Elvis (helicopter)

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N179AC, known as Elvis
Type Erickson S-64F Air-Crane
Manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, / Erickson Air-Crane
Registration N179AC
Owners and operators Erickson Air-Crane
Fate Still operational

Elvis is the nickname of Erickson S-64 Air-Crane, tail number OB-2081-P (N179AC), which has gained fame in Australia as a highly visible and valuable tool in bushfire suppression.[1] The helicopter, which can hold 9,500 litres (2,500 US gal) of water or foam mix, has been brought out by the Victorian Government from the United States for each fire season since 2001-2002. The aircraft obtained its nickname due to the time that it spent working for the United States National Guard in Memphis, where singer Elvis Presley lived for most of his life.[2]

Erickson Air-Crane helitankers were first brought out to Victoria in December 1997. The first one, dubbed by locals as "Eric the Water Bomber" (N223AC), was used to fight a fire in Frankston and the Caledonia fire in the Alpine National Park, and was brought out again for subsequent fire seasons up to 2000-2001.[3] On December 27, 2001 Elvis, which had arrived in Melbourne, was immediately deployed to Bankstown, New South Wales to help with fire fighting efforts in the Sydney region and was lauded for its role in helping to save almost 300 homes.[2] It was also credited with helping save the lives of 14 firemen in the Burragorang Valley in New South Wales.[4]

Two other Aircranes, Georgia Peach (N154AC) and Incredible Hulk (N164AC), were rushed out from the US aboard a Russian Antonov An-124 air freighter to assist with the 2001-2002 Sydney bushfires following the successful deployment of Elvis.[5][6]

A number of other Aircranes and Skycranes have subsequently been brought out to Australia for each bushfire season and based in South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.[7]

Elvis has also lifted transmission towers in Alberta, Canada, portrayed in the 2014 TV documentary Rise of the Machines.[8][9]

Aircrane (AC) and Skycrane (HT) deployments in Australia[edit]

Elvis at Wagga Wagga Airport in January 2012
  • 1997–1998 Victoria: Millie (N223AC)
  • 2001–2002 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC); New South Wales: Georgia Peach (N154AC) and Incredible Hulk (N164AC)
  • 2002–2003 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC); New South Wales: Georgia Peach (N154AC) and Incredible Hulk (N164AC)[10] and Isabelle (N178AC) and Gypsy Lady (N189AC).[11]
  • 2003–2004 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC); New South Wales: Isabelle (N178AC)
  • 2004–2005 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC); New South Wales: Rocky (N722HT)[12]
  • 2006–2007 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC) and Malcolm (N217AC);[13] New South Wales: Shania (N720HT);[14] Australian Capital Territory: Delilah (N194AC)
  • 2007–2008 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC) and Elsie (N218AC);[15] New South Wales: Shania (N720HT);[16] Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania (shared): Incredible Hulk[17][18]
  • 2008–2009 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC) and Bluey a.k.a. Elsie (N218AC); New South Wales: Malcolm (N217AC) and Clancy a.k.a. Isabelle (N178AC); South Australia: Flynn a.k.a. Christine (N173AC); spare Delilah (N194AC); for the period of Australian operations, some aircraft have been temporarily renamed with Australian themed names.[19]
  • 2009–2010 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC)[20]
  • 2011–2012: Western Australia: Elsie (N218AC)[21]
  • 2012–2013 Victoria: Elvis (N179AC) and Gypsy Lady (N189AC).[22]
  • 2013–2014 New South Wales: Gypsy Lady (N189AC) and Ichabod (N957AC);[23][24] Victoria:Delilah (N194AC) and Malcolm (N217AC)[25]
  • 2019-2020 New South Wales: Gypsy Lady (N189AC) and Jerry (N247AC); Victoria: Delilah (N194AC) and Marty (N243AC); South Australia: Elsie (N218AC); Western Australia: Georgia Peach (N154AC)[26]

The aircranes are contracted to the various state and territory governments through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre.


  1. ^ Matthew Stanley (2002-01-03). "Elvis seen fighting NSW bushfires". 7:30 Report. ABC. Archived from the original on 2005-01-24. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  2. ^ a b "Elvis - king of the firefighters". BBC. 2002-01-03. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  3. ^ "Firefighting with the Erickson S-64 Aircrane Helitanker". Erickson Air-Crane. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  4. ^ "Elvis the helicopter saves Australian firefighters". Planet Ark. 2002-01-07. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  5. ^ "AirCranes farewell Sydney". NSW Rural Fire Service. 2006-10-30. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  6. ^ ""Elvis" saves the building". Erickson Air-Crane. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  7. ^ Fury as Elvis firefighting chopper replaced by smaller craft
  8. ^ Heavyweight Helicopter
  9. ^ Rise of the Machines: Season 1, Episode 6. Heavyweight Helicopter
  10. ^ "Air-Crane fact sheet 2003" (PDF). NSW Rural Fire Service. 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-22. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  11. ^ "More air crane helicopters arrive in Australia". ABC. 2003-01-28. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  12. ^ "Skycrane 2005 fact sheet" (PDF). NSW Rural Fires Service. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  13. ^ "Extra Elvis for Victoria and plan to replace water used in firefighting". Office of the Premier (Victoria). 2006-10-30. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  14. ^ ""Elvis" and "Shania" skycranes to arrive tomorrow". The Hon Jim Lloyd MP, Minister for Local Government,Territories and Roads. 2006-10-28. Retrieved 2007-12-26.[dead link]
  15. ^ "Elvis joins Victoria's firefighting efforts for 2007/8". Minister for Environment and Climate Change. 2007-11-20. Archived from the original on 2011-04-02. Retrieved 2006-12-26.
  16. ^ "Shania succeeds Elvis in bushfire fight". ABC. 2007-11-30. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
  17. ^ Michael Owen, Sam Riches (2007-12-11). "Elvis kept in reserve". The Advertiser. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
  18. ^ "'Incredible Hulk' ready to fight fires". ABC. 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  19. ^ Sadler, Paul. "Rotor Torque". Australian Aviation. 257 (Jan/Feb 2009). Fyshwick, ACT, Australia: Phantom Media Pty Ptd: 83.
  20. ^ Schmidl, Engel (11 January 2010). "Elvis ready to Rock". Leader Community Newspapers. Archived from the original on 2013-01-15. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  21. ^ "Battle against fire heats up". Troy Douglas, Busselton Dunsborough Times. November 21, 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
  22. ^ Caruana, Patrick (7 December 2012). "Elvis back in town for hot Vic weekend". Herald Sun. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  23. ^ "C/N 64-065". helis.com Helicopter history site. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  24. ^ "Two firefighting Air-Crane helicopters arrive to help battle NSW bushfires in the nick of time". The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  25. ^ "Angels from above land in Victoria". 9News. 17 December 2013. Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  26. ^ "Six S-64 Air Crane(R) Helicopters Continue Fight in Australia". AAP Medianet. Retrieved 2020-01-05.

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