Coulson Aviation S-61 workhorse C-FXEC is a familiar sight around Victoria after 17 years working across the State supporting firefighters from the sky.

Both Mansfield and Colac in regional Victoria are like second homes for the helitanker and its crews. This year, the Sikorsky has returned to Mansfield in the North East of the State with its experienced team members.

The S-61 can operate tanked or with a long line bucket

Coulson pilot Jim says in Mansfield they fly more with the bucket than the tank because of the terrain; the decision about which one is all terrain and water source driven.

The long line bucket on the S-61 is highly suitable for the terrain in and around the high country.

With a capacity of 3,000 litres, the bucket can fill easily in a deep water source, or in a more shallow water source using the pump to fill takes around 40 seconds.

A bucket is easy to use with small water sources in heavily treed areas like Mansfield.

Flying on a long line bucket is a different skill set to a tanked machine because it’s the bucket that needs the focus as it swings below, but the versatility of the S-61 helitanker appeals to Jim.

It can be changed to a Coulson tank in around 45 minutes or less if needed operationally, and the Sikorsky is comfortable to fly, with plenty of room because it’s also used to move people, and to undertake remote area rappelling.