It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Camille the Erickson Air-Crane helitanker and on the weekend she had an unplanned overnight stopover at the Orange Airport.
The gigantic helicopter was on its way to Mudgee on Saturday after fighting fires between Young and Boorowa when rough weather and cloud cover forced the crew to return to Orange.
Camille is one of four helitankers in Australia and like her close relative the Elvis helicopter is capable of dropping 9000 litres of water per load.
Canobolas Zone Rural Fire Service (RFS) operations officer Brett Bowden said the nine person crew travelling with the helitanker also stayed overnight in Orange.
He said the helicopter had been based at Cowra for the past two days while it fought fires near Boorowa and had captured the attention of curious onlookers at Orange who heard the massive chopper fly-in over the city.
“It’s a fairly interesting piece of equipment and very big up close,” he said.
“Normally you don’t see them outside the Sydney basin.”
The last time Orange Airport played host to an air-crane helitanker was during the Goobang National Park fires in 2007.
A second smaller chopper also landed in Orange.
It travels everywhere with Camille as an air-attack machine - flying ahead to spot fires.
“It’s job is to find the actual target for the air-crane,” Mr Bowden said.
“The air-crane is relatively expensive to fly so you have to make sure each load you drop is on target all the time.”
In the skies, two crew members travel on board the helitanker and another two are on board the air-attack chopper.
On the ground Camille is followed by two engineers in a truck and two crew members who drive her personal refuelling truck.
Mr Bowden said the fuel truck had already set off on a six-hour journey from Cootamundra to Mudgee when the air-crane was forced to land in Orange.