50 Years of Firebombing

The 6th February 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the first organised operational firebombing flights in Australia.

On 6 Feb 1967, two Piper Pawnees contracted from Alpine Aviation of Benambra made the first operational drops of retardant on a small lightning-strike fire in north-eastern Victoria.


These the two aircraft, VH-MOK and VH-GWS, were flown by experienced agricultural aviation pilots Ben Buckley and Bob Lansbury, who remain friends to this day.

It was what has become a classic application of firebombing: they were able to contain a remote fire until the ground crews were able to walk in some five hours later to ensure it was ‘safe’.

Previously, there had been a remarkable range of experiments with different aircraft (from heavy military four engine bombers and single seat fighters to agricultural aircraft) with differing drop materials, techniques and equipment, and aircraft had often been used for fire spotting, as they are today.

But this was the first real firebombing job, and the start of modern aerial firefighting operations in Australia.

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