ALBANY, Georgia — The State of Georgia’s Forestry Commission has taken delivery of the industry’s newest firefighting aircraft — the Thrush 510G Switchback.
Powered by a GE H80 turbine engine, the Switchback is designated as a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) aircraft and will be used by the Georgia Forestry Commission for fire detection, rapid response firefighting, and training.
The 510G Switchback has the ability to quickly deliver 500 gallons of water, retardant or fire suppressant with pinpoint accuracy in tight environments, according to officials with Thrush Aircraft. It also has the ability to switch from agricultural spray duties to firefighting capabilities in a matter of minutes thanks to a unique fire gate delivery system, company officials note.
Georgia experiences an average of some 4,000 wildfires annually, which typically damage roughly 35,000 acres of forested land. With wood being one of the state’s leading commodities, wildfires have the possibility of causing a significant impact on the state’s economy as well as its expansive forest resources.
The Georgia Forestry Commission is responsible for the management and protection of those resources, and its aerial attack capabilities play a major role in both fire prevention and suppression.
“We’re extremely proud to be adding the Switchback to our aerial firefighting fleet,” said Georgia Forestry Commission’s director Chuck Williams. “It boasts many advantages for our firefighting efforts and heralds an exciting new chapter in our commitment to protect and conserve the more than 24 million acres of timberland across our state. You’ll see these aircraft deployed not just for rapid fire suppression, but also in the very important role of rapid fire detection, which can sometimes make all the difference in being able to contain a wildfire, versus having it become uncontrollable.”
The two Switchbacks that were delivered feature advanced avionics for navigation and situational awareness, as well as to provide pilots with numerous options for delivery of materials when making a firefighting drop.
The 510G Switchback can make a drop from as low as 80 feet and accurately deliver a 500 gallon salvo is less than two seconds, according to company officials.
It also features dual cockpit and dual control systems, which enable the aircraft to serve in a training role as well.
“This is a significant day for all of us here at Thrush,” said Payne Hughes, president and CEO. “Not only are we delivering our first 510G Switchbacks, but we also have the privilege of watching them go to work right here in our home state. We designed and built this airplane to help and protect others from the ravages of wildfires – and it’s an honor to know they will now be in Georgia skies doing just that.”