EF an important firefighting base for Coulson Aviation

Eric VanDeWalker, an experienced US-based pilot flying the large, life-saving, Chinook firefighting aircraft out of Essendon Fields Airport for Coulson Aviation, loves Victoria.

Oregon born, Eric is spending yet another summer in Australia, in fact he’s been a regular visitor in 12 of the past 25 years to our shores, helping fight fires and this season is enjoying being based at Essendon Fields.

“Essendon is an awesome airport, it’s so centrally based, which means I really enjoy living around here, but also it’s a great base to get the aircraft up quickly to fight fires in Victoria’s north-west and north-east,’’ he said.

“The beauty of Essendon Fields is the quick turnaround, and we’re given special consideration by air traffic control to respond to any fire. We work closely with the Firebird helicopter, where the fire manager operates as the eyes in the sky, to get up together quickly and out of the local airspace,’’ he said.

Eric says one of the joys about coming back to Victoria most years is the people. “Victorians are so friendly; they’re very much like the people from the west-coast of America. The first year I came to Australia was 1997 and it’s a pleasure to come back each year’’.

Eric’s working life with Coulson Aviation is split between firefighting in US, Australia and Chile and now he’s got used to the life around Essendon Fields, while on standby to fly the Chinook, it’s a fair bet he’ll be back next year as well.

Coulson Aviation have a significant firefighting aircraft base at Essendon Fields Airport. Coulson Aviation’s Chief Operations Officer Hayden Biggs said the company has worked with Essendon Fields over many years in providing an appropriate base for its firefighting aircraft

“Coulson’s aircraft includes the CH-47, the very large helitanker on contract in Victoria. This is the first time the Coulson CH-47, or Chinook, has been in Australia, and is operating out of Essendon Fields for the summer,’’ he said.

“It’s important to have the operational footprint for the aircraft and team members so it can be maintained and deployed at short notice,”  Mr Briggs said.

Of being home to Melbourne’s Airborne Heroes, Essendon Fields General Manager of Aviation Colin Fort said, “Working at Essendon Fields Airport is a truly unique and rewarding experience. It fills our team with great pride to work alongside incredible personnel both on the ground and in the air. As the central base for Melbourne’s Airborne Heroes, the chances are the Chinook or any other emergency services aircraft seen overhead has come from or is heading to Essendon Fields to help someone in urgent need of emergency assistance,” Fort concluded