Stay away from bushfires

Fire fighting helicopter dropping water against a smoky orange sky.
© Civil Aviation Safety Authority

With the bushfire season already upon us, it’s time to remind all pilots – commercial, recreational and drone – to stay away from bushfires and not risk getting in the way of emergency services.

While last year was a quieter bushfire season compared to the devastating 2019–2020 season, pilots shouldn’t drop their guard when it comes to understanding where bushfires may be active and the requirements of firebombing aircraft.

These aircraft are becoming larger, faster and more capable in performing a critical role in bushfire suppression operations. It is vital that pilots make themselves aware of the increased likelihood that firebombing aircraft may be operating in the vicinity of any bushfire at low level.

So, forgive us for stating the obvious, but keep your aircraft away from bushfires.

This applies whether you’re flying a manned or unmanned aircraft.

The En Route Supplement Australia (ERSA) contains a general warning that unnotified intense aviation activity associated with firefighting operations could be occurring at any time. This is especially the case during the fire season. Pilots of manned aircraft are requested to remain at least 5 nm from fires and 3000 ft above them. Unmanned aircraft should only be flown 5 nm from a fire and no higher than 400 ft AGL.

Operators should also be aware that location specific NOTAMs and temporary restricted or danger areas (TRAs/TDAs) may be published or declared near fires should the risk to airspace users be elevated above the general warning status. In the event of a TRA, operations within these areas will be restricted subject to the conditions of entry set out in the associated NOTAM.

Guidance and information can be found through the CASA’s flying near emergencies page, the CASA-verified drone safety apps or by contacting CASA or the relevant state fire services.

Please exercise common sense and help those exceptional members of our community who protect the rest.