Pilot helps fight the fires

By Jamie Lowe

Local pilot Russell Jordan will never forget the scenes he has witnessed when helping fight recent bushfires.

The Field Air pilot has been on call to help out as a relief pilot since late last year, and has so far been deployed as an air-bomber near Albury, Whyalla and in Tasmania.

In his 22 years of flying, Mr Jordan said he has not previously faced such testing conditions.

“It's pretty horrendous, the conditions,” he said.

“It's smoky, windy and quite a bumpy ride when flying in the bushfires. They were the worst weather conditions I've had to face.

“It gets so rough with the fires creating their own weather systems.”

While it was tough conditions to fly in, it was the devastation left behind by the fires that Mr Jordan said was most difficult to comprehend.

“You see houses threatened by flames and when you try to put in fire breaks it's a bit confronting,” he said.

“Then you fly back over that area 40 minutes later and just see the house has gone. All of it is just devastating.

“And that's what I've seen just as a relief pilot. I help out to give relief to the full-time pilots who are fighting the fires constantly.

“A few of these pilots have been doing this for a very long time and they said these fires are on par with those from Ash Wednesday ( across south-eastern Australia in February 1983) and Black Saturday (across Victoria in 2009).”

Mr Jordan's field of expertise is as an agriculture pilot, where he regularly drops 100 metres through the air to just a metre above the ground at 240km/h spraying crops.

He said part of the job is training for situations like bushfires, so he can be on hand to help when needed.

“In what we call the pre-season for fires, we go through air-bombing training during September and October each year,” he said.

“The main aim is to make sure we can carry out these tasks safely if we're called upon.

“I was on standby for fires near Albury just last week, but luckily we weren't needed in the end.

“My most recent call-out was in Tasmania and we got those fires under control pretty quickly.”