By Morgan Inglis
Frontier Helicopters Chief Pilot
In January 2013, the CSIRO contracted Frontier Helicopters to provide helicopter services in the Kimberley in Western Australia. CSIRO's rainforest surveys were conducted from a base at the Mitchell Plateau in northern Western Australia using Frontier Helicopters' AS 350 B2 Squirrel helicopter.
Very little is known about the rainforest and ecology in many of the remote locations of this region and the Kimberley. The CSIRO's rainforest research is an important step in rounding out knowledge of the Kimberley region and the northern areas of Western Australia.
On a daily basis for 30 days, CSIRO scientists and traditional owners were flown out to rainforest sites. Scientists obtained samples from 36 rainforest locations and visited each rainforest sampling area at least twice during the survey period. The helicopter flights ranged between Cape Bougainville in the north of the Kimberley in Western Australia and Yampi Sound near Derby in the Kimberley. These remote rainforest research sites and the large distances between sites limited the helicopter refueling options. Frontier Helicopters' B2 Squirrel helicopter met CSIRO's 500 kg payload requirement while maintaining good flight range in these remote areas of Western Australia.
The CSIRO's remote rainforest research sites were often located in rugged terrain. In addition to safe landing sites, fuel logistics were a priority. Frontier Helicopters prepositioned 45 drums of fuel at remote locations prior to the start of the survey. Fuel planning included delivering fuel drums by road and air to remote Kimberley sites.
Due to the Kimberley's extreme terrain, Frontier Helicopter's pilots needed to employ bush flying techniques. Further compounding the difficult geographical conditions of Western Australia, the rainforest surveys were conducted in January during the Kimberley wet season. The research sites were located in areas with typically high rainfalls and the wet weather presented flight planning challenges. Frontier Helicopters' AS 350 B2 Squirrel helicopter is capable of handling the hot and humid conditions that can negatively effect aircraft performance and flight power margins. Despite the extreme weather and rough terrain, the CSIRO and Frontier Helicopters completed the entire survey on time and without accident or incident.
The CSIRO's Western Australia rainforest survey was conducted in conjunction with the traditional owners of the survey area. A ranger representative from each group was in the helicopter and at the research sites during the survey.
Frontier Helicopters provides helicopter services for scientific and environmental research, iron ore and mining exploration, oil and gas surveys and for a variety of commercial and recreational purposes. Contact Morgan Inglis or Dan Grant for more information on helicopter flight services, helicopter surveys and helicopter exploration.