Sturt CFS with the assistance of Sturt SES are responsible for the operation of Cherry Gardens Air Support. Air support crews refill fixed wing aircraft with water and fire retardant to combat bushfires throughout the hills to the south of Adelaide.
The refilling process
Aircraft land at the southern end of the cherry airstrip then taxi to the northern end and turn around in front of the refilling facilities. The pilot provides a hand signal that it is safe for ground crew to approach the aircraft and throttles down the engine. A crew of two or more advance on the aircraft dragging a 64mm diameter hose. The hose is attached to a tank fill coupling behind the wing and the valves on the hose and aircraft are opened. A hose operator signals to the pump operator who opens the pump valve and starts pumping. While pumping a measured quantity of foam is added to the water via a venturi tube. As the aircraft water level approaches the desired fill level the pilot throttles up the engine then signals the pump operator to stop. The pump operator stops pumping and signals the hose crew to disconnect. The hose crew close the valve on the aircraft and the hose then retreat away from the plane. As soon as the crew are at a safe distance the pilot accelerates the aircraft down the airstrip and takes off. The whole refilling process takes about 4 minutes. Cherry airstrip has the space for crews to refill two aircraft at any one time.