peregian blaze in December, and have recently been specially designed for a fleet of Super Puma choppers used in Europe.

FUNDING BOOST: Federal Minister Karen Andrews and Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien with Paul Blundell from Helitak Firefighting Equipment to announce a funding grant. Photo: Caitlin Zerafa
FUNDING BOOST: Federal Minister Karen Andrews and Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien with Paul Blundell from Helitak Firefighting Equipment to announce a funding grant. Photo: Caitlin Zerafa

Operation manager Paul Blundell said this grant will help them continue to create local jobs and launch themselves further on the global market.

“We’ve been supplying tanks in the US and Australia and we’ve tripled our staffing in the last six months,” Mr Blundell said.

“All the manufacturing is done here, all the staffing is local, Noosa region kids that have come through the local schools.”

He said out of the 1400 components used to build each $1 million carbon fibre tank, 92 per cent were sourced from southeast Queensland.

“We’re very proud to work in this community and retain this manufacturing facility in this area and the funding from the Federal Government is going to help us secure that position and take the Super Puma project to the global market.”

The funding boost will help finalise and certify the latest tank model ready to take to trade shows worldwide, the first in California next week.

Helitak’s tank is used locally by McDermott Aviation, which were first on the scene at the December bushfire, and can fit to a helicopter in 35 minutes.

Great weekend of testing & tweaking the Helitak FT3500 Fire Tank designed for the new McDermott Aviation Bell 214ST ‘Guardian 1’ #McDermottAviation

Posted by Helitak Fire Fighting Equipment on Monday, 20 January 2020

Unlike a traditional “bucket” used by firefighting choppers, this device allows the aircraft to take off and land with the tank attached and is far safer when fighting fires in urban areas.

The Locally used tank can hold 3500L of water with the Super Puma ones capable of carrying 4250L.

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, delivered the funding announcement at the Noosaville factory today.

“The work that Helitak has done to make sure we are developing the technology that we need … so we can be in there fighting bushfires is quite honestly second to none,” she said.

“(The funding will) support Helitak to prepare and deliver on the work that they have already to done to make sure we are developing the fire response system that we need.”

“Here we have a local business currently employing 13 people but by the end of the year they will be employing about 50 people.”

FUNDING BOOST: Federal Minister Karen Andrews and Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien with Paul Blundell from Helitak Firefighting Equipment to announce a funding grant. Photo: Caitlin Zerafa
FUNDING BOOST: Federal Minister Karen Andrews and Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien with Paul Blundell from Helitak Firefighting Equipment to announce a funding grant. Photo: Caitlin Zerafa

Federal Member for Wide Bay, Llew O’Brien said the company’s work is vital in Australia’s bushfire efforts.

“Today is a really special day not only for Helitak industry and not only for the region, but I think for Australia,” Mr O’Brien said.

“That will be a real game changer in responding to fire disasters similar to what we have seen recently in Australia.”

“Our future is one where we will see more bushfires, we will see more devastating events, but we as a nation need to be absolutely prepared to address them and to fight those fires and keep our communities safe.”


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